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.

Teens, Money, and Who Pays for What

January 26, 2015

I earned it, shouldn't I get to keep it all?

I earned it, shouldn’t I get to keep it all?

Most parents want their kids to understand how to manage money, but they don’t often provide their kids with an education in “money smarts. ” Most teens don’t really get it because whenever they need cash, their parents hand it over.  But what happens when a teen gets a part-time job? I recently heard from a 16 year old who just got his first job and is shocked and resentful to learn that his parents expect him to start covering some of his own expenses. Read on….

“… I have to pay for my $200 contact lenses if I want to keep wearing. And they are going to charge me for gas and stuff. Geez! I don’t even know how much I’m making yet and they’re already making me go broke talking about ‘Welcome to the real world!” I am not 18 yet so they shouldn’t treat me like it or I’m going to act 18. Let me continue being 16 and having a childhood. What ticked me off the most is them talking about saving and budget. HOW? paying two bills and $200 contacts?  I get a job and all of a sudden you guys don’t take care of me any more? My mind is heavy and I don’t know what to do.”

Heavy Mind

Dear Heavy,

Part of the problem is your assumption that “No way should I have to pay for any of my expenses!” Obviously your parents have a different point of view. You are 16 and I’m pretty sure you don’t appreciate being treating like a child, yet, when it comes to contributing to your own expenses, you do want to be treated like a child.( “Let me continue being 16 and having a childhood… “)

You’re going to have to calm down before you talk with your parents. Sounds a little weird to have to be calm to talk about what is upsetting you, but calmness is key if you want them to hear you.

Follow these steps…
1. Find out exactly how much you will be taking home from your job each month. (That’s different from what you earn since taxes are taken out of paychecks).

2. Make a list of all the expenses your parents want you to be responsible for (contact lenses, gas, “stuff”) and add them up. What does the math tell you? Can you afford to pay for your contact lenses and your gas, etc. or not?

3. Meet with your parents. You might say something like this, “I’ve been thinking about what I can do to help pay for some of my expenses. I’ve written down how much I will be earning each month and how much the contacts and the gas cost each month. Here are the numbers.”

4. Show them the math.

5. Then you might say, “I want to contribute some of what I earn to pay my expenses, but I would also like to have some left over for spending money (so I don’t have to ask you for any) and also for saving. What do you think is a fair monthly contribution that I should make to my expenses?”

6. Close your mouth and listen to what they say.

Good luck!

In friendship,

Annie

Heavy:  Thanks. I’ll give it a try 🙂

To be continued…

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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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Back to School: Shifting gears without too much grinding

July 29, 2013

Hey dude. Welcome back.

During the school year The Routine keeps the family on a short leash, jolting us into each day: “Get up or you’ll be late! Quit hogging the bathroom! Quit texting and finish your breakfast! Where’s your homework? Don’t forget your cleats! Get going!!”

Then summer comes. We exhale. We’re off leash. The voice inside our head takes a vacation and happily forgets to write. We feel free. And it dawns on us that, yes, we are human beings, not machines.

Hopefully every adult and child in your family had some special time during the break. Time together for fun and bonding. Time on alone for fun and self-discovery.

Now’s the time to get back in gear. It’s an adjustment for everyone. But for some kids going back to school is a real challenge, especially if last year wasn’t memorable in a good way. Maybe there was a personality clash with a “difficult” teacher. Or the (home)work repeatedly overwhelmed brain and emotions. Maybe there were issues with friends or ex-friends that made school a battlefield. If any of this happened to your kids, not surprising they don’t want to go back. But go they must.

So your job is to make it easier. Call a family meeting to debrief from last school year. Because let’s face it, not everything you and your kids did last term is worth replaying. It’s probably safe to say that a lot of what went down ought to be avoided. NOTE: I’m not implying that all the social garbage and arguments were intentional or avoidable, but I do know this:

1. It takes one person to start an argument. But it takes two people to keep it going.

2. Doing nothing in the face of a bad situation typically encourages more of the same.

3. People aren’t mind-readers. You’ve gotta tell them how you feel and actively teach them how to treat you.

4. Pain is part of life.

5. Suffering (blaming, feeling sorry for yourself, and/or rehashing) are optional.

So gather the troops for a safe and open conversation about what you each did (at home, at school, and online) that worked well last year and what didn’t. This may take 30 minutes, give or take, so schedule accordingly. If you blow off the family meeting rules (no interrupting, no invalidating, etc.)  it’ll take longer and accomplish much less. More tips for a successful family meeting:

  • Turn off all digital devices.
  • Insist on respectful listening. Model it too.
  • Bring snacks.
  • Appoint a “secretary” to record new family agreements and policy. That way later, no one can get away with “I/You never said that!”
  • Meet together regularly for progress reports. Celebrate what’s working. Tweak what isn’t.

Working together, as a family, you can contribute to a better school year for your kids and yourself. Good luck!

In friendship,

Annie

PS I’ll be writing more about Back-to-School challenges in the coming days. Stay tuned.

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 1:35 pm
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“Quit kvetching!” Tips for getting teens to stop complaining

January 23, 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.

... because it's not helping

Do you know the Yiddish verb, to kvetch? On the surface it simply means: to complain. As in, “Just get your homework done and stop kvetching already.” But actually, kvetching goes beyond complaining into the realm of eternal dissatisfaction where nothing is ever good enough and it becomes one’s mission in life to let everyone know exactly where and why things don’t measure up.

No one is a happy camper all the time. It’s not realistic to expect to be and it’s certainly not a requirement. And yet we keep on expecting it, don’t we? Especially those of us fortunate enough to live pretty well. When reality doesn’t meet our impossible standards we may not be able to keep our mouth shut. Of course, speaking up can be the first step toward positive change. It can also help build self-respect and healthier relationships. Which is why, when a teen bitterly complains to me about a friend who isn’t acting like one, I counsel the teen to go on record and tell the friend, “This isn’t OK and here’s why.”

What’s the alternative? Staying silent? That’s not likely to improve a relationship. So, yes, sometimes we need to complain.

But what do you do if your child constantly complains?

  • “That’s stupid!”
  • “This isn’t what I wanted!”
  • “You can’t make me!”
  • “That’s unfair!”
  • “This sucks!”

What if your child’s negative attitude permeates everything?

I realize that finding fault may be an essential part of becoming a young adult. Unlike little kids who try to emulate their godlike parents, t(w)eens have begun the hard work of establishing their own unique identity, as different from us parents as imaginable. Teen negativity is often a display of independence, plain and simple. This may help us understand where it’s coming from, even though it doesn’t make the attitude any more fun to be around.

If your kid has gotten into the habit of grousing s/he may outgrow it. (We can always hope!) But hope isn’t an especially effective parenting strategy and a negative attitude can pollute your family life. Rather than lashing out in frustration or suffering silently, I suggest a direct intervention that will, at the very least, give your child insight into what it’s like to live with constant griping. I tackle the issue  in my book Teaching Kids to Be Good People. This brief synopsis offers some tips on how to start turning around a negative attitude:

Conversation That Counts

Some complaints are helpful; some aren’t. Discuss with your child the concept of complaining. Point out that some complaints are helpful. (“The roof is leaking on my head.” “We’re out of toothpaste again.”) These can become action points. Other types of complaints aren’t intended to be helpful. They’re simply a chance to vent or to blame.  (“This assignment is boring!” “Why did I get her for a sister?” “You kids never do anything right!”)

Reverse role-play. Tell your child that you’re going to “act out” one (unhelpful) complaint that you regularly hear from him/her. Be realistic in your dramatization, but not unkind. Remember you’re trying to teach, not wound. Now ask your child to act out an unhelpful complaint s/he regularly hears from you. (Yes, this lesson is a two-way street.)

How bad is the habit we’ve gotten into? Discuss the regular grumbling and whining amongst family members that aren’t meant to be helpful. What impact does it have? What might family life be different if there were less complaining?

Make a change. Challenge each family member to catch him/herself (not anyone else) in the act of complaining and try one of these responses instead:

a) Communicate directly about what needs to be done.

b) Skip the complaint and do some or all of what needs to be done (on your own).

c) Change what you can change and change your attitude about the rest.

Call another family meeting in a week to report on the progress everyone has made in creating a more cooperative atmosphere. We’re into a new year. How about working together to keep moving in a positive direction? It’s worth a try.

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