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.

Bad friend vs. No friend

May 14, 2016

When I hear from smart, capable girls who continue to hang out with people who treat them badly, my brain itches. Why would a person with so much going for her put up with rudeness, contempt, and overall disrespect… from anyone? Especially from a so-called friend?! What’s up with that?

To all you parents and teachers who’ve wondered the same thing, this one’s for you:

 

Where do I fit in?

Where do I fit in?

Hey Terra,

I’ve always been nervous and anxious in social situations, so I’ve never had many friends. Each time I made one, I’d be so happy. Then, after a while, when those friends ignored me, it hurt, but I didn’t let it get to me.

This year I made a friend who let me open up and be less shy. Finally I had a best friend who thought of me as one as well. Everything was great until my best friend developed a crush on a boy. I’ll be talking to her and in the middle of whatever I’m saying she runs off looking for him.

It made me angry, but I thought I was being jealous or selfish. I did that to try to blame  myself because I didn’t want to lose my first best friend. Then she became friends with two other girls. She’d still talk to me, but after a while, she’d bail on me while walking to the lunch room because she wants to sit with her new friends. She doesn’t care if I come or not. Sometimes during lunch, out of loneliness, I sit with them even though they all ignore me. I just sit there.

Recently during recess me and my friend were having a great conversation, laughing and all, until one of her new friends interrupted us and my friend completely ignored me to talk to them for for the rest of the recess.

Please help me Terra. The way my friend treats me makes me not want to be her friend at all. I’d rather be alone then ignored…

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You’re a smart girl. You don’t need me to tell you your friend’s behavior is rude. You already know that. But do you need me to tell you that you deserve better? Do you need me to tell you that even “out of loneliness” it isn’t helpful (or healthy) for you to sit with them during lunch only to be “ignored?”

You think because you have, in the past, been “nervous and anxious” in social situations that you do not deserve to be appreciated and treasured by your friends? That’s ridiculous! Of course, you deserve it!! As you say, “I’d rather be alone than ignored…” I agree with that statement. 100%!

Being on your own at lunch (with a great book) would be a much better choice than hanging out with people who make you feel “less than.” Books are always good friends. So is a journal. (Something in the way you express yourself tells me you might be a writer.)

If reading or writing in a journal doesn’t sound like something you want to do at lunch, here’s another option: Look around the lunch room. Who is sitting alone? Who is being ignored? What would it take for you to walk away from rudeness and walk toward a potential new friendship?

Be smart. Be brave. Go for it! You deserve good friends and you can have them.

In friendship,
Terra

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Moms helping daughters with friendship issues

November 7, 2015

We've got the tools and we're brave enough to use 'em!

We’ve got the tools and we’re brave enough to use ’em!

Last month I began partnering with the Girl Scouts of Northern California by presenting my  Girls Friendship without the Drama Workshops.  In the first hour I teach girls to navigate all kinds of sticky peer conflicts while the moms (and the few cool dads who’ve shown up) sit back, listen and observe. During the second hour the girls skedaddle into another room where they engage in more (supervised) friendship-building skills while the parents and I circle the wagons and get to the heart of what girls need from those of us who love them.

To date I’ve done nine of these workshops with another seven scheduled. Girls can’t wait to start using what they’ve learned. Moms are reminded how painful it can be feel “replaced” by a friend. Dads are stunned at how hard it is for girls to tell a friend, “Stop. I don’t like that.” Parents are thrilled to have new insight, language, and context to help their daughters do a better job navigating friendships.

Here are some tips to help you help your daughters and sons resolve the inevitable issues that come up between our kids and their peers.

Dealing with Friendship Challenges

  • Calm Down. No matter what awful thing some child has done to your daughter or son, calming down first makes it easier to get through the upset. So take some slow deep breaths and encourage your child to do the same.
  • Show that you get it. Acknowledge that it hurts when a friend turns against you. Reflect back what you hear, “You sound really hurt, angry, and confused.” Share one of your own “hurt by a friend” stories. Share what you learned and how you used it to become a more thoughtful person and a better friend. This models empathy and reassures your child that (s)he will survive.
  • What Can/Can’t You Control? Tell your child,You can’t control a friend’s behavior or feelings, but you can get a handle on your own.” When we try to control things we can’t control, it stresses us out and makes us feel powerless. Don’t let your kid go there!
  • You’ve got options! Even after a blow-up with a bff, your child is  far from powerless. She always has options. For example, your child might:
    • Never talk to that friend again
    • Get back at her by spreading gossip
    • Suppress the hurt and act like it didn’t bother you
    • Find new friends

Brainstorming should be open-ended. Encourage your child to freely explore ideas without your judging them. They’re just ideas and this is a clearing process. Even the worst, knee-jerk options offer great (and totally safe) learning opportunities. In addition, you’ll give your child a gift by talking about all of this. When s/he doesn’t have to worry about your rushing in to “fix” the problem, your child’s thinking process will be accelerated. Hopefully, she’ll move closer to the time when she no longer accepts disrespectful behavior from anyone, including herself!

At the end of the process your child may decide to take a vacation from the drama or to find the EXIT out of the friendship. That’s her choice. But just because she’s finished, doesn’t mean she has the right to make life unhappy for an ex-friend. I put it is this way: You have the right to choose your friends, but it’s NEVER okay to be cruel or disrespectful. Keep your distance if you choose, but always treat others the way you want to be treated. Old rule. Still applies.

 

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We kids need to know about friendship… Part 2

October 31, 2011

This is part two of my series on Friendship Q & A with kids. Today I’ll focus on specific friendship problems caused by ineffective communication (which includes no communication at all!) Part 1 of the series, which started last week, deals with general questions about friendship. All of the questions in this series came to me from a group of 4th-8th graders. Enjoy the exchange and please use them as discussion drivers with your own children and/or students.

 

Friendship can feel like a struggle for control

1. “My bff is super sensitive and sometimes when I’m not trying to be mean to her, it comes across mean and I’m trying to not do that but it’s hard because she’s more sensitive than me. So I’m wondering how to avoid hurting her feelings.”

Good communication is often a challenge… and not just for kids! From time to time even the most intelligent adults have trouble in this area too.  You have probably already noticed that words are powerful. They can be used for helping or hurting. For example, by choosing the right words, you can encourage someone when they’re ready to give up. With just your words, you can calm someone who’s upset.  You can use words to share your enthusiasm and to show love and appreciation. Positive words are truly amazing!

On the other hand, words can hold negative power and sometimes what we say and the way we say it hurts people. That can happen when we’re angry and purposely using words to try to “get back at” someone for something they’ve done to us. Or something we think they’ve done. But sometimes, even without trying to hurt anyone… without trying to “be mean,” our words can hurt people anyway.

You’ve asked a great question and I’m really proud of you for wanting to “avoid hurting” your bff’s feelings. With people who are “super sensitive” it pays to be super careful choosing your words, your tone of voice and your attitude. And you can do that! The other thing you can do is to talk to your friend about this situation. You might say, “You know how sometimes I say something, without trying to be mean, and your feelings get hurt? I feel really bad when that happens. What can we change so that doesn’t happen as much?”

When friends can talk to each other about misunderstandings they end up with all-around better communication. When you’ve got that, there’s a good chance both friends will do a better job taking care of the friendship.

2. “My friend does this thing when he’s done talking and I start to talk but then he starts to talk when I’m in the middle of my sentence. I can’t talk. What can I do?”

Sometimes people get so excited about what they want to say, they interrupt other people. When it happens once in a while it’s not a big deal. But it sounds like this happens to you often with this friend. It also sounds like maybe you haven’t yet talked to him about it.

You are your friend’s teacher. Sounds strange, but it’s true. We teach our friends how we want to be treated. If, for example, you keep quiet when your friend cuts you off in the middle of your sentence, then you are “teaching” him that it’s OK to do that. I know you don’t like it, but if you don’t speak up, he thinks you don’t mind. So… what you need to do is teach him that you don’t appreciate his cutting you off that way. You don’t have to make a big deal about it. You just need to say something like this, “Sometimes when I’m talking, you start to talk right in the middle of my sentence. That bothers me.” Then close your mouth and LISTEN to what he has to say about it. My guess is that he probably not aware of this habit he’s gotten into. So all you have to say is, “If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll just let you know next time it happens.” And make sure that you do just that!

Oh, and one more thing… be cool. If you jump on the guy and get angry with him, as in “There! You see!? You’re doing it again!!” You’ll probably end up creating a lot of stress in the friendship. Instead, the next time he does it (after you two have talked about it) just put up your hand and say “Hold on. Let me first finish what I was saying.” That ought to fix the problem.

3. “What do you do when you and your friend had a fight and you want to make up but you don’t know what to say?”

Friends have fights and people get angry. But if friends value the friendship, they’ll cool off after a while and agree to talk about what happened. That’s called Making the Peace. It takes two people to have an argument and it takes both of them to work together to get to the bottom of the disagreement. Sometimes it’s hard to say “I’m sorry.” Sometimes saying, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. The first step in Making the Peace is to come together and talk, calmly and respectfully to each other (not about each other behind his/her back). Give each person a chance to tell his/her side of the story. When Friend A is talking, Friend B gets to LISTEN. No interrupting No correcting. No eye-rolling. No texting! When Friend B tells their side of the story, Friend A just LISTENS.  Learn what the other person was thinking and feeling during the fight. Figure out a way to handle things differently the next time. You can do it!

The following two questions are so similar so I put them together in my answer.

4. “What should you do when your best friend ignores you?”

5. “If one of my best friends is mad and nothing is making him happy and he won’t talk to me to make it better, what do I do?”

It’s very difficult for two people to communicate effectively if one person isn’t talking. Two friends can’t get to the bottom of the problem or work on it together if one person has shut out the other one. Maybe writing an email or an old-fashioned letter would help in both of these situations. The message would be simple and straight forward: “What has happened to our friendship? I want to talk to you about it.”

If you don’t get an answer, then maybe it’s time to take a vacation from the drama of this friendship. Instead, of stressing out about getting the silent treatment, reach out to other friends and/or try to make some new ones. Real friends don’t ignore each other and don’t shut off communication when they’re mad. You deserve to be with friends who treat you like a real friend.

 

 

 

 

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