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.

Complaining vs Making it Better in 2015

January 7, 2015

"This is yuck. Make me something else!!"

“Why did you make this for dinner!”

When children reach a certain age, they will, if we’ve encouraged them to do so, voice their opinions. That’s very healthy and should be encouraged. But sometimes this opinion-sharing turns into a constant barrage of complaints. That can pollute family life. So tell the truth, do your kids complain a lot?

Some folks look at protestors as “complainers.” I disagree. The goal of well-intentioned protestors is to work for more equality, justice, safety, and sanity in the world.  All good things, right? That’s why we need our protestors and should join them whenever we feel the urge to support a cause. Complainers, on the other hand, are typically motivated by ego and jealousy.  We don’t need more of that.

The following is an excerpt from my book Teaching Kids To Be Good People. If you’d like less complaining from your kids this year, read on…

 There is an important concept at the foundation of Jewish tradition known as tikkun olam (repairing the world). It refers to going out of one’s way to make things better for others. Good people are doers, repairers of the world. Complainers have a lot of negative things to say, but they are rarely people of positive action. Making our children more aware of complaining vs. helping encourages them to do good.page171image11880

Fuel for Thought—When you personally feel something isn’t OK, how do you usually respond? Are you more likely to take direct action or complain? Remember that you are modeling for your children the behavior you want to see in them. Think about the people you know who are (or were) “complainers”? What is it like to be with those people? How is your mood and attitude affected by being around a complainer vs. someone who addresses problems with a positive attitude?

Conversations That Count—Talk with your child about the amount of complaining in the family. (No need to single out any individual, because we all do it at times.) Some complaints point to things can be changed. but most complaints aren’t helpful because they refer to situations that can’t be changed. (“This math assignment is too long!” “Why did I get her for a sister?”) Ask your child to “play back” complaints s/he regularly hears from you. Then you play back complaints you regularly hear from your child. (It’s fine to get silly. Humor is a great way to make it easier to speak the truth.) How much of the grumbling and whining amongst family members has become a bad habit with no real intention toward making things better? What might the family do about that?

Teach—Assuming everyone wants less complaining/nagging, challenge each member of the family to catch himself/ herself (not anyone else) in the act of complaining. Instead of complaining about someone or something:

  1. Communicate directly about what needs to be done.
  2. Skip the complaining, and do some or all of whatneeds to be done (on your own).
  3. Change what you can change, and change yourattitude about the rest.

Have a family meeting next week to discuss the progress the whole family has made in creating a more positive atmosphere.

As always, your comments are warmly welcomed on this blog. Happy New Year!

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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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Day 17: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Beyond Shut Up and Listen to Me)

October 17, 2013

Just shut up. No, YOU shut up!

So the US government shut-down is over and the default crisis has been diverted with seconds to spare. Cool cool cool.

This isn’t a political post so no worries. Today, I’m neutral. Really. I don’t care which side of the river you pitch your tent. I only care about teaching kids to be good people, and that includes treating other people with respect. We all remember respect, right? The fine art of  listening with an open heart and mind even when you don’t agree with what the other guy is saying. Even when listening to him or her makes your head explode.

What we all witnessed going down on Capitol Hill these past few weeks provides a great opportunity to talk to kids about compromise. When the kids in your life engage in a dispute on the playing field or a heated discussion in the classroom, what do they do? How do they typically behave when they’re locked in a disagreement with you or siblings or friends?

The slog has cleared in Washington and it’s a great time to have conversations, at home and at school, about getting along with other people. First you might start by asking yourself two simple questions:

  • “How well do my kids perform when it comes to calming down and putting in the time and effort to understand the other guy’s or girl’s point of view?
  • “In what ways could I do a better job helping my kids work together to move respectfully through a conflict to a compromise that serves the greater good (of the family, the team, the class)?”

Now that you’ve got something to think about, take the concepts out of your head and bring them into the real world of kids and the challenge of getting along with people. Talk to your children about resolving conflicts (online and off). Find out which of their approaches work well and which ones not so much. Make sure the discussion remains open and safe with all opinions respectfully listened to.

Oh, and don’t forget to model what you teach. For example, when your kids disagree with you and dig in their heels, how do you typically respond?

As always, your comments are valued and respected.

 

Check out Day 18 of the Kindness and Respect Challenge

 

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