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.

“I’m never going to win!”

August 3, 2017

What's the use?

What’s the use?

We all want our opinions and feelings respected, especially by the people we care about most. A guiding rule for a healthy relationship (the only kind worth having) is: “I will respectfully try to understand where you’re coming from and you will do the same for me.”

Doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes we’re too upset to be respectful so we do things we later regret. Sometimes others disrespect us and we’re too embarrassed or discouraged to speak up.

When it feels like nobody treats you with respect, what then? Do you have fight with everyone? Or is it better to just accept it? That’s what this teen wants to know.

Teen: When I hang out with my friends  they do PE-related things. I act like everything is okay, but they know I suck at that kind of stuff. Still they always hold obstacle courses, running races and monkey bar challenges. It’s as if they do it to mock me.

Next, my parents. If I get anything below B+ on a quiz or test, they don’t bother noticing me. What’s worse is that when my twin sister gets something below a B+, they offer to help her.

Lastly, my twin sister. She is intolerable. She has successfully managed to steal my friends by lying. Every time I tell her to stop, she acts like I am bullying her. To others, she seems sweet, but she is sociopathic towards me. Except when she has no one else to hang out with. Then I’m her fallback. I try and stand up to it, but my parents have her back. It’s as if they have taught me a silent rule: “Don’t try to stand up for yourself because you are never going to win these battles.” So I have to put up with it. What do I do? –So Unfair

Dear So Unfair,

I am sorry you’re going through such a difficult time. I really am. Feeling comfortable and accepted by our friends and family contributes to our sense of well-being. When people are with us, we relax and trust they will treat us well. When we don’t feel accepted,  everything else in life can be more challenging.

You don’t have to and shouldn’t accept disrespectful behavior. Ever. Relationships change when someone has had enough of the status quo and decides to talk honestly about her feelings. You took the first step toward improving your relationships by writing to me. Now take the next step.

Parents. You don’t get to choose your family. Sorry, no trade-ins allowed. So what can you do with the family you’ve got?

Find a time for a private conversation with the parent that is easier for you to talk to. You might start by saying something like this: “There are times I feel you respect (care for, love, etc.) my sister more me.” Then take a slow deep breath and calmly, respectfully and without whining, shouting, or crying, give one recent example to illustrate your point. After you’ve said your piece, close your mouth and really listen to what your parent says. Then respond calmly. Then listen so more. This is how you give someone the chance to understand you better and give yourself the opportunity to understand them. You sound like a very intelligent and articulate person. I am sure you can do this.

Sister. You and your sister also need a calm, respectful conversation. There are things she does that you don’t appreciate. There are also things that you do which she does not appreciate. Working together can make your relationship more peaceful. Your parents’ support can help. They want you and your sister to get along better, too!

Friends. Sounds like the problem comes from the difference between your friends’ interests and your own. Make a list of all the things that you deem important in a close friendship. For example you can try to fill in the blank in this sentence:

“I want a friend who __________.”

Keep filling in the blank until you’ve created a good long list of qualities you look for in a friend. If shares my interests is a high priority for you, then you need to look for friends who enjoy doing what you enjoy. If PE activities isn’t your thing, what is? Think about it and figure out how you can connect with people who share your interests during the school year, on weekends and vacation time.

I hope this helps.

---------

“My friend’s mom bullies her!”

April 19, 2017

What did I do to deserve such rude and disrespectful kids?!

Bullying prevention begins at home. A child’s propensity for being aggressive and/or putting up with aggressive behavior from others may begin at home as well. As this email suggests, however, rushing to judgment about what’s going on in someone else’s family, isn’t helpful.

Teen: My best friend’s mom is always in a bad mood. She’s so rude and unfair! She always grounds my friend for the simplest things. When I’m at my friend’s house her mother is rude to me and lectures me. I try to invite my friend over, but her mom always has an excuse why she can’t come. What do I do? 🙁

Annie:  I can tell you’ve got a good heart because you really care about your friend. I’m sure she values the friendship and really appreciates having you in her life. Your question is a great one: “What can you do if a friend’s mom, dad, stepdad, etc. isn’t being kind or fair to them?”

Here’s the thing, it’s almost impossible to tell what’s actually going on inside of someone else’s family. Suppose, for example, you and your mom are at the supermarket. And let’s say you are in a bad mood because a) you are hungry and b) you have a lot of homework plus a test to study for and c) one of your best friend’s was rude to you right after school and you’re freaking out that she may not be your friend any more. So, yeah, you’re in a bad mood.

Now imagine you and your mom walk down the cereal aisle and you grab your favorite stuff off the shelf. Your mom snaps, “I’m not buying that.” You yell at her and she yells back at you. What if a stranger happens to be watching what just happened? What might she assume about your relationship with your mom?

No assumptions strangers make can’t ever be the whole truth. There might not be any truth to it at all. That’s why it’s always a good idea to look beyond the surface and ask yourself, “What else might be going on here?”

As an outsider, you just never know.

Teen: Thank you so much. I completely understand. Maybe there’s more happening. Do you think it has to do with the parents’ relationship?

Annie: I don’t know for sure. But when a parent is consistently rude, unfair or generally in a bad mood, the child’s behavior is probably not the most important cause. Maybe the parents are having relationship challenges or financial worries, or they’re dealing with other family stresses (sick grandparents, for example). As an outsider, you just never know. But here’s  something you can do: Be as kind and understanding as you can be. If your friend wants to talk about how she’s feeling… be a good listener. That often helps, especially when kids feel like no one understands.

I hope this helps you help her.

---------

A question of broken trust

March 28, 2017

At 36% approval rating, Trump is at a historic low for a POTUS in office less than 100 days. People don’t trust the guy, for lots of good reasons. Consequently, I’ve been focused for months on what’s going on in our government. Blogging about anything but politics feels less important than being part of the resistance. Of course, I’m still responding daily to teen email from around the world, as I’ve done for the past 20 years. For teens, there are no political crises. What threatens a teen’s world is an upended peer relationship. Nothing catastrophic on a national or global scale, but still deserving of compassion and attention.

Like this one:

Without trust all sense of safety is gone.

Without trust all sense of safety is gone.

Teen: I used to be friends with these boys until I started bullying them. I’d make fun of them everyday, move their stuff, occasionally resort to violence. I did it to feel in control. I don’t do it any more and I want to be friends with them again. My best friend is now friends with them and I’m jealous. One of the boys ignores me and sometimes says rude things to me. On one hand I did the same sort of thing to him, but on the other hand, I hate it and I don’t want him to end up being mean to everybody, because of how I treated him.

I’m probably overthinking this because I always overthink everything. Can you give  me any advice?

Annie: You’re not “overthinking” it. This demands a lot of thinking, so I’m proud of you for putting in the time and for reaching out for advice. I’m also impressed that you stopped harassing these boys. What made you stop?

Teen: Because I lost my best friend. He was the only male friend I’ve ever had who really understood me, so when we stopped being friends I started to think about what I was doing and what I hoped to achieve through putting others down and bullying them.

Annie: Have you apologized to each of them?

Teen: Yes, except for the one who ignores me/is mean to me. I don’t really know what to say to him. I feel like even if I did apologize to him, it wouldn’t make a difference.

Annie: Here’s what I know about apologies: for the hurt person to truly let go of those hurt feelings, you (the hurter) need to dig deep. “I’m sorry” is a start, but maybe not enough, depending on what you did. The boy who “ignores” you does not trust you. And you can understand why. You can’t trust someone who bullies you, so you don’t feel safe around them. You don’t believe their words. You can’t count on them, as a real friend. Trust is the key to all healthy relationships (friendships and romantic relationships). The question is: How do you regain someone’s trust after you’ve betrayed him? Think about it this way, if the situation were reversed, what would you need in addition to an apology?

If a friend had been harassing you, what would you need in addition to “I’m sorry”? What would it take for you to trust him and feel 100% safe with him again?

Teen: I’m not sure to be honest. They’d need to prove they were trustworthy and weren’t just going to start the bullying again.

Annie: I agree. Someone who betrays a friend needs to “prove” they are trustworthy and not just apologizing only to start the harassment again.

Teen: But don’t boys think extremely differently? I don’t know if any of them think about when I bullied them. I don’t even know if any of them want to be friends again. What if they’ve just forgotten about it completely and I’m just overreacting?

Annie: I don’t believe that boys think “extremely differently” when it comes to friendship and trust. Some boys may show their feelings differently than some girls. Boys may not talk about the “bully” behind his/her back, the way girls tend to do. But when trust is broken, boys are not likely to “just forget.” Humans have very long memories, and for a good reason. If you are punched and kicked by a close friend and you “forget” and continue the friendship, it’s very likely you will be punched and kicked again… or worse. No, boys don’t “forget.” But they may pretend that it doesn’t bother them.

You said something important… a friend who bullies need to “prove” that it’s never going to happen again. Your goal, moving forward, is to figure out how to prove you’re truly sorry and that you are someone who can be trusted 100%. HINT: We prove things by our behavior.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

 

---------

A Tale of Two Jars

September 16, 2015

Was that really helpful or not so much?

Was that really helpful or not so much?

Imagine two empty glass jars. One labeled Helpful. One labeled Not Helpful. Imagine each time you say something to someone (online or off) you must put a marble in one jar or the other. By the end of the day which jar has more marbles?

Getting along with each other has always been a major challenge on this planet. Each day, each of us has the power to increase hostilities or increase feelings of friendship and cooperation at home, at school. Everywhere. It’s really that simple.

Think about the two jars with this hypothetical situation:

A group of kids sit at a lunch table with one empty seat. A new kid comes over carrying a lunch tray and asks “Can I sit here?”  For each choice, which jar gets a marble, Helpful or Not Helpful?

Someone says “No way!” H or N

New Kid throws a french fry at someone. H or N

Someone lies and says, “Sorry, but I’m saving this seat for my friend.” H or N

New Kid lies and says, “No problem.” H or N

New Kid says, “I don’t want to sit with you. You’re mean.” H or N

Someone says “Sure” and makes room. H or N

Someone frowns but doesn’t move. H or N

Someone quickly puts her sweater on the empty seat. H or N

Someone says, “No weirdos at this table.” H or N

Someone laughs. H or N

Someone feels bad, but says nothing. H or N

Someone says, “Don’t be mean. Let her sit with us.” H or N

Someone whispers, “Why can’t she sit here?” H or N

Someone shrugs and says nothing. H or N

Someone pretends to text. H or N

Someone from another table and invites New Girl to sit with them. H or N

Now count your marbles. How many in each jar? What would you personally do in this situation? Not sure? That’s honest. Think about it some more. I understand this isn’t an easy question. Talk to your children. Your partner. Encourage your kids to talk to their friends. Share the idea of the two jars with them. We all agree that everyone wants to be treated with kindness and respect. That’s so clear. But when it comes to how we treat others, moment to moment, not so clear. Which jar are filling up today?

NOTE: I’m leading a series of Girls’ Friendship Without the Drama Workshops for the Girl Scouts and anyone else who wants to get a group of 15+ together to learn to be more helpful.

 

---------
Older Posts »
Find Annie Fox: Find Annie on Facebook Find Annie on Twitter Find Annie on Pinterest Find Annie on YouTube Find Annie on Google+ Find Annie on LinkedIn Find Annie on Goodreads Find Annie on Quora