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.

A question of broken trust

March 28, 2017

At 36% approval rating, Trump is at a historic low for a POTUS in office less than 100 days. People don’t trust the guy, for lots of good reasons. Consequently, I’ve been focused for months on what’s going on in our government. Blogging about anything but politics feels less important than being part of the resistance. Of course, I’m still responding daily to teen email from around the world, as I’ve done for the past 20 years. For teens, there are no political crises. What threatens a teen’s world is an upended peer relationship. Nothing catastrophic on a national or global scale, but still deserving of compassion and attention.

Like this one:

Without trust all sense of safety is gone.

Without trust all sense of safety is gone.

Teen: I used to be friends with these boys until I started bullying them. I’d make fun of them everyday, move their stuff, occasionally resort to violence. I did it to feel in control. I don’t do it any more and I want to be friends with them again. My best friend is now friends with them and I’m jealous. One of the boys ignores me and sometimes says rude things to me. On one hand I did the same sort of thing to him, but on the other hand, I hate it and I don’t want him to end up being mean to everybody, because of how I treated him.

I’m probably overthinking this because I always overthink everything. Can you give  me any advice?

Annie: You’re not “overthinking” it. This demands a lot of thinking, so I’m proud of you for putting in the time and for reaching out for advice. I’m also impressed that you stopped harassing these boys. What made you stop?

Teen: Because I lost my best friend. He was the only male friend I’ve ever had who really understood me, so when we stopped being friends I started to think about what I was doing and what I hoped to achieve through putting others down and bullying them.

Annie: Have you apologized to each of them?

Teen: Yes, except for the one who ignores me/is mean to me. I don’t really know what to say to him. I feel like even if I did apologize to him, it wouldn’t make a difference.

Annie: Here’s what I know about apologies: for the hurt person to truly let go of those hurt feelings, you (the hurter) need to dig deep. “I’m sorry” is a start, but maybe not enough, depending on what you did. The boy who “ignores” you does not trust you. And you can understand why. You can’t trust someone who bullies you, so you don’t feel safe around them. You don’t believe their words. You can’t count on them, as a real friend. Trust is the key to all healthy relationships (friendships and romantic relationships). The question is: How do you regain someone’s trust after you’ve betrayed him? Think about it this way, if the situation were reversed, what would you need in addition to an apology?

If a friend had been harassing you, what would you need in addition to “I’m sorry”? What would it take for you to trust him and feel 100% safe with him again?

Teen: I’m not sure to be honest. They’d need to prove they were trustworthy and weren’t just going to start the bullying again.

Annie: I agree. Someone who betrays a friend needs to “prove” they are trustworthy and not just apologizing only to start the harassment again.

Teen: But don’t boys think extremely differently? I don’t know if any of them think about when I bullied them. I don’t even know if any of them want to be friends again. What if they’ve just forgotten about it completely and I’m just overreacting?

Annie: I don’t believe that boys think “extremely differently” when it comes to friendship and trust. Some boys may show their feelings differently than some girls. Boys may not talk about the “bully” behind his/her back, the way girls tend to do. But when trust is broken, boys are not likely to “just forget.” Humans have very long memories, and for a good reason. If you are punched and kicked by a close friend and you “forget” and continue the friendship, it’s very likely you will be punched and kicked again… or worse. No, boys don’t “forget.” But they may pretend that it doesn’t bother them.

You said something important… a friend who bullies need to “prove” that it’s never going to happen again. Your goal, moving forward, is to figure out how to prove you’re truly sorry and that you are someone who can be trusted 100%. HINT: We prove things by our behavior.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

 

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A day for yourself, Mom.

March 1, 2017

Our kids don’t live with us any more. Here’s how that happened: We fed and watered them regularly and eventually they bypassed childhood, graduated from here and there, and outgrew their need for under-the-same-roof parents. It happens. It’s a good thing for them and for us. If you’ve taught your children well, believe me when I say that it’s beyond cool to witness them as young adults, living their own lives and making choices that reflect well on them and… yeah, on you, too.

If your kids currently live with you, they probably depend on you for… a zillion things every day. The tangible stuff and the emotional support and encouragement. Even as you teach them to become more self-reliant, and they slowly become just that, you still have a lot going on being a parent. And hopefully, you enjoy most of it. Not all the time, of course. Like our tweens and teens, we also have our own needs and moods. And sometimes we just don’t feel like cooperating.

When parenting isn’t so much fun, it might help to remind yourself that this phase is only a temp job. (See paragraph one.) Another helpful tip: Take a day off occasionally. Leave the kids and go do something that you love. If you can’t swing a whole day off yet, then how about a couple of hours? Still not doable? How about an hour? You deserve it. And more to the point, you need it to maintain your sanity, your connection to your dreams (Remember those?) and your sense of who you are beyond “Emma’s Mom.”

I took such a day on Sunday. Went, by myself, to the Palace of the Legion of Honor, one of San Francisco’s fine arts museums. I got in for free because my kids bought me a membership for my birthday. It’s really nice when people know you well enough to know what you love.

The current special exhibit: Monet the Early Years. It is spectacular. But I won’t bother describing what I saw and why it moved me so. Art may not be your thing. Let me just show you this painting that Monet called The Magpie. He did it because he wanted to challenge himself to paint a snow scene. How does one depict snow on a white canvas? Beats me, but I’d say he nailed it.

The Magpie (1869) Oil on Canvass by Claude Monet

The Magpie (1869) Oil on Canvass by Claude Monet

We can all benefit from challenging ourselves. Especially if we want to help our kids do the same. Create a challenge. Go ahead. Let your kids in on what you’re working towards. Let them see how you deal with obstacles, mistakes, frustration, progress, achievement. Give them an opportunity to support and encourage you, for a change.

Enjoy… in joy.

 

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 4:57 pm
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How to talk to kids about political protests

February 7, 2017

IMG_5762

We are marching for the right to be heard and listened to.

If you’ve watched anti-Trump protests in the news or seen people marching in the streets in your own community, your kids have probably taken notice. Maybe they’ve already asked you, “What are those people doing?”

No matter who you voted for, the first thing everyone who respects our Constitution ought to tell kids is that protestors have the right to protest. The First Amendment prohibits Congress from enacting any law that restricts the people’s right to peacefully assemble. And the Fourteenth Amendment makes that right applicable to state governments. Nearly all fifty states include that right in their state constitutions. If you know which ones don’t, please tell me. We can work with them.

So, there’s the first piece about talking to kids: U.S. citizens are guaranteed the right to peacefully 1) parade and gather or 2) demonstrate support or opposition of public policy or 3) express one’s views. These are guaranteed by the freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble.

If your child asks, “What are they marching against?” You might frame your answer this way, “They’re marching for the right to be heard. You see, sweetie, our form of government is a democracy. Democracies stay healthy when we tell our elected representatives how we feel about the choices they’re making in our name. Voting is one way of talking to our representatives on the local, state and federal levels… all the way up to the White House. But voting doesn’t happen very often. That’s why we it’s very important we’ve got other ways to communicate with our representatives, through email, phone calls and peaceful protest.”

Our kids should learn from us that making our voices heard is a good thing. So is direct civic and political engagement. That’s a family value we can all embrace. Tell them that democracy is like a garden. If you ignore it, it will become overrun with weeds, but if you tend it and stay alert and actively involved, it will thrive.

Whether or not your beliefs align with the protestors, use the demonstrations as springboards for ongoing conversations about your family values. Either way, celebrate the fact that our country’s government protects people who protest peacefully. Let your kids know that’s a very cool thing and not every country does it.

And remember, elected officials are temps. We, the people, are here for good. If we want our country to reflect our values, including really important ones like how we treat other people and how we care for the Earth, then we need to fight for those values. And march in the street, if necessary.

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Raising Human Beings

January 28, 2017

We're raising kids, we're raising human beings.

We’re not raising kids, we’re raising human beings.

I loved Dr. Ross Greene’s book, Raising Human Beings, which focuses on parents and kids solving problems collaboratively. I didn’t love our podcast interview. Unfortunately, a poor connection between California and Maine mangled the audio so badly I couldn’t post it. Audio or no, you’ve got to hear what Dr. Greene has to say. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

Dr. Greene: One reason you want to solve problems collaboratively with kids who are behaviorally challenging is so he won’t put his fist through your wall. I’m seeing increasingly little difference between kids we call “behaviorally challenging” and kids we don’t. The reason to be solving problems collaboratively with any child is because you want to teach the skills that are on the better side of human nature. That’s a really good thing.

Annie: I agree. When parents model good problem-solving skills and work with their children to find solutions in non-violent ways then kids are learning a lot about problem-solving.

Dr. Greene: You do reap what you sow! If power to influence or solve problems with a kid is what you use, then power is what you’ll get back. But if collaboration is what you’re using then collaboration is what you’re going to get back.

“The role of a parent in the life of a kid is partner. We get into the most trouble, as parents, when we are shooting for control. Control is a delusion.” Dr. Ross Greene

Annie: Many parents seem confused about their role, vis a vis power, especially parents of tweens and teens. At that age kids seem programmed to push back. How can we help avoid those struggles?

Dr. Greene: All “pushing back” behavior is the child saying, “I’ve got concerns here that I want addressed.” If we use power to address those concerns, then we blow those concerns off. Kids don’t feel heard, their concerns don’t get addressed, and they stop talking to us. The role of a parent in the life of a kid is “partner.” We get into the most trouble when we shoot for control. Control is a delusion. You don’t have control. Many parents of adolescents have discovered that already. Those still fighting with their adolescents haven’t quite come to it yet.

Annie: It’s easy to be a good parent when everything is going just fine, isn’t it? I picture the family at the supermarket, it’s late, been a long day, everyone is hungry, maybe a little stressed out, and your kid grabs one of those sugar-packed impulse items by the checkout. You don’t want her to have it. There’s a struggle. Other parents are watching. How do you problem-solve collaboratively in a situation like that?

“Parents and kids don’t have to be adversaries. It all comes down to how we solve problems collaboratively when kids are failing to meet expectations.”

Dr. Greene: The trick is get out to of the heat-of-the-moment. Most kids and care-givers get into the same conflicts every week. That makes them predictable and it means we don’t have to wait until the heat-of-the-moment to solve those problems. We can solve them with a planned approach. I ask parents: “Which of your expectations is your child having trouble meeting on a reliable basis? (Make a list!) Which ones would you like to start working on first?” That’s how to start solving problems collaboratively.

Annie: Makes sense. Some examples of common parental expectations that a child is getting homework done, getting up and out the door for school in the morning. Too much screen time That’s a common struggle in so many families. How do we deal with that collaboratively?

Dr. Greene: First parents have to get clear on what their expectations are. Parents don’t always know. After that we can use the 3 steps of Plan B (solving problem collaboratively) vs. Plan A (parents trying to solve the problem unilaterally).

Step 1: (The Empathy Step) Get the conversation started. For example, “I’ve noticed it’s hard for you to end the screen time to do your homework or to come in to dinner. What’s up?” The goal of this empathy step is to gather information from the kid about his concern or point of view about this expectation he’s having difficulty meeting. If we don’t hear the kid’s concern, this problem will remain unsolved.

Step 2: (Define Adult Concerns) Adults have concerns that need to be heard and addressed, as well. Typically adults try to get their concerns met with Plan A (unilaterally with power). Now they can get their concerns met with Plan B (collaboratively, as partners).

Step 3: (The Invitation) This where parent and child develop a solution, but it’s got to be realistic, mutually agreed upon, and mutually satisfactory. The solution truly and logically addresses the concerns of parent and child. If it doesn’t, the problem is not solved.

Annie: I can see this model requires flexibility and openness on the part of the parent, especially if he or she wasn’t parented this way a generation ago.

Dr. Greene: It definitely requires a change in lenses, in one’s perspective, and in one’s definition of authority. A lot of parents are initially scared that this model will result in their losing authority. In reality, they’re not only picking up authority, they are dramatically improving the relationship with their child, dramatically improving communication.

“This is not about strength and power. It’s about empathy. Disagreeing with your kids, that’s going to happen. Kids’ failing to meet expectations? It will happen. Does that have to mean conflict? No!” – Dr. Ross Greene.

Learn more about Dr. Ross Greene at LivesInTheBalance.org

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