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.

Every person who bugs you is not a “bully”

April 29, 2014

There have always been kids who seem to get pleasure and a power-high from bugging other kids. Maybe there always will be. Thankfully, adults are getting wise to the fact that “Kids will be kids” is no excuse for peer-harassment. Over the past decade, we have learned some heart-breaking lessons about the tragic consequences of unstopped harassment. Our education has come through the irreparable damange caused to targeted kids and their families. These days, at least on paper, parents and educators are much less tolerant of “mean kid” behavior than we have been in the past.

Of course, we’re talking about bullying (online and off) but I’ve purposely not yet used the word because it’s overused to the point of being meaningless.

Let’s get one thing straight, the definition of bullying is not: Everything that other people do that you don’t like. A rude, one-time comment is not bullying. A friend telling you that she doesn’t want to be your friend any more is not bullying. When everything is called bullying, kids miss the point and nothing changes for the good. So let’s be clear. Peer harassment is a) ongoing b) unwanted and c) typically involves a power disparity between the two people. For example, boss to employee, coach to player, parent to child, older sibling to younger, “popular” kid to less popular kid.

In my most recent 3 minute Vidoyen video I answered the question: How can parents and educators do a better job reducing bullying?

How to stop it? I've got answers

How to stop it? I’ve got answers


Day 24: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Dealing with broken glass)

October 24, 2013

Watch where you step. Watch what you toss.

I know a school where broken glass is a serious problem. Kids there freely toss it in classrooms and hallways, in the lunchroom and on the playground. Where do they get it? It’s everywhere for the taking and every day there’s more. The students at this school keep their pockets full so whenever they feel the urge, they lob sharp fragments at other students. When the glass hits the mark it pierces and often sticks. The fallen shards are left for others to step on.

Does it hurt the hands of the kids who throw the glass? Sure, but it’s worth a little pain because in this school it’s cool to make other people suffer. Pumps up the glass throwers and makes them feel powerful. And if all of this weren’t appalling enough, in this school kids are required to walk around barefoot. You heard correctly. No protection allowed for those tender little soles. If you visited, you’d see kids limping around with bloody feet and hands.

Not a place you’d ever send  your child, I’m sure.

So where is this school? Maybe you’re guessing it’s in that state. The place where parents have no common sense nor the time/inclination to teach their kids to be good people. If you guessed “Not my state,” you’d be wrong.  Actually, this glass-filled school is in your state. In fact, it’s the school your child attends.

(Excuse me while I cover my ears to mute the screams of: “You’re wrong, Annie! My child’s school does not have broken glass anywhere! Every corner of our school is safe.”

OK, you got me. There’s no actual broken glass lying around any school I know. I just made up the glass thing as a not-so-subtle metaphor for the teasing, rumors, harassment, and general peer-to-peer meanness found in every school.

So… now that we know what we’re talking about and we’re willing to admit that yes, there is some broken glass in our school, what are we doing about it? How might teaching our kids my glass metaphor change their attitudes and behavior? Try it and let me know what happens. The way I figure it, it’s worth the effort to protect their tender souls.


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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