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.

GirlWorld: Twisted values, twisted friendships

March 25, 2014

We can be mean to her and still be nice, can't we?

We can be mean to her and still be nice, can’t we?

“Do unto others” makes no sense to middle schoolers.  (Ideally it should, but that’s not how TweenWorld currently operates.) To help our kids navigate the turbulent and toxic waters of peer relationships, we’ve got to wake up and smell the reality stinking up their world (online and off).

Of course both girls and boys have middle school friendship woes. And yes, both boys and girls can become Peer Approval Addicts. But girls often take their feelings of hurt, jealousy, betrayal and rejection to dramatic and damaging heights. So let’s talk about girl friendships.

The social garbage girls throw at each other is the stuff of rumors, gossip, harassment, and exclusion. And it often happens under the radar. Because even though a girl may be eviscerating a former bff at school and online, she still wants to think of herself as a nice girl.  (I said it was twisted, didn’t I?)

Parents are rarely aware of what’s going on on the battlefield of their daughters’ friendships. It usually comes to light when their girl feels victimized and can no longer contain her distress. At that moment she may spill the whole story of her so-called friend’s bad behavior.  In response a parent might logically advise:

“Tell her how you feel about this.  Tell her she’s got to stop.”

“I can’t tell her that!”

“Why not? It’s true!”

“Because it will hurt her feelings!”

“Excuse me!?  You won’t tell her she’s hurt you because you don’t want to hurt her feelings?!  What about your feelings?”

“Forget about it, Mom/Dad. I’m sorry I said anything. You just don’t get it.”

Bingo! Parents can’t fathom the logic here. But to the girl, the logic is clear. She will swallow her pain because she (justifiably) fears that complaining about bad treatment will cause her friend and all the others in their friendship circle to ditch the plaintiff, swiftly and completely. Our targeted daughter will be friendless and she knows it.  And because that is a fate worse than death she puts up with the ongoing abuse. Pretends it doesn’t hurt. Continues to think of these girls as her friends and continues to hang out with them and be abused.

Her confusion over the love-hate/comfort-pain mix may cloud her judgment when she starts dating. If she puts up with emotional abuse in a friendship why assume she’ll choose a thoughtful caring romantic partner over one who dominates, demeans and controls?

As parents we need to help our daughters develop enough self-respect to demand respectful treatment from others, especially those closest to them. Let’s help them acknowledge the truth of what’s going on in their friendships. We won’t be able to change “mean” girl behavior in others, but we can, at the very least, help our daughters acknowledge that their pain at the hands of friends is real, undeserved and unacceptable.  Then we can point out their options:

1. Stay silent. Stick with friends who hurt you and expect more of the same.

2. Talk to them about it and let them know you’re no longer giving them permission to disrespect you. If nothing changes, consider option #3.

3. Take a (permanent) vacation from the drama. Reach out to people who share your values about what it means to be a real friend.

Here’s to Real Friends vs. the Other Kind. 


Presidents’ Day Acts of Kindness Challenge

February 16, 2014

Acts of kindness create a chain reaction

Acts of kindness create a chain reaction

UPDATE: When it comes to kids learning kindness, we’re not looking for perfection, only progress. We’d love to hear about your kids’ progress. Tweet, FB, Instagram or Pinterest, posts, photos or videos related to kindness, it could be a great story, a photo of your kindness chain, a video of someone in your family being kind to a family member, the sky is the limit! Then on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week (Feb 18-20), use hashtags #OlympicMoms #OlympicDads to share your acts of kindness and we’ll find your post with our super cool TINT content curation tool. We’ll gift one mom/family per day a My Growing Up Chart. As my pal, Dr. Lynne Kenney says, “Being kind wins the GOLD!”

Tomorrow is a school holiday here in the States (Happy Birthday General Washington. You too, Mr. Lincoln!) And today wraps up National Random Acts of Kindness Week. In case you missed it, no worries. I’ve officially declared an extension of] RAK. Why? Because without kindness, a day with the kids home from school can be a very loooooong snarky day indeed… especially if the cold keeps the younguns inside and at each others’ throats. Also, it seems fitting to stretch out this kindness thing because we’ve got another week of the  Olympic Games, which are as much about cooperation and respect as they are about competition.

In honor of all of this, I hereby challenge you to challenge yourself and your kids to spend the next week being especially kind to people in your family, friends, neighbors and whomever you meet (online or off).

A Chain of Kindness (mini-art project to prevent spikes in cabin fever)

Here’s a fun way for kids to become aware of opportunities to be kind and helpful. It will also give them a visual experience of how acts of kindness “add up” and make all of us feel happier and more connected.

What you’ll need:

  • Colored paper (plain white paper works too)
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue (staples work as well)
  • Pens, markers or crayons

 How: Talk to your kids about kindness.

Conversations that Count: Questions for you and your kids to ponder together: What are some examples of being kind? What might happen if there was more kindness in the world? What do you think gets in the way of people being kinder to each other?

Discussion drivers: Think about a recent time you were kind to someone without being asked to do it. How did you feel? What response did you get from the other person? How did that feel? Now think about a time someone was kind to you. How did you feel? How did you express that?

The Kindness Challenge:  As a family, let’s challenge ourselves to increase our acts of kindness over the next 7 days.

  1. Choose a piece of colored paper and cut a strip about 11 X 2 inches.
  2. Write a sentence about what you did in the past week, that was kind – one act of kindness per strip. Sign your name.
  3. Connect your strip with someone else’s, etc. and create “links” using the glue.
  4. Got more than one recent act of kindness? Make another link!
  5. Add to the chain any time you want.

To help the chain grow faster (and the family actively looking for opportunities to be kind) hang the chain in a place where everyone can see it and keep the art materials readily available.

Enjoy… in kindness and let me know how it goes! We can create a chain of kindness story comments right here!


Family Confidential is back on the air

February 15, 2014


Laugh. Listen. Learn. Strengthen your family.

I love listening to great podcasts and I love producing them. That’s why I felt sad (and a tad guilty) when “other stuff” forced David and me to go on hiatus in 2011 from my Family Confidential podcast. The break allowed us to develop several award-winning books and apps, but it was always my intention to get back in the studio with a weekly podcast. We’re back now, with video, and it feels great.

So grab a cup of coffee and c’mon over to Family Confidential where you can choose from an impressive range of engaging conversations with top parenting experts. (All free… of course!) Whether you’re looking for information about picky eaters, single parenting, advocating for your child with special needs, handling moody teens or improving your relationship with your step kids (who may also be moody teens), you’ll find it at Family Confidential. You’ll also find lots to think about, lots to laugh about, and many proven strategies for parenting kids in the 21st century and teaching them to be good people.

Got your coffee? I’ve got mine. Now let’s check out our most recent podcasts together:

Kelly Hirt: Lifeline tips for special needs parents

Dr. Lynne Kenney: Helping your kids blossom

Sarah Newton: The push kids need to succeed

Rosalind Wiseman: Violent video games, what parents can do

Carrie Goldman: Tweens and Social Media

Tune in every Friday for a new Family Confidential podcast. Until then, happy parenting!

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