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.

Mom, why are you being such a B#$@%?!

December 4, 2013

Lots going on this time of year. (Props for taking time to read a blog.) We feel pressure to make the holidays “perfect.” Pressure to spend. Pressure to save. Pressure to get the kids to behave. We all have moments when we trade “nice” for B#$@%. We’re human and we get stressed. But when we show more Beast than Loving Parent, we are damaging our children. That’s a problem that keeps making problems. The good news? We are key to the solution.

The following article is an excerpt from my book: Teaching Kids to Be Good People (If you’re interested, it’s 50% off for the holidays Code 3MZQS83F)

I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Simmons the Wise for my podcast series. We talked about her book The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. We also discussed how often parents engage in meta-conversations with their children (i.e., parent says one thing and an unspoken message churns just below the surface).

With all that doublespeak how can a t(w)een learn to be authentic and express the truth of her heart? Not very easily. And it isn’t just parents and daughters. As Rachel put it, no matter who you’re talking to or what relationship you’ve got, “there’s always a meta-conversation going on.”

Parent: Oh, you’re still playing that game.
Meta-message: I just know you won’t get your homework
done tonight and then what? You think I like being on your case? Well, I don’t! But if I don’t keep after you how are you ever going to get into a decent college?
Mini meta-message: You’re lazy and I’m disappointed in you.


Parent: Don’t you think your other jeans would look better with that top?
Meta-message: Those jeans are too tight and too low cut. They make you look fat and slutty. What will Grandma say when she sees you wearing that? She’s going to think I’m a terrible mother to let you dress that way!
Mini meta-message: You’re fat and you embarrass me.


Parent: How’s your buddy Ryan these days?
Meta-message: Are you two still friends? Did something
happen between you? Are you now hanging out with people I should be worried about? (Sigh) You and I used to be able to talk about stuff. Now you don’t tell me anything. What else are you hiding from me? Maybe I don’t even want to know!
Mini meta-message: You’re disloyal and untrustworthy.


I’ve been thinking about meta-messages and how I use them. Whether they’re conscious or not, communication patterns between people often determine who we like to hang out with and who doesn’t make our FAVS list.

Josie 2009-2012

During the holidays a few years back, Josie and I snuck out of the house before anyone else was up. Because she was still full of puppy beans and needed her off-leash time, we headed for the nearby hills. She instantly vanished through the trees tracking deer and squirrels and nosing the underbrush for ticks thumbing a ride. While she was gone I walked on, enjoying the quiet light and the colors. Every so often I’d whistle for Josie and she’d reappear, sometimes from behind me on the trail, sometimes way ahead. We’d smile at each other and wag our tails. “Yes! Good dog!” Then I’d give her a treat. After each reunion she’d take off again and I continued hiking.


So it went for an hour. When I finally put her back on leash I thought about the meta-conversation we had and why Josie happily kept returning to me. The way I figure, it comes down to this . . . each of us, dog and human, prefers to hang with those who tell us we are good dogs.

It also helps if they give us treats.
We’re in the darkest days of the year, so how about lightening up? Catch someone you love in the act of doing something right. Drop the meta-messages and smile.


For Teens: Why did I get her for a sister?!

April 19, 2009

Give it back, you little #@#$%!

Give it back, you little #@#$%!

I’ve grew up with two older brothers. I’ve still got ’em (which is a good thing) though obviously we don’t live together any more. And while the three of us are good friends now, I’d be totally lying if I said that when we were kids we always treated each other with kindness and respect. Not even close! There was a lot of arguing and fighting amongst us. Sometimes it got really loud and physical. Being the youngest and the only girl (and a very emotional one at that) I often felt angry and frustrated because Brother #2, The Master Tease, could instantly make me cry at any time. I hated that he was so good at pushing my buttons!

Thankfully we outgrew whatever nuttiness caused us to treat each other that way. So if you’re having problems with an annoying, bossy, mean or insulting brother or sister there’s hope that in the future things between you will be better.

But what can you do now if you and your sibling don’t get along with? That’s pretty much the email question I got today from this teen:

Hey Terra,

My older sister is very mean to me and I wonder why. She has ignored me so many times or mumbled something about me under her breathe. Once she threatened to push me down the steps. And when I sit beside her, she slides farther away from me. I don’t know why she treats me like this. I don’t even do ANYTHING mean or wrong to her! I would admit it if I did because that’s just how mature I am. I mean, she can treat me like this for the rest of our lives because I don’t care. I’m not close to her anymore. What is her problem with me? Why does she treat me this way?

Fed Up with Her

Dear Fed Up,

Your sister is the only one who can answer your question “Why do you treat me this way?” Have you thought of asking her? I want to warn you about a couple of things before you have this conversation…

Choose the where and when of this conversation wisely…
If your sister is with a friend or in the middle of something that’s taking all her attention or if she’s in a bad mood, that would NOT be a great time to have this kind of talk with her. My advice here would be to find a time when the two of you have some privacy and things between you are relatively calm. So, be smart when you pick the time and place.

Choose your tone of voice and your attitude wisely. If you come into a conversation in attack mode: “Why do you ALWAYS act so mean to me?!” “How come you’re NEVER nice to me?!” that’s going to put her on the defensive. And you two will probably not have a good conversation. Instead, stay calm, be respectful, and be honest about your feelings. You might say something like this, “You know, I was just thinking about the good times we used to have together… when we were younger. We always got along and I really loved having you as my big sister. And then, it’s like something changed but I’m not sure what. Have you felt that too? “

Then CLOSE your mouth and LISTEN to what she has to say. Don’t interrupt her. Don’t correct anything she says. Just be there and listen.

You see, this isn’t just about “Why does she treat me this way?” That would only concern her behavior. The real question you want the answer to is: “How did the two of us let our close relationship get to this point?” Both of you contributed to the slippage. The good news is that when you get that every relationship is a 2-way street then you can see that both people have a contribution to make in keeping it healthy.

You took the first step by writing to me. That was really honest and brave. Now the next step is for you to talk with your sister in the calm, private and respectful way I’ve suggested. Good luck!

In friendship,

It’s not realistic to think that brothers and sisters are going to get along all the time. That’s just not going to happen! But more peace and less fighting is a reasonable goal. What have you tried so far to make the peace with your sibling(s)? If you haven’t tried anything what’s stopping you from trying? If you’ve made an effort, what has worked? What hasn’t worked? Post your comments here.

Filed under: Teens,Tips — Tags: , , — Annie @ 5:52 pm
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