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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.

Three things t(w)eens should stop doing in 2014

January 9, 2014

Earlier this week I gave parents three tips for making home a more peaceful place in the new year. Since kids are part of the equation, it’s only fair that you guys also get some pointers so you can do your part to make your family a happier one. Here goes:

In 2014 you should:

The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room

Errr… hi, Mom. How’s it going?

1. Stop Leaving your stuff all over the place: We  know you’re exhausted when you come home from school/practice and all that. And probably all you want to do is collapse, get something to eat, and veg out. But seriously, if you drop your backpack, shoes, jacket, books, etc. wherever you feel like it, you’re just asking for an argument. It’s not that parents are neat freaks, it’s just that a lot of us have had it with picking up after our kids, especially when you could totally take care of your own stuff and put it where it belongs.

I was once doing a Parent-Teen Communication workshop and this girl raised her hand and said she wanted her mom to “yell less.”

So I asked her, “What does your mom mostly yell at you about?”

“The wet towels on the bathroom floor.”

“And you really don’t know how to get your mom to stop yelling about the towels on the floor?”

“No,” she said. And she really didn’t.

You do, don’t you? It’s easy. Hang up the wet towels without being asked and  fights about wet towels end there.

2. Stop taking out your bad mood on others. It’s tough being teen. Truly. If you asked your parents if they’d like to go back in time and be your age again, none of them would. They remember the stress, the confusion, the embarrassment, the longing, and the worry that no one you are crushing on will ever love you back.  On top of that, there’s the hormones, the zits, the homework, the social and academic pressure. Plus all the stuff that adults expect you to do and be. Oh, and you never get enough sleep! So, yes, there are plenty of things to make you crabby. However, it’s not fair for you to take your bad mood out on anyone else. Think about it this way, if your bad mood was a coal processing plant… you’re evil mood would be polluting your home and family. That’s unacceptable. Don’t do it any more. Instead, learn some awesome relaxation techniques and you’ll have some healthy ways to get yourself out of a bad mood. Your family will thank you and you’ll be happier too.

3. Stop making excuses. When you mess up (you’ve done it before, you’ll do it again… we all do. It’s called being human.) take responsibility. Parents and teachers really get their buttons pushed when kids make their mistakes someone else’s fault. You want to avoid arguments with the adults in your life? All you have to do is keep your agreements (Do what you say you’ll do, be where you say you’ll be and come home when you say you’ll come home.) And if something happens (stuff happens) that gets in the way of your following through on your word, than own it, no excuses. Your parents and teachers will respect you more when you take responsibility for your actions. You’ll respect yourself more too, provided that you a) apologize and mean it, b) make amends –fix what you “broke,”  c) actually learn something from the way things played out so that d) you are less likely to make the same mistake again. Or anything close to it.

That’s it. Are you OK with those three tips? I hope so. They’re yours now. Use them and you’re on your way to a happier new year.

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Three things parents should stop doing in 2014

January 5, 2014

Self-improvment New Year’s resolutions usually fade after Week 2 because they require us to do things we’re not used to. Most people aren’t wired that way. So I’m thinking it might be easier to stop doing something unhealthy rather than to start a whole new regime. So here’s my list of three common things parents should stop doing this year.

That's it! I've had it!!!!

That’s it! I’ve had it!

1. Yelling. Parenting is messy and stressful. With everything that’s expected of you it’s easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed. If yelling has become your go-to place, you need to stop. When you lash out at your kids, your spouse, or your dog, you are polluting your home and hurting your family. If you don’t have at least one stress-management tool in your toolkit (alcohol and tobacco do not count), you aren’t fully equipped for your parenting job so you’ll be less effective. I recommend breathing. It will help you learn the relaxation response. Breathing requires no gym membership or special shoes. It’s free and always available. Yes, it’s habit-forming, but in a very good way. Stop yelling and start breathing and your kids will give you less to yell about. Guaranteed.

2. Tuning out. Parents, teachers, coaches… adults in general are always telling kids what to do, how to act, and what to believe. When kids take the bold step of opening up to us (because they need to be heard), we often aren’t listening… not one hundred percent. And if we are listening, as soon as we hear something that indicates a “problem” we may well jump to invalidate it (“You don’t really feel that way.”) And yet, we want our kids to stand up for themselves amongst their peers – whether they’re being overpowered in the kindergarten playground or in a teen relationship. But how are they going to learn to be speak up if we don’t give them practice by respectfully listening to what they have to say? Stop tuning out and start listening with a more open heart and mind and your kids will feel more confident in themselves.

 3. Rushing around. Every family needs down time, and hopefully you all got some during the holidays. But most of us need and deserve daily down time… together… as a family. If your kids are still young enough for story time, what a great chance to cuddle and reconnect each evening. If your children are past being read to you can still make it a nightly ritual to check in with them for a quiet talk about how the day went for each of you. (This is a great way to teach kids that conversations are a two-way street. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re always the one asking “How’s it going?”) And let’s not forget meal time. Maybe you’ve heard this before but the research findings are so amazing they’re worth repeating: Kids whose families sit down and eat dinner together at least three times a week get all kinds of benefits. Have dinner together and your kids are more likely to do better in school, less likely to use alcohol or illegal drugs, and less likely to be overweight. They’re even less likely to have friends who do drugs! Don’t you love it?

Happy New Year from my family to yours.

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What do children need?

December 20, 2013

I’m mentoring a teen who suddenly had to step up and take care of a young sibling after their parents’ death. It’s gotten me thinking about what every child needs and deserves in order to grow into a healthy young adult.

To give them what they need, you have to know what they need

To give them what they need, you have to know what they need

Here’s what I know: Children need to feel safe, physically and emotionally. Children need at least one person who actively cares for and parents them in the best sense of the word. Children need to feel wanted and loved so they can learn about love.  They need to be treated with respect so they can learn to value themselves and the people around them. They need to feel cherished for their uniqueness so they can accept themselves and others whole-heartedly. All children need opportunities to expand their mind and their abilities through exposure to the natural world and the world of ideas. They need time for unstructured play. They need ethical guidance to understand how we are all connected and why our choices matter. Children need encouragement to use their power for good and adult models who walk the talk.

What else do you think children need?

Filed under: Parenting,Teaching Kids To Be Good People,Tips — Annie @ 10:55 am
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