Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Little kids, ‘bad’ words, and mindful parenting

February 18, 2015

"Boy, you need to have your mouth washed out with soap!"

“Boy, you need to have your mouth washed out with soap!”

If we’re doing our job as parents of young children, we ought to be talking to them a lot. We should be singing to them. Teaching them nursery rhymes.  Reading to them. Asking them questions. Showing interest in what they have to say. We play an essential role in helping our kids develop language. With language comes a child’s ability to communicate his or her needs, ideas, dreams, and emotions. Language connects hearts and minds.

We should encourage our kids to talk and praise the progress they make. But what happens when we’re not thrilled with their choice of words? Once, when I was four, I told my mother to “Shut up.” Her response was to stick a bar of soap in my mouth. (I kid you not.) I grew up in the era of mindless parenting. But that was then and this is now. What do you do when a toddler drops an f-bomb or an s-bomb? If it occurs in public, the Parent Police will be on you in a hot New York minute, assuming L’il Sweetie Pie learned that word from you. And that may be true. (Hey, I’m not judging.) But here’s the thing, even if your language, like mine, isn’t always G-Rated, you still can and should teach your child what is and is not appropriate language for them to use.

Earlier today I received a parenting question from a grandfather who had gotten an earful from his 2 year old grandson. Grandpa wasn’t sure how to respond so he asked my advice. Here’s what I told him over at my vlog on Vidoyen.

When your child (of any age) uses language that you deem “inappropriate” what do you do? Tell us what’s worked in your family. Please, no stories about soap.


My Mother Died on Christmas Eve

December 24, 2014

Some things you never forget

Some things you never forget

My mother, Martha Scolnick Larris, died on Christmas Eve. Tonight I’ll light the yahrzeit lamp to mark the anniversary of her passing. The same lamp she used to honor her parents’  memory. I guess some day my children will light it for me. Lovely Jewish tradition.

1994. It’s been twenty years. My relationship with my mother was often contentious and frustrating and hurtful. As much for her as it was for me, I’m sure. Takes two to tango. But we also had fun together. And there was much about her that I loved and admired including her love of books, her impressive vocabulary and quick wit, her instant rapport with every child she encountered, her self-reliance and her sense of fairness. She was a whiz at canasta and bridge and absolutely unbeatable in Scrabble. Also, my mom had a dynamite smile which you can see in this photo at the right.

I think of her often while I’m in the kitchen. I still have her coffee pot and her ice cream scoop. I still make her meatloaf, her sweet potato and marshmallow casserole, her banana chocolate chip cake. But it’s in the garden, when I marvel at my gladiolus or smell the lilacs that she comes to me most. The fact that I have a garden which gives me so much pleasure is a direct result of being my mom’s daughter. Let me tell you, that woman knew her flowers. And because of her, so do I. And so does my daughter.

This iris grows in my garden  because my mom had them in hers.

This iris grows in my garden because my mom had them in hers.

Maybe it seems a small thing to know a freesia from a forsythia, a hydrangea from a hyacinth. And who really cares if those iris bulbs I got from my neighbor seem bluer this year than ever?  I care. I can’t help it. This special awareness of plants provides me… no compels me to pay attention and celebrate color, light, form and fragrance. If I saw them all as “just flowers” I’d be missing most of the show and I certainly wouldn’t be taking photos of them every chance I get. Appreciating beauty at that level ain’t small potatoes. So thank you, Mom.

I know all moms are not always a positive influence on their children. People, including our parents, come into our lives for a reason. But even in a less than wonderful childhood there are positive lessons. Take a moment and think about those lessons. They are gifts you’ve received. Now think about the legacy you’re giving to your children. Hopeful it’s a life-affirming one.

Your comments, as always, are welcome.


Why didn’t someone tell me parenting is so….

July 7, 2014

If only they'd told me, I'd still have done it but...

If only they’d told me, I’d still have done it but…

My son and daughter-in-law just had their first child. Nestled within the magic New Baby bubble they gaze, blissful, at this perfect little person who has pretty much taken over their lives and their sleep cycles. But who cares? This is awesome!

Parents are meant to fall in love with their babies. It’s the highest form of sweet surrender. Mom and Dad are totally thrilled to be parents. They’re also overwhelmed by the sheer volume of time, energy and work it takes to care for a newborn. If only they’d known… but of course, we can’t know what being a new parent is about until we’re there. And even then, it’s a tilter-whirl without the safety harness so who’s got time to reflect or even brush your teeth?

But what if you had a wise, cheerful, best friend with several kids? Someone who will happily help you through the uncertain times with the right mix of empathy, humor and sage counsel? Sign me up, right?

My guest this week on Family Confidential is that kind of friend. Natalie Cutler-Welsh is co-founder of the If Only They’d Told Me blog, podcast and co-author of the book If Only They’d Told Me: Babies, Sex and a Cup of Tea. She and her co-author, Jacqueline Lockington, call themselves “the best friends you never knew you had.” So, don’t say no one understands what you’re going through. These women get it.

No matter where you are in your parenting journey, (even if you aren’t yet a parent but are working on it) you’ll enjoy and appreciate my conversation with Natalie. Listen right here.


What kind of grandma will I be?

March 3, 2014

Word has it in early June I’ll be joining the ranks of grandmothers around the world. Lots of people have been congratulating me. While I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the well-wishers, whenever I hear the words I can’t help thinking: “Congratulations for what?” All I did was give birth to my wonderful son and help to raise him into an awesome young man who is a loving husband and will, undoubtedly, become a stellar dad. Hmm. Guess I will accept a few props after all, thank you.

Smile, Grandma

Smile, Grandma

As David and prepare to meet and greet our grandson, I’ve been considering the kind of grandmother I aspire to be. But the thing is, I don’t know from grandmas. Yes, technically, I had two… as so many do, but I lost them long, long ago, which, as Oscar Wilde pointed out, was “very careless.” Grandma #1 died before I was born. I would have been her 4th granddaughter and 9th grandchild. Not likely she and I would have had a bunch of bonding time together. Grandma #2 died when I was four. I was her 5th granddaughter. (Another girl? How special!) From old photos, it’s hard to imagine she enjoyed children much… or life, for that matter.

Of course, I’ve observed grannies in films and pop culture. Most are kindly, affectionate and infinitely patient. Most come with a requisite twinkle, dimples, and ample breasts. They love to knit and garden. On Chopped and Top Chef, 9 out of 10 contestants apparently got their first culinary training in grandma’s kitchen. So there’s that too.

What kind of Granny Annie will I be? I’ll figure it out as I go along (and blog about it, no doubt) but here’s what I’ve got so far:

  1. I will show my grandson, from Day One, that I’m delighted with and grateful for this opportunity to get to know him.
  2. I am here to help him understand that he is part of a family that loves him unconditionally and can teach him essential things about love, trust, respect, compassion and finding fun and humor in life.
  3. I am here to help him understand and appreciate himself and to use his talents for good.
  4. I am here to help him understand emotions (his own and other people’s).
  5. I am here to help him develop a moral compass and the social courage to do the right thing.
  6. I am here to help him explore his interests so he can best find his path.
  7. I am here to read to him, tell him stories, play games, share silly songs and teach him how to make bagels from scratch.
  8. I am here to help him understand and appreciate the natural world and the world of people.
  9. I am here to be his teacher, his champion, and a safe person to come to no matter what’s going on.
  10. I am here to be his friend.

If you are a grandparent, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned from your grandchildren and what you’ve taught them. I’m taking notes.

Filed under: Grandparenting,Parenting — Tags: , , — Annie @ 3:08 pm
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