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.

What other people think

April 5, 2011

That doesn't bother me... much

Tweens and teens are famously self-conscious around their peers. The risk of falling short of what’s “cool” can be so intimidating it’s a wonder they crawl out of the sack and get themselves to school. Each day 160,000 American kids don’t bother. They can’t deal with the judgement, put-downs and out-and-out cruelty from other students so they stay home.

I know at least one adult who also wrestles with self-doubts. Before I leave the house for a speaking gig,  I stress over my hair and what I’m wearing, especially when I’m presenting to middle schoolers. I try on a half dozen different tops, pants, earrings in an attempt to look cooler. I know it’s a total crap shoot and I’m sure I often fail miserably, but I make the effort because I want the kids to accept me. Kinda sweet and kinda pathetic too.

Why does it matter so much what other people think? Well, as a species we’re programed to try to get other folks to like us. We’re not the fiercest beasts in the jungle so we need to team up to survive. A team works for the mutual benefit of all members only if those members are on good terms.

And so, throughout the millennia, we’ve become skilled at decoding each other’s micro-expressions – fleeting facial indications of fear, disgust, surprise, approval, etc. When we see disapproval, it’s time to back-pedal… quick!

For example, suppose we’re chatting and I say, “Wow! Last night for dinner we had the best steamed okra.” I’m about to add, “You’ve gotta try this recipe!” But before I do, I detect a Yuck expression flit across your face. Uh-oh…  I offended you. I’m in trouble! If you vote to kick me off the team my survival’s at stake. I’ve gotta figure a fast, face-saving move. I’ve got it! “Of course, not everyone likes okra…” I say with a charming smile. You nod and smile back. Phew! That was close!

I created this quiz to help kids start thinking about all this. Share it with your child. Take it yourself. Food for thought. Tastier than okra.


  1. If my friends think something is funny, I’ll laugh even if I don’t get the joke. True/False
  2. The worst thing is to do something embarrassing in front of people. T/F
  3. If everyone’s seen a movie but me, I’ll say I saw it. T/F
  4. If my parents think something’s a “good” idea, I’m suspicious. T/F
  5. I hate making decisions cause it sucks to be wrong. T/F
  6. I’m never the first person to give my opinion. T/F
  7. I’ve dropped out of an activity I liked because none of my friends were into it. T/F
  8. It’s risky to say how you really feel. T/F
  9. If someone makes fun of what I’m wearing, I won’t wear it again. T/F
  10. If my friends think something’s cool, I’ll try it even if I’m not sure I’ll like it. T/F

7-10 Trues: You worry what others think and it brings you down.With a boost in self-confidence and support from family and friends, you’ll trust yourself more and enjoy being you.

3-6 Trues: Sometimes it’s hard for you to stand up for yourself, but when you do it feels good. You’re getting better all the time at being your own person.

0-2 Trues: You hardly ever worry what others think because you’re self-confident and have a lot of self-respect. You may not know it, but people respect you for who you are.

*Excerpted from Be Confident in Who You Are, Book 1 of my Middle School Confidential series. Just released as a graphic novel iPad app (for ages 8-14) and now available from iTunes.


Day 9: Asking teens to weigh in

June 16, 2009

Hey! Watchoo lookin' at?

Hey! Whachoo lookin' at?

Yesterday I expanded my Annoyance Challenge exploration by emailing a survey to one hundred tweens and  teens. The topic: annoying behavior at school. Here are the six straight-forward questions.

  1. At school what things annoy you? (Lots of details please but no names!)
  2. When someone’s behavior annoys you, what do you usually do about it?
  3. At school, what do you sometimes do that annoys OTHER PEOPLE? (whether you mean to or not)
  4. At school, what do you sometimes do that annoys YOU?
  5. How have you tried to change your own behavior so that it’s less annoying to others or yourself?
  6. If someone else’s annoying behavior didn’t get to you so easily, how would school be different?

So far I’ve heard back from twelve students. I’m thinking 12% teen response to a random email questionnaire is pretty good. This may indicate either that the topic of annoyance is a hot one and they’re eager to vent or that even though school’s only been out for a week, they’re already bored and willing to reply to anything that wafts into their IN Box. Maybe it’s a little of each. Anyway, I’ve already gotten some really interesting answers. I’ll be sharing the results over the next several days.

In the meantime, if you’ve got a 10-14 year old in your house and you can manage to get them to respond to these questions (anonymously, of course) I’d really appreciate it. They can email me here. If they’re not up for it, that’s cool. I certainly don’t want to annoy anyone!

Filed under: Annoyance Challenge,Parenting,Quizzes,Teens — Tags: , — Annie @ 6:56 pm

How much of a sheeple are you?

February 19, 2009

Not a sheeple


Everyone wants to be liked. Which makes caring what other people think totally normal. It’s also normal at times to choose to go along with the group just to keep the peace or avoid confrontations. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it makes sense to be agreeable especially if we’re talking about some little thing that really doesn’t matter all that much. But what if the issue does matter to you? Do you still do what they say when it’s not right for you? Do you go along with the crowd just so they’ll like you?

If this sounds familiar you might want to ask yourself, “Am I a sheeple?” In case that’s a new word for you, sheeple are people who act like sheep. They’re most comfortable when following other people’s rules of “acceptable” behavior (what to wear, what to think, etc.). The Golden Rule rule for Sheeple: “Thinking for yourself and being your own person is way too risky! Play it safe. Follow the others.”

Wonder if you’re a sheeple?  Take this quiz and find out:

  1. If people think something is funny, I laugh even if I don’t get the joke. True or False?
  2. If everyone has seen a movie I haven’t seen, I’ll lie and say I saw it. T or F
  3. I hardly ever tell people how I really feel. T or F
  4. I try really hard not to make a fool of myself. T or F
  5. I’d do anything to be more popular.  T or F
  6. I’ve dropped out of an activity I liked because my friends quit. T or F
  7. I worry if about people talking about me. T or F
  8. If someone makes fun of something I’m wearing, I won’t wear it again! T or F
  9. If my friends hate a TV show that I like, I pretend that I hate it too. T or F
  10. I’m never the first to give my opinion. T or F

If you got:

7-10 Ts: You have some strong sheepish tendencies that can prevent you from calling your own shots. You might want to cut loose from the herd every now and then, just to prove to yourself that you are still an individual. You are, aren’t you?

4-6 Ys: You sometimes find it challenging to stand up for yourself so you don’t push it very often. But sometimes you are your own person and it actually feels good.

0-3 Ys: Most of the time you don’t hesitate to think for yourself. Your friends might respect you for being independent and whether you know it or not, you could be inspiring others to think for themselves, too.

If you’re a t(w)een and you took the quiz, I’d love to hear from you. Post any comments or questions below. Or if you’re the parent of a t(w)een, I’d like to hear from you too!

Filed under: Quizzes,Teens — Tags: — Annie @ 10:16 am
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