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.

Raising Human Beings

January 28, 2017

We're raising kids, we're raising human beings.

We’re not raising kids, we’re raising human beings.

I loved Dr. Ross Greene’s book, Raising Human Beings, which focuses on parents and kids solving problems collaboratively. I didn’t love our podcast interview. Unfortunately, a poor connection between California and Maine mangled the audio so badly I couldn’t post it. Audio or no, you’ve got to hear what Dr. Greene has to say. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

Dr. Greene: One reason you want to solve problems collaboratively with kids who are behaviorally challenging is so he won’t put his fist through your wall. I’m seeing increasingly little difference between kids we call “behaviorally challenging” and kids we don’t. The reason to be solving problems collaboratively with any child is because you want to teach the skills that are on the better side of human nature. That’s a really good thing.

Annie: I agree. When parents model good problem-solving skills and work with their children to find solutions in non-violent ways then kids are learning a lot about problem-solving.

Dr. Greene: You do reap what you sow! If power to influence or solve problems with a kid is what you use, then power is what you’ll get back. But if collaboration is what you’re using then collaboration is what you’re going to get back.

“The role of a parent in the life of a kid is partner. We get into the most trouble, as parents, when we are shooting for control. Control is a delusion.” Dr. Ross Greene

Annie: Many parents seem confused about their role, vis a vis power, especially parents of tweens and teens. At that age kids seem programmed to push back. How can we help avoid those struggles?

Dr. Greene: All “pushing back” behavior is the child saying, “I’ve got concerns here that I want addressed.” If we use power to address those concerns, then we blow those concerns off. Kids don’t feel heard, their concerns don’t get addressed, and they stop talking to us. The role of a parent in the life of a kid is “partner.” We get into the most trouble when we shoot for control. Control is a delusion. You don’t have control. Many parents of adolescents have discovered that already. Those still fighting with their adolescents haven’t quite come to it yet.

Annie: It’s easy to be a good parent when everything is going just fine, isn’t it? I picture the family at the supermarket, it’s late, been a long day, everyone is hungry, maybe a little stressed out, and your kid grabs one of those sugar-packed impulse items by the checkout. You don’t want her to have it. There’s a struggle. Other parents are watching. How do you problem-solve collaboratively in a situation like that?

“Parents and kids don’t have to be adversaries. It all comes down to how we solve problems collaboratively when kids are failing to meet expectations.”

Dr. Greene: The trick is get out to of the heat-of-the-moment. Most kids and care-givers get into the same conflicts every week. That makes them predictable and it means we don’t have to wait until the heat-of-the-moment to solve those problems. We can solve them with a planned approach. I ask parents: “Which of your expectations is your child having trouble meeting on a reliable basis? (Make a list!) Which ones would you like to start working on first?” That’s how to start solving problems collaboratively.

Annie: Makes sense. Some examples of common parental expectations that a child is getting homework done, getting up and out the door for school in the morning. Too much screen time That’s a common struggle in so many families. How do we deal with that collaboratively?

Dr. Greene: First parents have to get clear on what their expectations are. Parents don’t always know. After that we can use the 3 steps of Plan B (solving problem collaboratively) vs. Plan A (parents trying to solve the problem unilaterally).

Step 1: (The Empathy Step) Get the conversation started. For example, “I’ve noticed it’s hard for you to end the screen time to do your homework or to come in to dinner. What’s up?” The goal of this empathy step is to gather information from the kid about his concern or point of view about this expectation he’s having difficulty meeting. If we don’t hear the kid’s concern, this problem will remain unsolved.

Step 2: (Define Adult Concerns) Adults have concerns that need to be heard and addressed, as well. Typically adults try to get their concerns met with Plan A (unilaterally with power). Now they can get their concerns met with Plan B (collaboratively, as partners).

Step 3: (The Invitation) This where parent and child develop a solution, but it’s got to be realistic, mutually agreed upon, and mutually satisfactory. The solution truly and logically addresses the concerns of parent and child. If it doesn’t, the problem is not solved.

Annie: I can see this model requires flexibility and openness on the part of the parent, especially if he or she wasn’t parented this way a generation ago.

Dr. Greene: It definitely requires a change in lenses, in one’s perspective, and in one’s definition of authority. A lot of parents are initially scared that this model will result in their losing authority. In reality, they’re not only picking up authority, they are dramatically improving the relationship with their child, dramatically improving communication.

“This is not about strength and power. It’s about empathy. Disagreeing with your kids, that’s going to happen. Kids’ failing to meet expectations? It will happen. Does that have to mean conflict? No!” – Dr. Ross Greene.

Learn more about Dr. Ross Greene at LivesInTheBalance.org

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My parents won’t let me get a phone!

November 3, 2014

To tell the truth, I don’t remember how I met Vicky Thornton and Jen Rehberger. We probably connected on Twitter, as so many do. But I totally remember each of my visits to their podcast What Really Matters? where we always get real about 21st century parenting challenges, swap personal parenting stories, and laugh… a lot. I’m a big fan of their work and was delighted when Vicky and Jen each took the time to review The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 ways to fix a friendship without the DRAMA. They were also kind enough to interview me for their show (to be posted soon). And if that weren’t support enough, they are hosting today’s stop on my blog tour.

Here’s one of the tricky questions Vicky and Jen asked me for the tour.

I'm missing out on... everything!!

I’m missing out on… everything!!

Question: My parents won’t let me have a phone yet and I am the only one of my friends without one.  They are texting to each other all the time and I am left out.  I really want one, but I will not be able to get one until next year.  How can I still be a part of the group if I don’t know what they are always texting about?

Annie:  This is a tough one. Your friends are communicating through their phones. Each time they do, they share information and feelings that bring them closer to each other. I understand why you feel left out. Do you understand why your parents won’t get you a phone until next year? If you aren’t clear about their reasons for waiting, please talk to them. Find out why they don’t think you are ready yet. And during that conversation, hopefully you will have the opportunity to tell them (calmly and maturely) why you believe you are ready to have a phone and to use it responsibly. This conversation may not change your parents’ feelings about getting a phone, but at least you will understand where they are coming from and they will understand where you are coming from.

As for feeling closer to your “always texting” friends… talk to them about it. You might say something like this “You guys are always texting. I feel left out. How would you feel about putting down the phones when I’m around?” Then close your mouth and listen to what they say. Real friends want to make each other feel included… not left out. If your friends aren’t willing to make you feel more included, what might that tell you about the kind of friends they are? Something to think about!

Read the rest of Vicky and Jen’s girl friendship questions and my answers here.

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Fifth grader wants to know: How do I get my BFF back?!

October 29, 2014

I met Beth Engleman (@Momonastring) back in 2002 when we worked together on a project at LeapFrog. Smart woman. Quick to smile. Liked her immediately. Twelve years later she’s rocking it out at MommyOnAShoeString.com.

Last Friday Beth kindly hosted a stop on The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship blog tour and challenged me with sticky questions from 4th-7th graders. This one touched my heart:

Is this really the end?

Is this really the end?

M: I am in 5th grade and my best friend since 1st grade is now hanging out with a new girl who moved to our school this year. They often don’t include me. What should I do to get my BFF back?

Annie: It can be very upsetting when someone you were once so close to now acts like the friendship isn’t important. It can be disappointing and confusing when a friend doesn’t treat you with the care and respect you deserve. It can also hurt when someone “new” shows up and seems to be taking your place in your friend’s heart.

You seem to think that you can do something to get your BFF “back.” Maybe if you had a magic wand and a handy spell you might be able to turn the friendship back to the way it was. That would be cool, but that’s not going to happen. You don’t need me to tell you that there are no such things as wands and spells. Your friend has her own thoughts and feelings and there is nothing you can do to get her to “include” you unless she chooses to do it! 

But even without magic, you are not powerless. There are always options for improving a situation, especially for lightening up the heavy way you feel right now. You are hurting. You may also be feeling jealous (of the new girl) and/or lonely. If your goal is to feel better, then you could talk to your friend (privately and calmly… you don’t need an audience or any drama). You might say something like this, “I really miss hanging out with you. I miss the good times we used to have. I feel left out when you and _____ do stuff without me.” That’s the truth and it is often empowering to speak the truth. Saying the words will give your friend something to think about. If the friendship grows stronger, then it was a good thing that you spoke up for yourself. If things between you do not change and the girls continue not including you, then it was still good that you spoke up. Now you know that you deserve to be treated with respect. Take what you’ve learned and be on the look-out for new friends. Good luck!

Check out the rest of Beth’s Q’s and my A’s and the rest of the blog tour.

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA

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How do I change my “mean girl” reputation?

October 27, 2014

My days as a pumpkin are over. Now I'm just a squash.

My days as a pumpkin are over. Now I’m just a squash.

The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship blog tour bus pulled up in front of EncouragePlay.com. On the front porch, beside a carved-too-early Jack-o-lantern, former school counselor, Janine Halloran and I enjoyed fresh pumpkin muffins and apple cider. Then she threw me this tricky question from a former student:

“I have a bad reputation in school for being mean but I’d like to change it. How can I do that?”

Janine: What would you say to that girl?

Annie: It sounds like you now understand how your reputation grew from your not being careful with other people’s feelings. I’m really proud of you for realizing you are responsible for your behavior and that you want to start making better choices. The first step is to apologize to everyone you knowingly hurt with your words and your actions (online and off). Talk to each person separately. (This might take a while and it might not be an easy conversation to have, but you can do it!)
To each person, you might say something like this, “I’m very sorry for what I did to you. It was mean and I want to apologize.” Then close your mouth and listen to what the person says. They may still be angry with you for things you did. (And they may have a right to be angry!) Please try to stay calm and not to get angry back. Just listen to what they have to say. You may learn a lot from what you hear. Even if the person is so surprised by your apology that he or she doesn’t know what to say, that’s OK. You have given them something to think about. You might just leave it at that… Or you might add this: “I’m trying to be a nicer person. I hope you give me a chance to prove it.”

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What experiences have you had trying to get people to see you in a new way?

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