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.

Giving Attitude vs an Attitude of Giving

December 9, 2013

The following article is excerpted from my book: Teaching Kids to Be Good People 

Teach ’em to give back

For the first few years of life kids aren’t always capable of telling us exactly what they want. Which is why helpful, loving parents and grandparents pepper the little ones with questions that often begin with: “Do you want _______?” Since it’s too early for real conversations, grownups fill in the blanks:

  • Do you want to play with this?
  • Do you want a story?
  • Do you want to go to the park?
  • Do you want Mint Chip or Jamoca Almond Fudge?

Our every childish wish becomes our parents’ command. That’s why we quickly we learn to say “I want _______.” Being a little kid is a sweet gig until the day when a parent says, “NO” to one of our demands, and our little brain explodes:

“What did you say?! What do you mean it’s too close to dinner? What do you mean it costs too much and you won’t buy it for me? This is outrageous!!”

We don’t have all those words, so we reiterate the obvious for stupid Mommy/Daddy:


Tantrums don’t always work, but they work often enough for little humans to keep hope and self-centeredness alive.

At age three we tend to become more aware of the power dynamics within our family and start testing boundaries. That’s the time a parent’s “Do you want ______?” may take on a sinister ring:

  • Do you want me to take that away from you?
  • Do you want a time out?
  • Do you want me to lose your snack?
  • Do you want me to give you something to cry about?

That last rhetorical question was surprisingly popular amongst certain parents during the second half of the last century. Hopefully it’s gone the way of the landline, but I’ve got no empirical data either way.

Obviously all those years of “Do you want _______?” congealed in the spongy language and reward centers of our brain where we realize how important our happiness is to Mom and Dad. Because we are all about making it easy for them to please us, our demands become very specific as do our reasons for why they ought to be met . . . NOW:

“I want __________. And yes, I am old enough!”
“I want __________. ’Cause I’m the only one who doesn’t have one!”
“I want a new __________. ’Cause my old one sucks!”
“I want you to give me what I want, and I want you to leave me alone.” (Double demand . . . impressive language development!)

And so, for those of us who grew up in comfortable circumstances (that would be you with the latte in hand), it stands to reason we may need an attitude transplant to progress from “I want to get” to “I want to give.” But we can do it! We have the technology to connect with organizations doing awesome work. We have credit cards that make spending less painful.

Any time is a good time to look around and see where you could spread a little sunshine and some green. December is an especially good time.  Some of my personal favorite do-great .orgs are Oxfam America, Good Weave, Doctors Without Borders, and Kiva. And there are at least a million others effectively working on solutions to local, national, and international challenges. Giving to any of them makes you (and any entitled kid you want to inspire) part of the solution. Start your search with the Charity Navigator and find out whose efforts you and your family want to support.

Warning—Giving can become habit forming, but in a healthy way. Besides, do you and your kids really need more stuff or might you be in the market for some good karma points?


When kids get the “Gimmes” give them a chance to give

November 11, 2013

Teaching kids to be good people includes encouraging them to “Share” and “Think of others.” All good, but it’s tough to compete with billions of ad dollars bombarding our children with other encouraging words, like: “Get Mom/Dad to buy you this stuff!”

It’s a hard row. So whenever I discover a project that can nudge a kid’s needle in the direction of Giving vs Getting I do what I can to get the word out.

Houses for Change is one of those gem projects. Check out my interview with Mark Wasserman, founder and director of Houses for Change, an award-winning educational crafts project for kids to raise awareness of homelessness and raise funds to help homeless families. It is a national campaign that answers the question, “What can I do to help?” This is a brilliantly simple idea with easy peasy implementation which teaches kids about philanthropy and the power each of us has to do good in the world. We’re all onboard for that kind of education, right?

Happy Holidays!


Day 25: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Show me some love)

October 25, 2013

I know how to get what I need

Yesterday’s email from described how much good the gift of a goat can provide an African family in extreme poverty. Great idea. Been gifting goats through for years. Glad to see more goats doing their part to help people.

So I started thinking about goats I’ve known… and remembered this blog from 5 years ago. Fits perfectly with the Kindness and Respect Challenge because it’s about love.

A Tale of Two Kids

Saturday I strolled alone through a golden vineyard. You may not have grapes growing near you, but if you spot a sunny day outside your window, get out in it! Drag your family along too.

In the short term, Nature will re-center you. In the long-term it might keep you saner when you’re locked in traffic, cooped up inside, or stuck anywhere you’d rather not be. Enjoying the natural world might also keep you safer. Because let’s face it, trolling malls can be scary dangerous. Just last week a bunch of Long Island bargain hunters trampled a store employee. Yes, they actually killed a guy who stood between them and 30% off of such gotta-haves as a pair of Hulk Smash Hands.

Nothing like that ever happens in vineyards, even when grapes with attitude are still on the vine. Of course, I wasn’t hunting for anything on Saturday, which is probably why finding the goats was so cool.

There were 15 of them munching grass within a spacious pen. It looked like a perfect home for goats. I’m just assuming, of course. But really, they seemed pretty happy. I don’t know that for sure, but none actively complained. Except for this one goat. He looked at me with what could only be called longing.  Like he suddenly realized that his goat-life was incomplete. Maybe the others felt it too, but they just stood and stared. But Goat the Brave trotted over, looked me in the eye and said, “I need some love. Can you help?”

I reached through the railing and petted him. He tilted his head toward the sun and smiled. “Ahh, that’s great. Now how about behind my left ear, if you don’t mind?” I didn’t mind. I was into it. Bonding by the fence the world went away.  Twenty feet back stood the rest of the herd, frozen, watching Goat the Brave get all that hands-on love. I felt their aching to be patted and cooed at. Yet, to the goat, they lacked the courage to step up and say, “Me too!”

After leaving the goats I headed back to the tasting room where guests sipped their Chardonnay and Merlot, downed salami and cheese, and enjoyed the music of the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District Non-Marching Band (aka The Sewer Band), in which my David plays trombone.

Between sets I read on a bench in the late afternoon sun. A 5 year old girl (aka Little Spunky) spotted me and like the brave goat, wanted attention. More coy in her approach, she ducked behind a column and sang quietly to herself but not all that quietly. When I looked up from my book, Little Spunky lowered her voice and pretended to pick flowers. I sighed (loudly) and returned to my book, but faked her out and immediately looked up again. Ha! I caught her looking at me! This time she didn’t look away. Just smiled knowingly and said, “Santa’s coming!” The message was clear… “Don’t miss it, lady!” Then she climbed out of the flower bed and ran toward the music.

I followed. Within seconds, the band launched into “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and there he was!. And guess who was first to talk to the fat man in red, and receive a kindly smile and candy cane? Good guess. Way to go, Little Spunky. Way to go, Goat the Brave. You know how the world works.  When you need love and attention, you’ve gotta speak up.




AIDS WALK San Francisco 2012

July 22, 2012

Where the day began...

Last Sunday David and I joined the 26th Annual AIDS WALK San Francisco. We wanted to show support for the ongoing efforts of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, a powerhouse organization that has, for the past 30 years, been working to “end the HIV epidemic in the city where it began– and eventually everywhere.”

The 10K walk through Golden Gate Park was an easy enough thing for us to do. So was raising $625 from friends and family who were all there, virtually, walking with our BeTheChange Team. A big hug from me to you! Also, major props go to the AIDS WALK organizers for their impressive job (providing water, snacks, port-o-potties, doggie drinking stations, an army of encouraging volunteers, and phenomenal entertainment along the route). For them, this could not have been a “walk in the park” but because of their tremendous work, it was just that, a fabulous walk in the park, for David and me, and our 20,000 new friends. It felt awesome to be part of something so important and so… good.

Here are some of the sights from along the WALK:

Part of the AIDS Quilt

So many lives cut short by HIV/AIDS

This corporate team showed their true colors

As far as the eye can see, people walking for change

Yet another reason we love SF!

We're here to help!

Together we are unstoppable

This year’s AIDS WALK SF raised almost $2.7 million! And that number is growing because you can still contribute to our Team BeTheChange until Friday, August 10th.  Why not kick in a few bucks while you’re right here at the computer? David and I would be so appreciative. And by donating to SF AIDS Foundation, you too can be part of something big… without the blisters!

Thanks for being part of Team BeTheChange!

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