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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Friendship issues from the 8th grade Part 2

May 21, 2014

Let's figure out this friendship stuff together

Let’s figure out this friendship stuff together

This is part 2 of the very cool Skype in the Classroom session I had Monday with a class of Philadelphia 8th graders. (Here’s Part 1) I’m all about giving students ongoing, safe places to get real about the challenges of friendships. It’s important to their personal well-being and to a positive school climate.

Student: Annie, what if you have friends who act cool when they’re with you but other times, when they’re with other people, they act really different with you?

What have you tried so far?

Student: I ask them, “Why do you act different with your friends than when you’re with me?” And they said, “I don’t know what you mean!”

All of that “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” is B.S. What you’re describing is The Switcheroo. When it’s just you and your friend, things are cool. Then you add one or two other people and suddenly you’ve switched channels and I don’t even know this person who is supposed to be my best friend. I’m wondering, “Why are you treating me this way?!”

Props to you for asking him what was going on. That was very brave. Most people would feel bad about the way they were being treated in, but they aren’t likely to talk about it. You took the extra step and I have a lot of respect for you.

So you asked your friend about it and he said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” That wasn’t true. He knew exactly what you’re talking about. But he didn’t feel proud of the way he’s been treating you, so he wouldn’t admit it.

If that happens again, I suggest you find the EXIT. You may not have ever thought of this, but there is an exit for every friendship. And sometime you just have to give yourself permission to walk through it. You can leave without making a big announcement. You can just say, “I’ll catch you later.” And you leave and spend time on your own doing thing or you hang out with other friends who treat you with more respect, or you take your dog for a walk. Whatever it is, just leave. Because there is no reason to stay with people who are not treating you well. Zero reason. Don’t do that.

Exactly how long do you stay away from this friend or friends? That depends. You could take a short vacation and the next day your friend may ask why you left. Be honest. You can say, “When you’re with other people you don’t treat me very well, so I left.” That gives him something to think about. And maybe the next time he’s with you and other people, he’ll treat you better. Or he won’t.

Sometimes, though, you go through the exit and you never come back to the friendship. And that’s ok too. Sometimes you end a friendship because you’ve outgrown it or because you get a new idea about how you want to be treated. It’s all ok. Just don’t talk about the person after you’ve gone through the exit. That’s not cool. It’s just gossip. Not important.

Before we ran out of time I asked the students what they usually learned in this class with this teacher. And they told me they learned math and science. This wasn’t the answer I expected, so I asked the teacher why he wanted his students to get a Skype lesson on Real Friends vs the Other Kind.

Teacher: We meet once a week, on Monday mornings, and have open discussions where people talk about their lives and share. And friendship is an important topic for us to talk about.

You guys are very lucky to have a teacher who prioritizes this stuff. Someone who says, “This may not be math or science, but it’s important. And I want to give you a platform to talk about it.” That’s awesome. There are not enough teachers like this one. You’re very lucky.

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