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.

My parents always tell me how a girl should act!

December 5, 2017

Why is who I am a problem for you?

Why is who I am a problem for you?

Parents of very cooperative teens may hear how “lucky” they are. This usually comes from parents of teens who are… well, acting like teens.

In the same way that most infants spit up until they get the hang of feeding, most teens push back against their parents until they get the hang of managing their own lives with integrity. The inevitable struggles  are rarely pleasant for the teen or her parents, but they’re beneficial to character development. If teens can’t or won’t challenge their parents, how can they formulate a vision of their own life? If they aren’t permitted to make their own choices and their own mistakes how can they gain confidence in relying on their own judgment?

Today’s letter comes from a teen who just wants to be her own girl.

Hey Annie,

My parents don’t really like my tomboyish personallity. Whenever I wear something boy-like or act like a boy they always yell at me or tell me how a girl should act. Because of this we always get into fights. One time my dad told he would kick me out of the house if I show any signs of being a tomboy. How do convince them that being a tomboy isn’t a bad thing?

– Tomi

Hi Tomi,

I get why you’re pushing back. Many people see their choice of clothing as a very personal expression of self. You want to dress in ways that a) make you feel comfortable and b) make you feel like you’re being true to yourself. As for your behavior?  That’s the essence of who you are. There is no more personal expression of self than that!

I don’t know your parents, but I can guess what they might be having a problem with. When you dress or act “like a boy” they might see it as a sign that you are queer.  Maybe you are. Maybe you’re not. Who you are attracted to is no one’s business but yours, but some parents have a really hard time when their little girl doesn’t fit into a neat box with a pink bow around it. ;O)

What you wear isn’t necessarily a sign of your sexual orientation or your gender identification. Some queer girls like to wear boys’ clothing. Some straight girls dress that way, too. It’s not a big deal… except to your parents.

You ask: How do I convince them that being a tomboy isn’t a bad thing?

I don’t have the answer to that one, because it’s impossible to change someone else’s attitude if he or she doesn’t want to change. The best advice I can give you is this: Being yourself (inside and out), without worrying what others think, is a sign of maturity. It’s also the best way I know to live a happy life.

Good luck.

In friendship,
Annie

P.S. You might want to read my answer to a parent’s question about her daughter wearing boy’s clothes. Check out the comments, too.

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Now more than ever, as new sexual misconduct allegations surface each week, we need to focus on raising daughters who refuse to let anyone tell them how to dress and how to act. Our parenting job includes many things, but it does not include teaching our girls to keep their mouths shut when anyone disrespects them, makes them feel uncomfortable or tries to dictate their “place” in the world.

 

 

 

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Ten Tips for Improving Parent-Teen Relationships

January 8, 2016

Hearing isn't the same as listening

Hearing isn’t the same as listening

Parents of teens have one of the roughest jobs. The dynamic between you and your son/daughter is changing so quickly it can be challenging to stay focused on your job description. It was easier when the kids were younger and you could pick them up, if you needed to, and get them out of harm’s way. With teens, it’s not always clear what your job is or how to do it.

There’s no single golden rulebook for parenting (though I’ve written a good one and so have lots of other people in the know), but these 10 tips can help you stay centered. And that’s exactly where you need to be if you want to be  an effective parent and role model for your adolescent kids.

  1. Remember that you are the parent — Your job is to protect your child and prepare him/her to become a fully functioning adult. Being a leader and a compassionate teacher is more important than being your teen’s friend.
  2. Remain calm — Nothing gets resolved when stress makes it impossible to think clearly. Can’t respond rationally? Then take a break until you can.
  3. Talk less and listen more — Just like the rest of us, teens want to be respected and heard. Be a “safe” and available person to talk to.
  4. It’s a balancing act — A key challenge in parenting teens is to remain emotionally connected while granting your kids more privacy and autonomy.
  5. They’re always watching – Want your teen to be trustworthy, responsible, and compassionate? Make sure you’re modeling those values in your own life.
  6. Make your expectations clear and be consistent with your follow-through— If kids know the consequences ahead of time and they’ve bought into the rules of the house, they’re more likely to make healthy choices.
  7. Catch your teen in the act of doing something right — Praise shows that you noticed their efforts. It also promotes a feeling of competency.
  8. Be real — Father/mother does NOT always know best. Admit your own confusion and mistakes. Apologize when appropriate. Show your kids that just like them, you too are also “a work in progress.”
  9. Regularly create time to enjoy being a family — Having regular meals together and relaxing, unplugged from digital technology, is a gift with long-lasting benefits.
  10. Lighten up! — Humor is a great de-stressor. Remember, no one stays a teen (or the parent of a teen) forever!

If you’ve got other tips for parenting tweens and teens, I’d love to hear from you.

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