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.

We need uncomfortable schools

July 28, 2014

Feeling uncomfortable? Now use it for good.

Feeling uncomfortable? Now use it for good.

As we approach the beginning of the new school year, my heart goes out to the kids who are dreading it. They are usually the ones who had to wade through more than their share of social garbage last term. Hopefully they got a needed reprieve during the summer. But they’ve got to go back and most of them (and their parents and teachers) are probably not looking forward to the inevitable crapola (online and off).

Being in the prevention business, I’m always working on ways to make schools more compassionate. Here’s my latest contribution… just a reminder… adapted from the Charter for Compassion’s call to action for cities.

A compassionate school is an uncomfortable school!
Uncomfortable when anyone is threatened, harassed, or made to feel less than.
Uncomfortable when every child isn’t treated with respect by every teacher and every other student.
Uncomfortable when every student isn’t given rich opportunities to grow intellectually, creatively, and emotionally.
Uncomfortable when, as a school community, we don’t treat each other as we want to be treated.

A compassionate school knows uncomfortable feelings aren’t worth zippo, if they don’t trigger action. So a compassionate school recognizes the discomfort and immediately works for change with the full leadership and commitment of all administrators and teachers. With adult leadership, students learn how they too can become change agents. Because, whether students admit it or not, they desperately want their school to be a place where every kid is treated with respect. Every one.

Got it? Good. Now go make your kid’s school really uncomfortable. We’re in this together.

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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

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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.

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