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.

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No, Mom! You’ll make things worse!

December 6, 2014

Still chugging along on The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship blog tour. Since early November I’ve stopped at 20 blogs, logged thousands of virtual miles, and answered over 100 friendship-related questions. This question comes from educational psychologist Amy Fortney Parks, founder of TheWiseFamily.com. It’s an important one because when it comes to conflicts between our kids and someone else’s, it can be tricky to know when to step up and when to step back.

How do I talk to my daughter’s friend’s moms about some of the dynamics happening between the girls without being judgmental?

What did you say about my kid?

What did you say about my kid?

Annie: Because you don’t want to create more drama than the girls have already dished up on their own, you must communicate to the other mom respectfully, otherwise, you’re going to make things worse. You don’t need me to tell you how parents get instantly and intensely defensive when someone criticizes their children. Hello, Mama Bear! So, think about what you want to say and take at least ten slow deep re-centering breaths before you say it. (Seriously. Breathe.)

Here’s a trick I know about expressing something the other person is unlikely to want to hear: Soften your heart and speak calmly. You might say something like this: “I’ve been noticing some tension between my Gabriella and your Celeste. I’m wondering if you’ve noticed it too?” By starting the discussion this way, you are inviting the other parent in, rather than pushing her away with accusations. You’re asking her to take part in the problem-solving, parent to parent. This is very different from saying something like this: “Celeste has been so mean to Gabriella. My poor daughter cries herself to sleep each night. What kind of girl are you raising?!”

Choices matter when it comes to our words, tone of voice, attitude. This is a lesson we want to teach our daughters so they’ll be more likely to stop, re-center, and think before they act. It helps tremendously when we model it in our own lives too.

Bonus Question for you> How are you teaching your kids to be aware of the way they speak to other people?

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Making peace this summer with your teens

June 30, 2014

Give peace a chance

Give peace a chance

In addition to raising young adults who chew with mouth closed, pick up after themselves, and return library books on time, the gold ring of this parenting gig (after the “under the same roof” phase ends) is a healthy relationship with your adult kids. I’ve been a mom for 34 years and believe me, that’s what you’re after. But how do you get there from here? It can be a hard slog. Especially if you’re currently the parent of a tween or teen and already clocking in way too much time yelling and mis-communicating. It’s stressful enough when they’re in school most of the day, but now it’s summer and said t(w)een may be hanging out under said roof. Result? More time for fault-finding on both sides. yippee. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can be the change-agent your parent-teen dynamic needs. Here’s how…

Parenting plan for getting along better with your t(w)een

1. Sit down and ask your child: What would you like me to do less of this summer? Make the question sincere and make it safe for your child to answer honestly. Whatever he or she says, stay calm and do not get defensive. This conversation has the potential of greatly improving your relationship.

2. Take what you’ve heard to heart. If you want to teach your kids to be respectful of others you must treat their feelings and thoughts with respect. If you need a clarification, ask for it. “You say you want me to nag less? Gee, I don’t think I nag at all. Please give me an example of what you mean, sweetie.”

3. Work together to address the request. After you understand your child’s request, see what new ways you can come up with to lessen the unwanted behavior (e.g.. nagging). Relationships are a two-way street. If there is a ‘nagger’ there must also be a “nagging-inducer.” Explore both sides of all issues.

4. Monitor your progress. Once you’ve identified a problem and strategized a solution check in with each other periodically to see how you’re feeling about the changes. Praise where praise is due. Make modifications when needed.

5. Reverse the flow. It’s a two-way street, remember? So give yourself a chance to tell your t(w)een something you’d like less of from him or her. Follow the rest of the steps and see how it goes.

Good luck! I hope this helps you and your family this summer.

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“How was school, sweetie?” “Fine.” End of conversation!?

February 21, 2013

I originally wrote a version of this article for TakePart.com where I contribute a weekly education post. Check out the rest of my articles there.

Tea and Sympathy

When kids start school a piece of us leaves with them every morning. When they return, we’re eager to hear about their day so we can reconnect emotionally and gauge how they’re doing out in the world.

When asked, “How was school?” kids who are natural talkers will overflow with details. Others will simply say, “OK.” End of conversation. At that point, a wise parent would smile, nod, and let the day’s dust settle. Later, patience may be rewarded as the child reveals bits of news over the course of the evening. Either way, most parents love hearing about their elementary school children’s successes and disappointments. We also delight in every chance we get to offer encouragement and advice when needed. These interactions just may be the juicy heart of parenting.

By middle school, however, kids tend to be more guarded when they talk about things that happen away from home. Of course, parents and kids still need to connect, but our part of the conversations should factor in an appreciation for their ongoing need to keep parts of their lives private as they transition into young adulthood.

Let’s say you do respect your kids’ boundaries, but you’re still frustrated with the lack of information you get about what’s going on in school. A good way to improve communication is to:

1. Show that you’re interested. This point seems so obvious I almost didn’t include it, but then I got a teen email tailor-made for this article:

Dear Annie,

My parents never ask how I’m doing. They just walk in and complain about how their day was terrible. Then I think, “Why won’t you ask your two lovely daughters how their day was?” When they decide to ask, I just get awfully nervous. I feel as if I say the wrong thing I’ll get judged.”

–Cutie Klutz

Sounds like this family is missing good opportunities to connect with each other. And I’m guessing Mom and Dad aren’t even aware they’re being perceived as disinterested and “judgmental.” Cutie has offered an overlooked perspective: that of a child who wants to talk but feels her parents don’t want to listen. Food for thought.

Moving on…

2. Give kids time to decompress. Talk is more likely to flow naturally after the shoes come off, food’s dished out, and everyone has had time to relax and be at home.

3. Be a safe person to talk to. Kids have lots of feelings about what happens during a typical school day. Talking about feelings helps us understand ourselves and other people better. When your kid wants to talk, unplug, open your heart and mind, and dial back your inner judge way back. Also try not to poo-poo your child’s challenges as “kid stuff” nor to leap into “I’ll handle this” mode. Parenting is nothing if not a balancing act.

4. Be a good listener. That’s the hallmark of every good parent. In fact, during the teen years, the most effective parents often report how they’ve learned to “talk less and listen more.” Excellent advice for anyone who wants a child to talk more. Also useful for anyone who wants to teach kids that we show we care about others by listening with an open heart and mind.

5. Model what you want. If you want your child to share more with you then how about if you get into the habit of sharing more with him/her? For example, over dinner you might say, “Today was tough. One of my coworkers always interrupts me at meetings. It’s really annoying. You know?” This simple, open-ended question might prompt your child to commiserate and share about a challenging peer relationship s/he’s dealing with. Authentic conversation on!

In case you’re wondering how I responded to Cutie Klutz, here’s my reply:

Dear Cutie,

We all want and need to be listened to– especially by the people we love. Since sharing anything with your parents makes you “awfully nervous,” how about starting with something small, simple, and positive? Like, “I talked to this new girl from Wisconsin. She’s cool.” Or, “I got an A on my Spanish test. I studied really hard so that felt good.” I hope you try this, Cutie, because your Mom and Dad love you. If you give them a chance to chill for a bit after work and you challenge yourself to speak up a bit more, they just might become better listeners. I hope so!

In friendship,

Annie

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , — Annie @ 3:51 pm
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