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.

Three things parents should stop doing in 2014

January 5, 2014

Self-improvment New Year’s resolutions usually fade after Week 2 because they require us to do things we’re not used to. Most people aren’t wired that way. So I’m thinking it might be easier to stop doing something unhealthy rather than to start a whole new regime. So here’s my list of three common things parents should stop doing this year.

That's it! I've had it!!!!

That’s it! I’ve had it!

1. Yelling. Parenting is messy and stressful. With everything that’s expected of you it’s easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed. If yelling has become your go-to place, you need to stop. When you lash out at your kids, your spouse, or your dog, you are polluting your home and hurting your family. If you don’t have at least one stress-management tool in your toolkit (alcohol and tobacco do not count), you aren’t fully equipped for your parenting job so you’ll be less effective. I recommend breathing. It will help you learn the relaxation response. Breathing requires no gym membership or special shoes. It’s free and always available. Yes, it’s habit-forming, but in a very good way. Stop yelling and start breathing and your kids will give you less to yell about. Guaranteed.

2. Tuning out. Parents, teachers, coaches… adults in general are always telling kids what to do, how to act, and what to believe. When kids take the bold step of opening up to us (because they need to be heard), we often aren’t listening… not one hundred percent. And if we are listening, as soon as we hear something that indicates a “problem” we may well jump to invalidate it (“You don’t really feel that way.”) And yet, we want our kids to stand up for themselves amongst their peers – whether they’re being overpowered in the kindergarten playground or in a teen relationship. But how are they going to learn to be speak up if we don’t give them practice by respectfully listening to what they have to say? Stop tuning out and start listening with a more open heart and mind and your kids will feel more confident in themselves.

 3. Rushing around. Every family needs down time, and hopefully you all got some during the holidays. But most of us need and deserve daily down time… together… as a family. If your kids are still young enough for story time, what a great chance to cuddle and reconnect each evening. If your children are past being read to you can still make it a nightly ritual to check in with them for a quiet talk about how the day went for each of you. (This is a great way to teach kids that conversations are a two-way street. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re always the one asking “How’s it going?”) And let’s not forget meal time. Maybe you’ve heard this before but the research findings are so amazing they’re worth repeating: Kids whose families sit down and eat dinner together at least three times a week get all kinds of benefits. Have dinner together and your kids are more likely to do better in school, less likely to use alcohol or illegal drugs, and less likely to be overweight. They’re even less likely to have friends who do drugs! Don’t you love it?

Happy New Year from my family to yours.

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Mom, I don’t wanna talk about it!

January 30, 2011

The classic standoff

Clinical research shows the hairs on the heads of parents of teens get noticeably grayer on Friday and Saturday nights. (Assuming previous teen shenanigans haven’t already caused you to pull out all of yours.) I probably should have written this blog on Thursday so you’d have it in advance of the weekend. But no worries. There’s no expiration date on advice for dealing with a teen’s poor judgment. If you don’t need this now, save it. It’ll come in handy sooner or later.

I recently got an email from Distraught Parent describing how Teen Daughter had purportedly gone to a friend’s sleepover (Just us girls). In the wee hours of the Saturday AM Parent receives call from local law enforcement reporting that Daughter and two equally Clueless Friends have been picked up riding in car driven by Drunk Teen Boy. Daughter comes home, announces: “I don’t want to talk about it!” and proceeds to sleep for the rest of the day. Parent describes how Daughter’s had a “rough” semester, has been “sad” for months and how her grades have plummeted from A’s to C’s. What to do??

Here’s my reply:

I’m relieved to hear your daughter’s choice to ride with a drunk driver didn’t end in tragedy for her or anyone else. I’m sure you are too! Sounds like something’s been going on with her for a while and this is the capper. (So far!)

Yesterday she didn’t want to talk and that’s OK for yesterday. It’s not an option for today.

She needs to talk and you need listen. (I mean really listen.) If you lay into her with The Lecture she’s going to shut down. She knows she blew it, but the real question is WHAT’S GOING??

Have the fact-finding conversation today. Let her know how you felt when you got the 4 AM call. Let her know that your TRUST in her honesty, her ability to make good choices and to keep herself safe has been shredded. Let her know that you know things haven’t been easy for her lately. Let her know you love her and it’s your job to keep her safe and to help her sort through the challenges she’s facing. Let her know she can talk to you anytime and that you will NOT throw anything she tells back in her face.

Do your best to help her figure out why certain choices she’s making aren’t in her own best interest. That’s the best you can work towards. You are her mentor, teacher and guide but you can’t live her life for her.

Your daughter deserves a meaningful consequence for her irresponsible and dangerous choice on Friday night. And you both deserve some professional help in rebuilding the trust and improving the communication between you.

Like I said at the top, teens aren’t known for their prescient decision-making. In the best of situations, their “still-under-construction” brains often works against them. Add alcohol/drugs, sexual tension, peer pressure, sleep deprivation and a whole host of other stressors and it’s tough for them to do the right thing, which often includes resisting the wrong thing!

The more we calm down, tune in to our teens and listen to them attentively and compassionately, the more likely they’ll let us know the kind of support they need from us during a rough semester and beyond.

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 7:20 pm
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