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.

We need uncomfortable schools

July 28, 2014

Feeling uncomfortable? Now use it for good.

Feeling uncomfortable? Now use it for good.

As we approach the beginning of the new school year, my heart goes out to the kids who are dreading it. They are usually the ones who had to wade through more than their share of social garbage last term. Hopefully they got a needed reprieve during the summer. But they’ve got to go back and most of them (and their parents and teachers) are probably not looking forward to the inevitable crapola (online and off).

Being in the prevention business, I’m always working on ways to make schools more compassionate. Here’s my latest contribution… just a reminder… adapted from the Charter for Compassion’s call to action for cities.

A compassionate school is an uncomfortable school!
Uncomfortable when anyone is threatened, harassed, or made to feel less than.
Uncomfortable when every child isn’t treated with respect by every teacher and every other student.
Uncomfortable when every student isn’t given rich opportunities to grow intellectually, creatively, and emotionally.
Uncomfortable when, as a school community, we don’t treat each other as we want to be treated.

A compassionate school knows uncomfortable feelings aren’t worth zippo, if they don’t trigger action. So a compassionate school recognizes the discomfort and immediately works for change with the full leadership and commitment of all administrators and teachers. With adult leadership, students learn how they too can become change agents. Because, whether students admit it or not, they desperately want their school to be a place where every kid is treated with respect. Every one.

Got it? Good. Now go make your kid’s school really uncomfortable. We’re in this together.

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My interview with Glennon Melton the truth-teller

May 30, 2014

How come all conversations aren't this full of life?

How come all conversations aren’t this full of life?

I first heard about Glennon Melton (@Momastery) on Twitter. One link led to another, as so many do, and I found myself watching, no devouring her very funny, poignant, smart TedX talk.

I immediately reached out for a review copy of her book Carry On, Warrior: The power of embracing your messy, beautiful life because I love freebies and I actually wanted to get inside this woman’s head some more. I read the book in like two days. Laughed (a lot), thought (a lot), and cried (a bit).  I was hooked on this flamboyant, authentic writer who’s got something special going on. I can say that with authenticity because I read a lot of parenting books. (Shameless plug alert! Why yes, I have written one myself. Thank you so much for asking.) But how can anyone resist a book with delicious sentences and paragraphs like these?

The other night at dinner, Craig and I demanded that the kids clean their plates even though dinner was, admittedly, gross. One nanosecond before this suggestion was made, we were laughing, talking about Daddy’s day at work, planning our upcoming weekend, and generally feeling like a lovely, well-adjusted family. Then–ambushed by ourselves again–there was crying, screaming, heads banging on tables. Immediate anarchy. Instant chaos.

My first instinct is to remember that yes, this chaos is proof that I have ruined my life and the lives of everyone in my home and that we are a disaster of a family and that no mother, in the entire history of mothers, has ever been forced to endure the drama, decibels, and general suffering of this moment. My instinct is to tear my clothes and throw myself on the floor and bawl and cry out worthless declarations like, “I can’t TAKE this anymore!” My first instinct is to allow my anxiety and angst to pour out like gasoline on a raging fire and indulge in a full-on mommy meltdown.

This, Craig suggests, is not helpful.

I, for one, could not resist. Nope. Especially not after reading that last sentence. And apparently a bunch of other sisters of another mother couldn’t either as Carry on, Warrior is now a New York Times bestseller. (Way to go, Glennon!)

So I just had to interview Glennon for my Family Confidential podcast. I did and, oh Momma, did we have a blast. You can listen in here.

 

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10 common BS excuses from kids and what’s behind them

May 27, 2014

It's all your fault!

You started it!

Empathy training begins at home. So does compassion training, truth-telling, good listening skills, and bullying prevention. And you thought helping with 7th grade math was going to be the hard part!

We want our kids to learn to be good people and most of us know that doesn’t happen solely by osmosis. So we teach them and we do such a good job that by the time they are five, they say “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry” on command. Underneath the programmed responses is the beginning of kids’ awareness of the right way right to treat other people vs. the wrong way. But because they are young humans they mess up. Often. They lash out and hurt the feelings and body parts of other children. And we hear about it. Yet no matter how many after-the-fact conversations that begin with “How would you feel if he did that to you?” they will continue to go out of their way to hurt other kids. So what’s up with that? Are your kids “bad”? No. Even though they do bad things, they aren’t bad kids. And don’t you dare think they are or, god forbid, tell them that!

Since they’re not bad, why do they keep doing this hurtful stuff? Simply because they haven’t yet learned to manage their destructive emotions (anger, jealousy, resentment, frustration and poor-me-ism, to name a few peace-busters guaranteed to bring out the worst in our species.) Consequently, kids of all ages maim first first and ask forgiveness afterwards. Another reason they do stuff they know isn’t OK is because they’ve constructed a set of handy justifications that makes it OK.

Because most kids get their peer relationship training with their siblings, cousins, and close family friends, let’s imagine a typical sister-brother conflict in your home. Suppose your 7 year old daughter purposely wrecks the Lego castle your 5 year old son’s been building all afternoon. He’s crying and screaming and you yell at her, “Why did you do that?!” Turn down the volume for a sec and listen to her justifications:

1. I didn’t do anything.

2. I thought he wanted my help.

3. I thought he was finished.

4. It was already broken.

5. He always hogs the ____.

6. He always blames me for everything.

7. He’s annoying.

8. His stuff was in my way.

9. He was doing it wrong.

10. You always take his side.

What can you say to any of this? Your own destructive emotions have launched surface to air missiles from your eyeballs and your tone of voice is ugly and scary. But who can blame you? This is already the third … no fourth… fight between these two and it’s only Saturday afternoon of this loong “Happy Holiday Weekend.” So if you’re not in your “Calm Mommy” place hey, we get it. But if you were sane and centered enough to actually hear and acknowledge every one of your daughter’s justifications (which doesn’t mean you’ve got to agree with any of them) she could rattle them off and pile them neatly to one side and maybe, just maybe, she’d then feel safe enough to lift the lid on her anger, tentatively reveal the soft underbelly of her heart, and tell you the real reason she’s determined to destroy her brother’s happiness.

Sniff… whimper… “I think you love him more than me.”

What do you say now, Mom?

 

 

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