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.

Are girls worse than boys when it comes to bullying?

October 22, 2014

As some of you know, I’m currently on a blog tour to spread the word about  The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship without the DRAMA. If you are female (any age), and/or if you are raising a daughter, teaching or coaching girls or you’ve got a sister, a niece, etc., I’m guessing you know about girls’  friendship DRAMA. Destructive lunacy, right?

The Girls' Q&A Book on Friendship. Up with compassion and social courage. Down with social garbage.

The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship empowers girls to make choices they feel good about.

For the next several weeks, I’ll be highlighting some of the friendship questions my gracious blog tour hosts tossed in my direction as I stopped at their site. No softballs here!

This question comes from the dynamic educator and psychologist, Louise Masin Sattler ( @LouiseASL )

Louise: Do you think we are making strides in reducing bullying in the schools? And are girls worse than boys with bullying? 

Annie: Yes, of course we are making strides. Yippee! Progress should be celebrated. Are those strides being made universally? No. Is the progress happening quickly enough? Hell no! There are still many schools where teachers bully students and where teachers turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to students making sexist, homophobic, and racially-charged comments to other students. There are still school administrators who shrug and tell distraught parents of targeted students, “Kids will be kids.” or “Teen girls are just mean. What are you going to do about it?” (Actual statements made by school administrators as reported to me by extremely frustrated parents.)  

Are girls “worse” than boys with bullying? I don’t believe so. Both girls and boys are afflicted by Peer Approval Addiction in equal measure. Both genders struggle to do the right thing while simultaneously feeling compelled to do whatever it takes to fit in… including stuff they aren’t particularly proud of. The difference, if it exists at all, may be in the methodology girls and boys use to “take down” peers, online and off. That said, the seeds of compassion and empathy are equally prevalent in boys and girls. So, even though I wrote this book for girls, both boys and girls need to understand that their choices matter… in peer relationships and in life.

Read more of Louise’s Q’s and my A’s at LouiseSattler.me

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10 common BS excuses from kids and what’s behind them

May 27, 2014

It's all your fault!

You started it!

Empathy training begins at home. So does compassion training, truth-telling, good listening skills, and bullying prevention. And you thought helping with 7th grade math was going to be the hard part!

We want our kids to learn to be good people and most of us know that doesn’t happen solely by osmosis. So we teach them and we do such a good job that by the time they are five, they say “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry” on command. Underneath the programmed responses is the beginning of kids’ awareness of the right way right to treat other people vs. the wrong way. But because they are young humans they mess up. Often. They lash out and hurt the feelings and body parts of other children. And we hear about it. Yet no matter how many after-the-fact conversations that begin with “How would you feel if he did that to you?” they will continue to go out of their way to hurt other kids. So what’s up with that? Are your kids “bad”? No. Even though they do bad things, they aren’t bad kids. And don’t you dare think they are or, god forbid, tell them that!

Since they’re not bad, why do they keep doing this hurtful stuff? Simply because they haven’t yet learned to manage their destructive emotions (anger, jealousy, resentment, frustration and poor-me-ism, to name a few peace-busters guaranteed to bring out the worst in our species.) Consequently, kids of all ages maim first first and ask forgiveness afterwards. Another reason they do stuff they know isn’t OK is because they’ve constructed a set of handy justifications that makes it OK.

Because most kids get their peer relationship training with their siblings, cousins, and close family friends, let’s imagine a typical sister-brother conflict in your home. Suppose your 7 year old daughter purposely wrecks the Lego castle your 5 year old son’s been building all afternoon. He’s crying and screaming and you yell at her, “Why did you do that?!” Turn down the volume for a sec and listen to her justifications:

1. I didn’t do anything.

2. I thought he wanted my help.

3. I thought he was finished.

4. It was already broken.

5. He always hogs the ____.

6. He always blames me for everything.

7. He’s annoying.

8. His stuff was in my way.

9. He was doing it wrong.

10. You always take his side.

What can you say to any of this? Your own destructive emotions have launched surface to air missiles from your eyeballs and your tone of voice is ugly and scary. But who can blame you? This is already the third … no fourth… fight between these two and it’s only Saturday afternoon of this loong “Happy Holiday Weekend.” So if you’re not in your “Calm Mommy” place hey, we get it. But if you were sane and centered enough to actually hear and acknowledge every one of your daughter’s justifications (which doesn’t mean you’ve got to agree with any of them) she could rattle them off and pile them neatly to one side and maybe, just maybe, she’d then feel safe enough to lift the lid on her anger, tentatively reveal the soft underbelly of her heart, and tell you the real reason she’s determined to destroy her brother’s happiness.

Sniff… whimper… “I think you love him more than me.”

What do you say now, Mom?

 

 

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Day 23: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Standing up for the underdog)

October 23, 2013

I seriously need a friend.

Kids and teens can view of themselves as powerless in a world where adults call all the shots. But that’s not the whole story. Kids have power. And every day, your children and mine get opportunities to use that power to do good or to do harm. Sometimes, turning a blind eye and choosing to do nothing results in more harm.

If we, truly value kindness and appreciate it when it comes our way, we can’t ignore suffering. We’ve got to do our part to keep kindness alive… every chance we get. And we’ve got to teach our kids to be kind. But how?

Child or adult, it takes extra social courage to exit our comfort zone and to help a vulnerable person. When kids ask me about standing up for someone who is being harassed, I tell them they should never put themselves directly in harm’s way. But I make it clear that there are many ways to help an underdog and let him or her know: “I’m not like the others who are giving you a hard time. I’m here to help.”

Fuel for Thought (for adults) —At different times we have all been underdog, top dog, and middle of the pack dog, so we know what it feels in each of those places. Being on the bottom, without support, can be terribly lonely. Think about a time when you felt like an underdog. Where did you turn for support? What response did you get?  Think of a time when you helped an underdog. What happened?

Conversations That Count (with kids)– Talk about the concept of a “pecking order” amongst animals and humans. Say this to your children: “Most of the time, when we’re not on the bottom, we don’t give much thought to those who are.” Now ask your kids what they think about that. True? Not true? How do you know? Talk about who is “on the bottom” in your child’s class. (Even kids as young as second or third grade have a keen awareness of social strata.) How do other people treat that child? How do you treat that child? What might happen if you stood up for the underdog?

Teach—Challenge your child to be a hero and shake up the social strata at school by standing up for someone who needs a friend. Follow up and find out from your child what happened with the challenge.

Please let me know how you teach your kids about the importance of standing up for the underdog.

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Urgent anti-bully message to educators: Do more to stop it

August 19, 2013

They say schools are no longer in the business of teaching good citizenship, character, ethics or whatever you want to call it because educators are too busy “teaching to the test.” There’s no test for character that can be graded to give districts bragging rights for getting their scores up, so why teach this stuff? Because there actually is a test for character. It’s called Life and we ought to be teaching to it. When we don’t, we get this…

Hey Terra,

People at school don’t like me because me and this popular girl got into a little fight and I won. To get even she spread rumours about me saying I was in a mental institution for weird and violent behavior (a complete lie). Then everyone started to insult and ignore me. She does it the most. They say stuff like “Hey freak! No one likes you, so why dont you take a long walk off a short bridge?” Everyday. I don’t get a break from it. I insult them back. I know I probably shouldn’t bother, but it’s really hard not to. It’s like automatic for me now. I don’ t like being told to basically die. It’s not right for anyone to be told that.

So Fed Up

See it. Name it. Stop it.

Dear Fed Up,

These kids are being rude and cruel. I know it’s hard to hear this crap and try to brush it off. I’ve heard it said that no one can bring you down without your permission. That’s kinda true and kinda not. Humans are wired to be emotional. We’re also wired to want other people to like us. So when someone shouts angry words in your face or online, your human wiring kicks in. Your heart beats faster (and not in a good way) and you feel attacked. Even if the person isn’t someone you know or care about. Even if what he or she says is a lie. Words hurt. We feel it. So I totally understand the temptation to attack back. Except… it doesn’t help. You’ve seen that. It just makes things worse. Like throwing gasoline on a fire. That won’t put it out.

But you need to learn to take care of yourself. That doesn’t mean yelling nasty stuff back at people who are mean to you. You need to take care of yourself by figuring out how to response so that

a) you don’t give anyone permission to push your buttons so you automatically react like a puppet and
b) at least one adult at school and/or at home steps in and gets to the bottom of this so that this girl and her followers no longer feel they’ve got the right to talk to you or anyone in this way.

I just took my fingers off the keyboard for a minute.  I’m taking a deep breath now, because hearing about this stuff every day really upsets me. I feel frustrated there are kids who believe it’s OK to be mean to other kids. I also feel frustrated that the adults who run schools (principals, counselors, teachers, coaches) have not done a better job making school a safer more accepting place for all students all the time.

Still breathing. It helps. Take some deep breaths on your own whenever you need to calm down. Then think about what would really make this situation better. Forget about trying to talk to the girl. Go to adults in power. Talk to your parents. Tell them what you told me. Tell them just how Fed Up you are. Talk to the principal (with or without your parents). Talk to the school counselor. This has to stop. Adults can make it stop. Remind them it’s their job.

Take care.
In friendship,
Terra

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I’m so sick of the situations that prompt these emails. Where are the adults in charge? Do they really not know what’s going on? Do they believe it’s not part of their “job” to get involved with fights between students? Do they worry they’ll get no support from their administrators if they step in? Do they worry they’ll get  in trouble with parents for calling out kids who are disrepecting other kids? Or have they just given up, believing that peer harassment is a problem bigger than any remedy they might offer in the moment?

I don’t know what school administrators and teachers think about the bullying that persists in their schools. Why don’t you tell me? I’m listening.

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