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.

Friendship issues from the 8th grade Part 2

May 21, 2014

Let's figure out this friendship stuff together

Let’s figure out this friendship stuff together

This is part 2 of the very cool Skype in the Classroom session I had Monday with a class of Philadelphia 8th graders. (Here’s Part 1) I’m all about giving students ongoing, safe places to get real about the challenges of friendships. It’s important to their personal well-being and to a positive school climate.

Student: Annie, what if you have friends who act cool when they’re with you but other times, when they’re with other people, they act really different with you?

What have you tried so far?

Student: I ask them, “Why do you act different with your friends than when you’re with me?” And they said, “I don’t know what you mean!”

All of that “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” is B.S. What you’re describing is The Switcheroo. When it’s just you and your friend, things are cool. Then you add one or two other people and suddenly you’ve switched channels and I don’t even know this person who is supposed to be my best friend. I’m wondering, “Why are you treating me this way?!”

Props to you for asking him what was going on. That was very brave. Most people would feel bad about the way they were being treated in, but they aren’t likely to talk about it. You took the extra step and I have a lot of respect for you.

So you asked your friend about it and he said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” That wasn’t true. He knew exactly what you’re talking about. But he didn’t feel proud of the way he’s been treating you, so he wouldn’t admit it.

If that happens again, I suggest you find the EXIT. You may not have ever thought of this, but there is an exit for every friendship. And sometime you just have to give yourself permission to walk through it. You can leave without making a big announcement. You can just say, “I’ll catch you later.” And you leave and spend time on your own doing thing or you hang out with other friends who treat you with more respect, or you take your dog for a walk. Whatever it is, just leave. Because there is no reason to stay with people who are not treating you well. Zero reason. Don’t do that.

Exactly how long do you stay away from this friend or friends? That depends. You could take a short vacation and the next day your friend may ask why you left. Be honest. You can say, “When you’re with other people you don’t treat me very well, so I left.” That gives him something to think about. And maybe the next time he’s with you and other people, he’ll treat you better. Or he won’t.

Sometimes, though, you go through the exit and you never come back to the friendship. And that’s ok too. Sometimes you end a friendship because you’ve outgrown it or because you get a new idea about how you want to be treated. It’s all ok. Just don’t talk about the person after you’ve gone through the exit. That’s not cool. It’s just gossip. Not important.

Before we ran out of time I asked the students what they usually learned in this class with this teacher. And they told me they learned math and science. This wasn’t the answer I expected, so I asked the teacher why he wanted his students to get a Skype lesson on Real Friends vs the Other Kind.

Teacher: We meet once a week, on Monday mornings, and have open discussions where people talk about their lives and share. And friendship is an important topic for us to talk about.

You guys are very lucky to have a teacher who prioritizes this stuff. Someone who says, “This may not be math or science, but it’s important. And I want to give you a platform to talk about it.” That’s awesome. There are not enough teachers like this one. You’re very lucky.


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,


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.


It takes a real man to be a dad

May 28, 2013


Any dude can father a child but it takes a real man to be a dad. Dads are all in, heart and mind, for the long haul, encouraging their kids to become self-reliant young adults. Dads also teach by example that everyone (including children) deserves respect. When we see people treated unfairly it’s not enough to feel uncomfortable. Dads help their sons and daughters develop the social courage it takes to make things better.

OK. Enough of the high-level stuff. Let’s talk in-the-trenches, day-to-day. How does Dad do his best for his kids, especially when they are teens? Check out these tips. Make them part of your daily routine and you’re on your way:

  • Be a safe person to talk to. When your child wants to discuss tongue piercing, a solo cross-country trip, or dropping out of school to pursue hip-hop, stay calm. Take a deep breath. Take ten of them. Fyi, no one’s asking you to approve of every one of your kid’s crazy ideas. But kids need you to listen with respect. And if they ask for advice (don’t give it if they don’t ask), be a consultant and offer your wisest counsel. But do not freak out. Otherwise, they won’t seek your input; they’ll just go behind your back and do whatever they damn please. Which they may do anyway, but at least your voice will be in their head and yes, that can be a powerful antidote to stupidity.
  • Catch them in the act of doing something right. Some fathers believe you teach responsibility by berating kids when they mess up. That’s actually backwards and Dad knows it. Unacceptable behavior is unacceptable. No quibble there. But your kid is more likely to do the right thing consistently when you notice. You don’t need to throw a pizza party or give out gold stickers. Just say something simple like: “It was nice of you to help your brother with his homework.” End of celebration. Simply praise the behavior you want to see more of. It works with kids. Spouses, too.
  • Show your squishy side. There are plenty of fathers who act all mucho macho. But Dad isn’t afraid to express “softer” emotions in front of his kids. He’s also equally at ease when his girls and his boys are upset. When you show your family it’s more than OK to cry, to be afraid, to be compassionate, you teach your sons what it means to be a real (hu)man. And you raise the bar for the kind of partner your daughter will want.

Dads, your love, support and encouragement are essential to your children’s health and well being, so keep up the good work. And Happy Dad’s Day. Enjoy the attention. You deserve it.

Filed under: Holidays,Parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Annie @ 10:15 am

Free Kindle Download of “Teaching Kids to Be Good People”

December 28, 2012

''Teaching Kids to Be Good People'' by Annie Fox, M.Ed., FREE for December 28-30, 2012

FREE download for December 28-30, 2012, ''Teaching Kids to Be Good People'' by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

Today (12/28) through Sunday (12/30), we’re giving away the Kindle version of my new parenting book Teaching Kids to Be Good People: Progressive Parenting for the 21st Century.

On December 28–30, 2012 only, you can get your own FREE Kindle version of my book right here.

No Kindle? No problem. Download the ebook anyway because you can read it just fine on your PC, Mac, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7 with Amazon’s free Kindle Reader app.

Not in the US? Here are the Amazon links for Canada, UK, Australia, Brazil, FranceGermany, Italy, Japan, Spain

Please accept this ebook as my gift to you and your family. Interested in the print edition? Learn more here.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year, from our home to yours.

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