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.

Raising Human Beings

January 28, 2017

We're raising kids, we're raising human beings.

We’re not raising kids, we’re raising human beings.

I loved Dr. Ross Greene’s book, Raising Human Beings, which focuses on parents and kids solving problems collaboratively. I didn’t love our podcast interview. Unfortunately, a poor connection between California and Maine mangled the audio so badly I couldn’t post it. Audio or no, you’ve got to hear what Dr. Greene has to say. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

Dr. Greene: One reason you want to solve problems collaboratively with kids who are behaviorally challenging is so he won’t put his fist through your wall. I’m seeing increasingly little difference between kids we call “behaviorally challenging” and kids we don’t. The reason to be solving problems collaboratively with any child is because you want to teach the skills that are on the better side of human nature. That’s a really good thing.

Annie: I agree. When parents model good problem-solving skills and work with their children to find solutions in non-violent ways then kids are learning a lot about problem-solving.

Dr. Greene: You do reap what you sow! If power to influence or solve problems with a kid is what you use, then power is what you’ll get back. But if collaboration is what you’re using then collaboration is what you’re going to get back.

“The role of a parent in the life of a kid is partner. We get into the most trouble, as parents, when we are shooting for control. Control is a delusion.” Dr. Ross Greene

Annie: Many parents seem confused about their role, vis a vis power, especially parents of tweens and teens. At that age kids seem programmed to push back. How can we help avoid those struggles?

Dr. Greene: All “pushing back” behavior is the child saying, “I’ve got concerns here that I want addressed.” If we use power to address those concerns, then we blow those concerns off. Kids don’t feel heard, their concerns don’t get addressed, and they stop talking to us. The role of a parent in the life of a kid is “partner.” We get into the most trouble when we shoot for control. Control is a delusion. You don’t have control. Many parents of adolescents have discovered that already. Those still fighting with their adolescents haven’t quite come to it yet.

Annie: It’s easy to be a good parent when everything is going just fine, isn’t it? I picture the family at the supermarket, it’s late, been a long day, everyone is hungry, maybe a little stressed out, and your kid grabs one of those sugar-packed impulse items by the checkout. You don’t want her to have it. There’s a struggle. Other parents are watching. How do you problem-solve collaboratively in a situation like that?

“Parents and kids don’t have to be adversaries. It all comes down to how we solve problems collaboratively when kids are failing to meet expectations.”

Dr. Greene: The trick is get out to of the heat-of-the-moment. Most kids and care-givers get into the same conflicts every week. That makes them predictable and it means we don’t have to wait until the heat-of-the-moment to solve those problems. We can solve them with a planned approach. I ask parents: “Which of your expectations is your child having trouble meeting on a reliable basis? (Make a list!) Which ones would you like to start working on first?” That’s how to start solving problems collaboratively.

Annie: Makes sense. Some examples of common parental expectations that a child is getting homework done, getting up and out the door for school in the morning. Too much screen time That’s a common struggle in so many families. How do we deal with that collaboratively?

Dr. Greene: First parents have to get clear on what their expectations are. Parents don’t always know. After that we can use the 3 steps of Plan B (solving problem collaboratively) vs. Plan A (parents trying to solve the problem unilaterally).

Step 1: (The Empathy Step) Get the conversation started. For example, “I’ve noticed it’s hard for you to end the screen time to do your homework or to come in to dinner. What’s up?” The goal of this empathy step is to gather information from the kid about his concern or point of view about this expectation he’s having difficulty meeting. If we don’t hear the kid’s concern, this problem will remain unsolved.

Step 2: (Define Adult Concerns) Adults have concerns that need to be heard and addressed, as well. Typically adults try to get their concerns met with Plan A (unilaterally with power). Now they can get their concerns met with Plan B (collaboratively, as partners).

Step 3: (The Invitation) This where parent and child develop a solution, but it’s got to be realistic, mutually agreed upon, and mutually satisfactory. The solution truly and logically addresses the concerns of parent and child. If it doesn’t, the problem is not solved.

Annie: I can see this model requires flexibility and openness on the part of the parent, especially if he or she wasn’t parented this way a generation ago.

Dr. Greene: It definitely requires a change in lenses, in one’s perspective, and in one’s definition of authority. A lot of parents are initially scared that this model will result in their losing authority. In reality, they’re not only picking up authority, they are dramatically improving the relationship with their child, dramatically improving communication.

“This is not about strength and power. It’s about empathy. Disagreeing with your kids, that’s going to happen. Kids’ failing to meet expectations? It will happen. Does that have to mean conflict? No!” – Dr. Ross Greene.

Learn more about Dr. Ross Greene at LivesInTheBalance.org

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When girls see women marching

January 23, 2017

Look around, little sister. You are one of us.

Look around, little sister. You are one of us.

When girls see women marching together, proud and peaceful, focused and determined, politically motivated and ready for action, those girls might realize something they had not known—something about women and something about themselves as girls.

When girls see women marching in solidarity for women’s rights and human rights, a seed is planted. One that will help girls recognize:

Women are beautiful. Each of us, in all our infinite diversity. Look at the images from women’s marches around the globe. Look at our faces. Look at our bodies. Look at our shining eyes. Look at our mouths shouting, chanting, singing, making our voices heard. Face it. Our beauty is undeniable. Face yourself. You are beautiful. Stop starving yourself. Not to fit into skinny jeans or someone else’s idea of “perfection.” Stop trashing your body with insults. Stop trashing other girls. Just stop. Love your body. Girl, you are beautiful.

Women are powerful. We don’t need anyone’s approval to be who we are. Getting approval is not why we’re here. We don’t need a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse to complete us. What you see is what you get—an already complete package. Be clear about that. Be clear, also, that no one has the right to touch us without our permission. No one has the right to objectify us or make us feel small or scared. No one has the right to make laws that govern our reproductive rights. Being pretty and sexy and nice and cooperative is not why we’re here. We are here to use our power for good. Each of us, on our own, has the power to shift any conversation, any relationship, any situation just by being focused, honest, and assertive. That’s power. Girl, you are powerful.

We are sisters. There is no “natural competition” between women. Some male marketers made that up to get you to buy more beauty products. What is natural is our connection with and our empathy for each other. We are sisters. To be unkind to another woman, to another girl, is to be unkind to yourself. We need each other’s understanding and support. We are sisters.

We have a caring heart. We are upholders of humanity’s highest value and greatest asset: a caring heart. Our mammalian brain is wired for empathy, to feel the full range of human experience whether it’s our own experience or someone else’s. Do not deny what you feel. Do not let anyone scoff at your tenderness and tell you you’re “too emotional.” Our emotions make us fully human. To deny our emotions is unhealthy. It can also desensitize us to the needs of others. A woman’s power comes, in part, from her caring heart. You have that heart.

We get things done. We are doers. We are organizers. What you feel is important, but what you do is more important. When we work together, with clarity of purpose, with respect for our individual strengths and compassion for our limitations, we are unstoppable. We are women.

The Women’s March was a spectacular beginning. It was the first step. Here’s what’s next.

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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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