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.

What racism teaches

February 29, 2016

When I watched a 52 second video of a couple of 5-year-old girls beating up a three-year-old my heart ached. Then my head exploded. The assault is a hate crime. Yeah, kindergartners are plenty old enough to hate. (I’d share the link, but the video has been taken off FB. I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, it’s hard to watch. On the other hand, if we can’t fix what we don’t see.)

Children being cruel. Deeply disturbing. Goes without saying. But please don’t rush to judgment. The little African American girls, and their older brother who is laughing and egging them on, are not “bad” children. They are simply responding to the lessons of parents’ who, by the way, aren’t “bad” either. Mom and Dad are doing what all parents do… trying to keep their children safe. Many black parents are doing their damnedest to protect their kids from whites who would hold them back, put them down, push them aside and do them harm. Why should we be surprised if they teach their children that white people are the “enemy?” That’s what you’re seeing here… young children fighting against the enemy as it has been defined for them.

The way it is for too many kids.

The way it is for too many kids.

If we are honest we can’t pretend to wonder how this came to be. After generations of systemic racism do white people expect people of color to view us as their friends? To the degree whites lump together all African Americans and continue to deny them opportunities to live in peace and prosperity, it’s reasonable to assume people of color lump together all whites.

Of course everyone should deplore the treatment of the little white girl in the video. But instead of getting caught up in righteous indignation, how about committing ourselves to changing an economic, educational, political and judicial  system that is rigged against people of color? With equal opportunity there will be less hate all around.

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: — Annie @ 7:35 pm

“How can I get my kids to turn off the TV, phone, etc.??”

February 24, 2016

Coincidence that I got this email and tonight I’m speaking at Pleasanton Library about Connecting for Family Time in the Digital Age? Maybe not so much. Parents feel frustrated by the amount of time their kids spend on their devices. The more kids connect to their friends on one device or another, the less they connect with their school work and their parents. So what can we parents do to help them succeed in school and bring the family closer?

by Jason Love

by Jason Love

Read what this mom is dealing with:

Dear Annie,

How can I get my teenagers to shut off the TV, social media, their phones, etc. and get their homework done? There are too many mornings when they are not prepared for school because they didn’t finish an assignment or they’re not ready for a test. Yet, they spent a lot to time the previous day(s) on their screens!
—Frustrated Mom

Annie: What have you tried, aside from yelling?

Mom: Telling them to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and do nothing else but schoolwork. They don’t comply.

Annie: Think about the addictive nature of screens and you’ll get a better idea of how hard it can be to drag yourself away. I’m not just talking about teens. Ever said to yourself or a family member, “I’m just checking my email. I’ll be there in a minute.”? Next thing you know, you’ve been swallowed and chewed up by the Space-Time Continuum. Yeah, it’s an actual thing.

Call a family meeting to discuss the problem as it relates to school performance. Your job is to open the conversation, not to lay down the law. Come on too strong and they will fight you. Simply tell them their job is to be good students. (Don’t even mention the TV and tech stuff.) Instead, ask them how they feel about how their school progress. Got evidence of grades? Bring it to the meeting.

Your long-term goal is to help your kids become fully responsible for their own school work and their lives. If your kids admit they could be doing better in school, simply say, “I agree. So what do you think is in the way of better grades?” Let them do most of the talking. Help them to connect the dots between their school progress and their screen time.

The best outcome is acknowledging how hard it is (for all of us) to get away from the screen… even when the timer goes off and we know we should stop now. By the way, if anyone in the family uses technology during family meals, that needs to stop. Tonight.

Part of the solution here is an open conversation where everyone has an opportunity to talk about the pluses and minuses of technology. Part of the solution is modeling and reclaiming unplugged time, for focused work and for play, as a family. And part of the solution is accessibility. If the technology isn’t at hand, then it’s easier to resist the urge to pick it up. (Of course this works best when the homework does not require technology!)

Mom: I will have the family meeting and discuss this with them. I was thinking they just didn’t want to do their homework and they were putting it off — which I totally understand.

Annie: Who likes homework?! So, sure, they’d rather do something more “engaging.” But it’s also very true that they don’t have the brain development to resist the lure of screen time. That’s where you can help, and having their buy-in makes you more of a coach and less of a prison warden. Good luck!

Watch my three minute video on Vidoyen about How to Reclaim Family Time in the Digital Age.


Love Power on Valentine’s Day and 24/7

February 12, 2016

You make my heart sing

You make my heart sing

David and I have been married since 1974. Yeah. Looooong time. Lots of opportunities to learn about the power of love to support, encourage, and embolden.

Any time you acknowledge how much you value the partnership you are in is time well spent. Sunday might a good time. Or not. But don’t take it for granted because, like a garden, if you stop taking care of things, the damn aphids will take over.

Ok, so here is a sampling of what I’ve learned about love in the past 41 years. Take what makes sense to you. Leave the rest. I hope it helps in whatever ways you need.

  1. It’s not about who you love, it’s about how.
  2. If it’s getting in the way of being together, as friends and lovers, talk about it and find a way through.
  3. Be totally trustworthy and require the same from your partner.
  4. Look for opportunities to ease your partner’s mind and tight shoulder muscles.
  5. From time to time, just clean up someone else’s mess without demanding an Olympic Gold Medal.
  6. Don’t cheat… ever.
  7. Be a safe person for your partner to show his/her vulnerability and strength.
  8. Nurture the romance and the friendship because the kids will grow up and leave.
  9. Find at least one thing, outside of the house, that you enjoy doing together and do it… regularly.
  10. Put down the damn digital devise and hold each other close.
  11. Bring home an occasional surprise treat as a “just because” gift of love.
  12. Anger comes in two varieties… the clean kind (I’m upset & here’s why) and the dirty kind (You ALWAYS do this!) Keep it clean.
  13. Be nice. Save the contempt for… actually, don’t save if for anyone.
  14. When your lover wants to talk about something that’s important to him/her (but not to you), stop and LISTEN with genuine interest.
  15. When a hug is given, hug back, no matter how crappy a mood you’re in. It’ll make you feel better.
  16. Even after years of being together, “Please” and “Thank you” are signs of caring.
  17. Keep a supply of dark chocolate on hand and share it.
  18. Cleaning up, doing laundry, shopping is just more fun when you do it together.
  19. If your lover is under the weather (or stressed over a work deadline) do more than your share around the house with a smile.
  20. If you notice your honey has spinach bits between teeth or (horrors!) a booger… speak up (discreetly, of course!)
  21. Say the words “I love you” like you really mean it. Yes, from time to time, we all need to hear the words.
  22. Fill up the gas tank because you know your partner needs the car tomorrow.
  23. Make eye contact and a smile when s/he walks into the room.
  24. Show how much you appreciate having him/her in your life. Not just on Valentine’s, but every day. Your kids learn about love and loving by the way you treat them and by the way you and your partner treat each other.

Enjoy your weekend.



Filed under: Parenting — Tags: — Annie @ 11:22 am

“My parents are racist!”

February 7, 2016

Hey Terra!

I’ve been experiencing some moral differences with my parents. I’ve always idolized my them, but recently, I’ve realized I simply can’t agree with some of their ideas.

On a recent trip we took public transportation and most of the people riding with us were African Americans. My mom kept whispering derogatory racist remarks to me and my sister. And just a few days ago, my mom argued that a person’s skin color and other aspects of appearance are a direct link to the quality of the person.

I love my parents, but it makes me confused when I disagree so vehemently with people I care about. Racism is a big issue and I hate to see my parents contribute to it.

How should I respond when they  bring up or argue this topic again? Is debating with them a viable solution? – Confused

Talk to the hand.

Talk to the hand.

I am very proud of you for recognizing racist remarks when you hear them and knowing it’s not ok to talk like that. Even if these remarks come from someone you love and idolize (like your parents) a racist comment is still a racist comment! You’re right. Racism is a big issue and you have chosen to be part of the solution, not the problem. I admire you for taking that role.

So how should you respond when parents try to argue their ignorant perspective? Great question! To discover the answer you first need to examine the answer to this question: “When it comes to other people’s attitudes, opinions, feelings, thoughts and behavior what power do I have?” You sound like an extremely intelligent individual so you probably don’t need me to tell you that you have no power over what others think or feel or do. Zero. But you do have 100% control over your own behavior.

Because you are uncomfortable with hate speech, you can simply hold up your hand and say to your parents, “Stop. I don’t want to hear this kind of talk.” You can do that with conviction, but without rudeness or anger. You have the right to respectfully set boundaries for their hate speech in your space. Will this change your parents’ attitudes about people who are different from themselves? Not likely, but at least they will know it is not OK with you to speak this way in front of you.

Your thoughts?

In friendship,

Hi Terra,

I’m so grateful to know there is a reasonable way to stop these conversations when they start without adding fuel to the fire. Thanks again! – Less Confused

Glad to help.

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