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.

I stand with Meryl

January 9, 2017

Violence incites violence.

“When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

At Sunday night’s Golden Globes, actress Meryl Streep was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. Her acceptance speech honored and encouraged all of us who try to be mindful of the dignity and respect we owe our fellow humans. If you haven’t yet watched that speech, it’s only about 6 minutes. Well worth your time. The crux of it: Use your power for good.

Without mentioning the President-elect by name, Ms. Streep said,

“…when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

This chapter we’ve entered isn’t about politics. Though some argue that everything is political. Perhaps. But most of us parents don’t think about politics as we raise our children. We think about the basics of the job at hand. Food. Shelter. Economic and emotional security. Education. And if we are fortunate enough to have those boxes checked, we can begin to think about the kind of people we want our children to grow up to be. We think about how they will treat others. What kind of friends and partners they will become. We think (and often worry) about how others will treat our children.

We try to be positive role models for our children and for all children. In this time and place where hate speech and duplicity are becoming normalized, we must redouble our efforts. When we see disrespectful behavior we must speak out against it. We must teach our children to speak out against it. To do otherwise encourages more disrespect and hate and violence. Make no mistake, polite silence is not an option. It never was. Neither is exasperated head-shaking. If we are to be teachers worthy of our children, committed to creating a saner, safer world for them, then we must actively push back against the growing normalization of hate. In the absence of moral leadership, each of us must lead.

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Before the truth gets drowned out and dies

December 19, 2016

I often ask parents, “What kind of people do you want your kids to grow up to be?” “Honest” is always in the top five. We don’t want our kids peddling lies and deception (not in relation to us or their teachers or their friends). Being honest is a good thing. Yeah. Glad we all agree.

But we parents have a problem. The President-elect regularly lies loudly and proudly with impunity. Face it, he won the Presidency of the United States of America, in part, by spouting crappola like “Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton are co-founders of ISIS.” And “Climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.” And “Hillary Clinton started the Birther Movement and I stopped it.” Since Election Day he’s continued with baseless claims like: “There was ‘serious voter fraud’ in California.” and…. never mind.

If you’re not outraged you haven’t been paying attention. But you have. I know you have. But too many folks gobble up any and all of what He says. No questions asked. Seriously?

We have veered off the trail. Maybe you wanted change. Maybe you’re cool with the fact that the truth as we know it has been left behind. Doesn’t matter if we’re cool with it or not. The truth is, all of us are now being led by a person who either doesn’t know the difference between fact and fiction or cynically lies for self-aggrandizement as well as the perverse rush he gets in sowing seeds of discord to solidify his Rule by Fear.

I miss Obama already. And Michelle. And Joe Biden.

Wonder what Obama thinks of all this. Ira Glass and the team at This American Life wondered, too. They asked singer/songwriter Sara Bareillis to imagine what President Obama might be thinking about the election and Trump but can’t say publicly. Leslie Odom, Jr (Tony Award-winning actor for his role as Aaron Burr in the musical Hamilton). performs the song (with lyrics displayed) It blows me away every time I watch and listen. I try to remain hopeful. It’s hard. But we’ve got to work on it. And stay politically active. Seriously.

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Ten Tips for Improving Parent-Teen Relationships

January 8, 2016

Hearing isn't the same as listening

Hearing isn’t the same as listening

Parents of teens have one of the roughest jobs. The dynamic between you and your son/daughter is changing so quickly it can be challenging to stay focused on your job description. It was easier when the kids were younger and you could pick them up, if you needed to, and get them out of harm’s way. With teens, it’s not always clear what your job is or how to do it.

There’s no single golden rulebook for parenting (though I’ve written a good one and so have lots of other people in the know), but these 10 tips can help you stay centered. And that’s exactly where you need to be if you want to be  an effective parent and role model for your adolescent kids.

  1. Remember that you are the parent — Your job is to protect your child and prepare him/her to become a fully functioning adult. Being a leader and a compassionate teacher is more important than being your teen’s friend.
  2. Remain calm — Nothing gets resolved when stress makes it impossible to think clearly. Can’t respond rationally? Then take a break until you can.
  3. Talk less and listen more — Just like the rest of us, teens want to be respected and heard. Be a “safe” and available person to talk to.
  4. It’s a balancing act — A key challenge in parenting teens is to remain emotionally connected while granting your kids more privacy and autonomy.
  5. They’re always watching – Want your teen to be trustworthy, responsible, and compassionate? Make sure you’re modeling those values in your own life.
  6. Make your expectations clear and be consistent with your follow-through— If kids know the consequences ahead of time and they’ve bought into the rules of the house, they’re more likely to make healthy choices.
  7. Catch your teen in the act of doing something right — Praise shows that you noticed their efforts. It also promotes a feeling of competency.
  8. Be real — Father/mother does NOT always know best. Admit your own confusion and mistakes. Apologize when appropriate. Show your kids that just like them, you too are also “a work in progress.”
  9. Regularly create time to enjoy being a family — Having regular meals together and relaxing, unplugged from digital technology, is a gift with long-lasting benefits.
  10. Lighten up! — Humor is a great de-stressor. Remember, no one stays a teen (or the parent of a teen) forever!

If you’ve got other tips for parenting tweens and teens, I’d love to hear from you.

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The Cure for the Holiday “gimmes”

December 16, 2015

You got that right, Sir Winston

You got that right, Sir Winston

A new baby is a gift. As parents, we’re so over-the-moon in love with our little bundle, all we want is to make him or her happy. So, from the very start, parents pepper kids with questions that begin with:

“Do you want _______?”

Little ones can’t talk yet, so we fill in the blank:

Do you want more?

Do you to play with this?

Do you want mint chip or jamoca almond fudge?

Their every wish becomes our command. That’s why they quickly learn to say “I want _______.” Being a little kid is such sweet gig.

Then one day a parent says ‘NO’ and the 2-year old 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!!” Kids don’t have all those words, so they reiterate the obvious for stupid Mommy/Daddy: “BUT I WANT IT!!!!!”

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

As kids become more aware of the power dynamics within the family, they test boundaries. That’s when a parent’s “Do you want ______?” can 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 give you something to cry about?

This last rhetorical question was surprisingly popular amongst 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.

Soon kids realize how important their happiness is to Mom and Dad and because they want to make it easier for us to please them they learn to be very specific about what they want and why they need it… NOW:

“I want __________. (pause) I am too old enough!

“I want __________. (pause) ‘Cause I’m the only one who doesn’t have one!”

“I want you to give me what I want and I want you to leave me alone.” (Double demand… impressive language development!)

For those of us in comfortable circumstances (yes, I’m talking about you on the laptop) it stands to reason our kids may need an attitude transplant to get from “I want to get _____.”  to: “I want to give ______.” But we can do it! Technology connects us with organizations doing good work. We have the credit cards (which makes donating less painful). Click. Click.

Now is an excellent time to look around and see where you could spread a little holiday cheer and some green. Oxfam AmericaInternational Rescue Committee, Southern Poverty Law Center (Teaching Tolerance), Doctors Without BordersUNICEF and Kiva are some of my personal favorites. And there are at least a million other absolutely inspirational organizations that are 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. Find out who’s doing what and support their efforts. Start your search here.

Warning: Giving can become habit-forming, but in a healthy way. And think about it, do your kids really need more stuff or might your family be in the market for some good karma points?

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