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

Day 17: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Beyond Shut Up and Listen to Me)

October 17, 2013

Just shut up. No, YOU shut up!

So the US government shut-down is over and the default crisis has been diverted with seconds to spare. Cool cool cool.

This isn’t a political post so no worries. Today, I’m neutral. Really. I don’t care which side of the river you pitch your tent. I only care about teaching kids to be good people, and that includes treating other people with respect. We all remember respect, right? The fine art of  listening with an open heart and mind even when you don’t agree with what the other guy is saying. Even when listening to him or her makes your head explode.

What we all witnessed going down on Capitol Hill these past few weeks provides a great opportunity to talk to kids about compromise. When the kids in your life engage in a dispute on the playing field or a heated discussion in the classroom, what do they do? How do they typically behave when they’re locked in a disagreement with you or siblings or friends?

The slog has cleared in Washington and it’s a great time to have conversations, at home and at school, about getting along with other people. First you might start by asking yourself two simple questions:

  • “How well do my kids perform when it comes to calming down and putting in the time and effort to understand the other guy’s or girl’s point of view?
  • “In what ways could I do a better job helping my kids work together to move respectfully through a conflict to a compromise that serves the greater good (of the family, the team, the class)?”

Now that you’ve got something to think about, take the concepts out of your head and bring them into the real world of kids and the challenge of getting along with people. Talk to your children about resolving conflicts (online and off). Find out which of their approaches work well and which ones not so much. Make sure the discussion remains open and safe with all opinions respectfully listened to.

Oh, and don’t forget to model what you teach. For example, when your kids disagree with you and dig in their heels, how do you typically respond?

As always, your comments are valued and respected.

 

Check out Day 18 of the Kindness and Respect Challenge

 

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NRA, come get me!

December 15, 2012

We have the right to be safe

There’s nothing more “right” than a child’s right to go to school in the morning and learn to read so she can open wide the windows in her mind and dream about the world and her place in it.

All children have the right to be loved and encouraged by their parents and teachers.

All children also have the right to be accepted by their peers, to play, and to come home safely to be with their family in the evening. And yes, all children have the right to sweet dreams. Sweet dreams are exactly right for children.

But last night, no parent who knew about Sandy Hook had sweet dreams. Not likely many children did either.

Something very wrong happened again. It’s been happening in America for a long time. It’s always hard to take it in, but we are experts at distracting ourselves. If it didn’t happen in our family, in our community… we forget.

It’s getting harder to forget.

But, as a nation, we are way past tongue-clucking, “what-a-tragedy” small talk. It’s absurd to pretend otherwise. It’s not as if we have no clue how to fix the problem. We know what to do to make it much less likely that another one of these will happen again. Does anyone really need to spell it out? OK. I’ll do it:

We have to do a better job identifying and reaching out to the troubled people amongst us (kids, teens, adults) and get them the professional help they need so they can feel “a part of” rather than “apart from” the rest of life. The rest of us will be safer.

We also need to reasonably restrict access to guns. There. I’ve said the four-letter word. Let the NRA come get me. I’ve got no gun here, so I’ll be an easy target. But please don’t bother posting comments about 2nd amendment rights. No hunter needs an assault weapon to shoot a target or a rabbit. Only a hunter of people needs an assault weapon. He has no license to kill so I don’t give a good goddamn about his rights.

I care only about the rights of children and the parents and teachers who love them. For those of you at a loss for the words to talk with your children about this tragedy, here is an excellent resource from the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. (The fact that we even have such a place tell a lot about our current culture.)

Now please, email your Congressional representatives today and urge them to reinstate the federal Assault Weapons Ban.

Sign this petition from Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Or this pledge to take action for common sense gun legislation. Heck, sign every online petition on this issue. We have the collective power to do the right thing. ‘Bout time we got together and used it.

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No constitutional right to be a jerk.

September 10, 2009

President Obama greets high school students (AP photo)

President Obama greets high school students (AP photo)

In last night’s speech before a joint session of Congress the President was clear about his goals for health care reform. He also delivered a clear message to Americans about the most effective way to deal with rude and disrespectful people.  When the President stated the fact that the health care reform bill does not afford coverage to people who are in the US illegally, Rep. Joe Wilson (SC) shouted “You lie!” making the Congressman the liar. But I digress.

The President could easily have responded  to unexpected rudeness as many of us have. He could have handily shot back a history-making zinger. But it was the President’s choice not to that was most note-worthy.

After the speech a friend on Twitter asked “Heckling the Prez? Sheesh! Explain that 2 kids! arg!” If you’re worrying about that, don’t. The real lesson wasn’t in the rudeness of Rep. Wilson (whose name will be remembered for none of the reasons his parents imagined when their son was elected to Congress). The real lesson for kids was delivered by President Obama, some of whose critics were so bent out of shape Tuesday when he visited a high school that at least one was seen carrying a sign saying “Keep the president away from our kids!” 

Kids, here’s the real lesson from last night’s “interaction”: When someone disrespects you, you can choose to retaliate or not. When some jerk calls you a liar, or worse, you can do what Barack Obama did last night… you can control yourself. The President’s display of self-respect as well as respect for the people in that room and for the office he holds sends just the right message.

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