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.

Defense Against the Dark Side: Where’s Harry Potter When We Need Him?

April 23, 2015

A Good Use of Power

A Good Use of Power

In our 40 years together, David and I have read many books. Add another hundred or so books on tape we’ve consumed on road trips. Yep, we’re addicted to good stories. So it wasn’t too weird when, after a business trip to Florida and a side trip to Universal’s Wizarding World, we decided to re-read all the Harry Potter books… aloud… to each other.

Starting in mid-December, I’d read a couple chapters over breakfast each morning. At dinner, with wine and candlelight, I’d read another chapter or so. If we were driving for more than 20 minutes in any direction, I’d read aloud in the car. (Yes, I can do that without barfing. Lucky me.) At the end of each day we’d watch the film adaptation of the current book, making sure to stop when we got to a new part (i.e., a section of film we hadn’t yet read.)

To date we’ve completed six books and six films. (When we get into something we really get into it.) We’re now half-way through Book 7.

Ever since the kids of Hogwarts took their education into their own hands, I’ve been thinking about the Dark Arts as it relates to the dark side of humanity. While we rarely hear about jinxes or debilitating spells, we’re plenty aware of public humiliation and shaming in social media. Character assasination is a curse, high on the list of Dark Arts. So how do we defend ourselves against the real and present danger of social garbage? How do we teach our kids to defend themselves, online and off, from the hostility of their peers? Where is Harry Potter when we need him?

When I think about what it means to defend oneself, I picture someone standing up for their rights or the rights of others and actively fighting back against the vitriol. But there is inherent danger when one uses vitriol to fight vitriol. The weapon we use has the power to infect us and make us more and more like the perpetrators we seek to vanquish. We can so easily become the enemy. Doing the right thing in a good way isn’t easy.

How do you help your children defend themselves against the prevailing Culture of Cruelty? How do you teach them not to succumb to its ways? Post here and let’s get into it. You can also follow my tweets at @Annie_Fox and @GirlDramaChat. Every Friday you can join the conversation as I host #girldramachat, a weekly Twitter chat (11AM PST) to help parents/teachers/counselors support girls thru friendship drama w/compassion, respect & social courage.

 

 

 

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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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They stole your bra?!!

September 9, 2014

This recent email has me vibrating with rage. I know. I know. I’m supposed to manage my destructive emotions. Take re-centering breaths and all that. But as a woman, a mom, and an educator, this one has me ready to strangle someone.

I'm not going back there.

I’m not going back there.

Just read it and tell me what you think:

Hey Terra,

I just started freshman year and I have to take swim class. I have large breasts and the girls in the class make fun of me in the shower and in the pool. Today, while we were swimming, one girl went into my locker and stole my bra. I had to get dressed for my next class without a bra!! Do you have any idea how humiliated I felt walking around like that? Guys were staring at me and a few guys tried to touch my breasts! That’s what I had to go through for two whole periods until my mom came and brought me a bra.  This is the first year of high school and I’m a joke already. All my friends are at another school so I’ve got no one who has my back. – Who Cares?

Before you read my answer, here’s my video response on Vidoyen:

How do we teach kids that cruel is not cool? posted by Annie Fox, M.Ed. on Vidoyen.

My Answer:

Dear Who Cares?

First, let me say that I care. A lot!

Second let me say… WOAH!!! What happened to you today is beyond awful. It is also totally unacceptable. For starters, shaming you about your body, having people stare at your breasts and try to touch you… all of this is sexual harassment and it’s against the law.

I understand how awful you feel, but please talk to your PE teacher ASAP! (That’s who runs the swimming class, right?) She or he (hopefully it’s a she) but either way, the PE teacher needs to know immediately what happened today. No way should any girl get away with going into your locker and stealing anything! But a girl stealing another girl’s bra… that’s so cruel I am actually seeing red. (That’s how angry I am right now.) And no boy should get away with trying to touch you without your permission! (Give me a break, guys. What idiot told you that’s ever OK?!)

I get that you might not want to talk about this, but you wrote to me for advice and I’m giving it to you. Talk to your mom right now. Get off the computer and talk to her. You think that “no one has your back.” Not true! Your mom has your back. She proved that today. She can help you. She wants to. If you were my daughter I would tell you this, “I am so sorry that this happened to you. My heart is breaking to hear about it. I know how humiliating this must have been! We need to work together, you and I, to make things better for you at school. Better for you with the girls in your gym class and better for you with those ignorant boys who bother you and made you feel even more uncomfortable when you walk down the hall. You need to let the school know what happened. If you feel you can call for this meeting on your own, then go for it. But if you need my support to call the school and set up a meeting with the PE teacher and the counselor and school administration, then I am here for you 1000%.”

Talk to your mom right now… before another day of school.

OK, sweetie?

In friendship,
Terra

If you or anyone you know, has had an experience involving sexual harassment or “body shaming” at school, I want to hear about it in the COMMENTS section. Thanks.

Filed under: Cruel's Not Cool,Teens,Tweens — Tags: , , — Annie @ 5:20 pm
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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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