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.

It takes a real man to be a dad

May 28, 2013

Reliable+Strong+Gentle=Dad

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
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What my children taught me

May 26, 2011

Oh, what fun to be a mom!

Every year on my birthday my daughter and son each write me a thoughtfully worded letter expressing how they feel having me as their mother. Touched I read their acknowledgement of what I’ve taught them and how I’ve shaped them. Of course I blubber through it all. They think I cry because their words are so beautiful and I’m a sucker for sentiment (both true). But mostly I weep over the Bigger Picture of one generation doing its best to raise the level of humanity through the next. I read my kids’ letters and see myself doing what I do because I’m a parent, and like all parents, it’s what I’m here for. The eternal dance is awesome. How can I not cry?

Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations and weddings all offer opportunities to acknowledge parents. These messages of thanks are as important for children to articulate as they are for Mom and Dad to hear. But every relationship is a two-way street and we rarely hear expressions of gratitude flowing in the other direction. Which is why I want to take this time to thank my daughter and my son for some of the many things they’ve taught me.

My daughter has taught me that she is not me and that her way of doing things is not my way. Different doesn’t need fixing just because it’s different. From this lesson I’ve learned that other people have their own way of responding to the world. When I allow myself to be open-minded and respectful there is much I can learn from their ways. I can even change my way of doing things if someone else’s works better.

My son has taught me that it’s good sport and a great mental workout to explore all sides of an argument. From this I’ve learned that when you can understand someone else’s point of view well enough to take that side and advocate for it (even if you don’t necessarily agree with it) then you can learn some important things about the way others perceive the world… and how they perceive you!

My daughter has taught me that fun can be had in pretty much any situation. You just bring your imagination and your sense of play. From this I’ve learned you don’t need a reason to tweak the ordinary into the extraordinary or the outlandish. Weird is it’s own reward. If it amuses you and brings a smile, that’s reason enough. So why not?

My son has taught me that talking about people in unkind ways isn’t the best use of anyone’s time or intellect. It’s hurtful and habit-forming. From this I’ve learned to watch my mouth and remember that just because I’ve thought of something smart, sarcastic or clever doesn’t mean I need to say it.

My daughter has taught me that organizing your time and your life helps you do more of what you want. It also helps you feel good about what you’ve accomplished. From this I’ve learned that you don’t have to choose between being creative and being efficient. You can be efficiently creative. You can also be creative in your efficiency.

My son has taught me that listening is a skill worth developing. From this I’ve learned that most words are superficial. When you want people to take you seriously they’re more likely to do so when you listen more and talk less. Also when you do speak you should always come from a caring place.

My daughter has taught me that setting boundaries is a good thing. From this I’ve learned that telling other people what you need makes it more likely that you’ll get it. You’ll also find out sooner rather than later whether someone is willing and/or able to be the kind of friend you want. If not, lower your expectations and you won’t be disappointed.

My son has taught me that everyone deserves respect as does their time and their endeavors. From this I’ve learned that just because I’ve got something I want done now doesn’t mean that my desires are a top priority for everyone else. And so I’ve learned patience from this one too.

My daughter has taught me there is great satisfaction and sense of accomplishment from going outside your comfort zone physically and emotionally.

My son has taught me that staying calm is usually the first step to resolving an unexpected challenge.

My daughter has taught me that accesorizing is fun because if life is a stage then the body is a canvas.

My daughter and son have helped me realize that being their mom is truly an amazing honor. Like, the best. Thanks so much, guys. I am eternally grateful.

 

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Thanks, Dad.

June 7, 2010

My dad, Herman “Hy” Larris, died of a sudden heart attack when he was 50 and I was 15. I only had a child’s perspective of him. I knew him as Daddy, a man who loved his wife and three kids and worked hard to provide for us. He had a large extended family (more than 30 first cousins) and loved getting all of us together with them and their kids. My father was a man with a big laugh. He had a kind heart, apple cheeks and warm fleshy hands. He loved the beach, an occasional cigar, borscht, pickled herring, and my mom’s pot roast. He adored Broadway musicals. “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel was one of his favorite songs.

was his youngest child and his only daughter. As self-absorbed as I was (and believe me, I took self-absorption to gold medal heights), I couldn’t overlook the obvious – my dad got a lot of nachas (joy and pride, especially in one’s children) signing my straight-A report cards, watching me onstage and listening to me sing and play the piano. While I was growing up, he was my #1 fan. My eyes just filled with tears as I wrote that last sentence. I still miss him after 40 years.

I treasure my memories of my dad and I continue searching for new ones. I somehow believe I can make him more real by piecing together bits of other people’s stories and anecdotes. The family tree research I began a few years ago was motivated by a desire to reconnect with my father and to better understand the people he came from and the legacy I share with them.

With an eye toward legacies, I asked a bunch of close friends and relatives to send me recollections of what they learned from their parents. They sent me some wonderful comments. I posted life lessons from Mom in the May issue. Now it’s Dad’s turn.

My own dad taught me that a roll-with-the-punches attitude helps you keep your perspective when life throws you a curve ball. He used to tell a joke about a poor schnook who continued to laugh even though a series of terrible events had befallen him. An astonished friend asked, “With all that’s happened to you, why are you still laughing?” To which the schnook shrugged and replied, “What else am I going to do?”

Here is some wisdom from other dads:

  • Honesty, loving-kindness, sense of humor, respect for life, importance of family
  • Do your best and then don’t worry about it. You can’t do better than your best.
  • My dad was/is (at age 89) a worker bee and lives life to the fullest as he sees it. If challenged by a physical limitation he finds something to do to stay engaged and creative at all times! Though he wasn’t a man of many words, he balanced my mom by showing with his actions a positive way to work and be in the world.
  • Laughter, integrity, and the value of hard work
  • Be clear, fair, truthful and responsible.
  • Do those little things that often don’t require much more time or effort but which bring much joy into life: fresh flowers, a ripe pear.
  • Follow your dreams. He’d say “I don’t care if you’re a truck driver, as long as that’s really what you want to do”
  • My dad usually wasn’t around so I learned to handle things on my own. As I grew older, I found that he usually wasn’t very wise about life, however I could enjoy his company more because I learned to let him be.
  • David and daughter - Photographed by Annie Fox

  • Learn a little about everything and learn everything about something.
  • Happiness is much more important than money.
  • Possessions aren’t very important. You never want to be stuck because you have too much stuff.
  • “The greatest thing you will ever learn is just to love and be loved in return” This is a line is from the song “Nature Boy” My father often sang this song to his children. This notion of love and being loved was so much an integral part of my father that we engraved it on his tombstone.
  • Be kind, be generous. Don’t steal.
  • Unfortunately from my Dad I learned more about what not to be than any positive lessons. Don’t be too harsh with your children, supporting them emotionally is at least as important as anything financial. Show your family how much you value them, not how much you expect them to do for you.
  • Love the ones you love
  • Earn your own money to buy things – it builds character.
  • It’s ok to cry.
  • With construction, everything takes at least twice as long and costs at least twice as much as your highest estimate.
  • Do what you believe in and to hell with what others think. I used that philosophy to repel his constant pressure to be a good little clone and become what he wanted. I doubt he ever realized he’d given me the ammunition to repel his own attacks.
  • Sometimes patience is more valuable than untimely action that can actually do damage. Don’t just do something. Stand there!
  • Family is number one so give yourself selflessly to the support of your family, friends and community.
  • There is a time for being vulnerable and vulnerability isn’t weakness.

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A father’s love plays an invaluable part in the life of a son and daughter. My children have been blessed with a dad who never holds back encouragement, support or affection. David’s helped our daughter and our son become grounded, self-assured, and responsible young adults. As a fatherless daughter, let me tell you, it’s been a joy to witness his relationship with them. It has given me back something I missed.

When I think about my dad, a part of me feels disappointed that he never saw me and my brothers grow up, become parents and accomplished individuals. He would have been very proud of his children. I’m sorry he and my mom didn’t have more time together. When he died, she was left with a gaping hole in her heart that never really healed. As for me, I’m sad that I never got to say, “Thank you, Dad. You were exactly the kind of father I needed to become who I am.” But then, my dad’s spirit still guides me, so he knows.

Happy Father’s Day to you and yours. Dads, keep up the good work.


Filed under: Holidays,Parenting — Tags: , , , , , — Annie @ 6:10 pm
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Happy Dad’s Day

June 21, 2009

Don't worry. I've got you.

Don't worry. I've got you.

Any fool with sperm can be a father, but it takes a real man to be a dad.

Yesterday in Golden Gate Park, the place was swarming with them. From an outsider’s perspective the park dads were just hanging out with their daughters and sons. Nothing special. But what do outsiders know? Bupkis. Except for this blogger, who could plainly see that those dads were transmitting powerful messages to their kids:

You are good.

You are capable.

You are fun to be with.

You are worthy of love.

You have my heart and I’ve  got your back… always in all ways.

Obviously having a dad like that benefits a human being’s development. Multiply it by millions of dads and kids and we’re also looking at a tidy payoff for society.  Way to go, Dad!

Twenty years down the road, those messages will have infused themselves into the DNA of a new crop of parents. Think I’ll come back and take some more pictures.

Happy Dad’s Day to you and to the kids lucky enough to know you.

Boy and Dad

Girl and dad.

On our own... together

 

Young super hero and his dad

Surfer dudes

Filed under: Holidays,Parenting — Tags: , , — Annie @ 9:24 am
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