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.

“I try to tell my best friend I don’t want her help, but she gets mad.”

January 5, 2018

Twenty years ago I set up shop as Hey Terra at TheInSite.org to help teens manage their emotions responsibly so they can develop self-respect and maintain healthier relationships. 50K teen emails later, the most common question I get is still about the challenges of dealing with feelings and speaking up for oneself in a friendship.

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I know exactly what you need!

Our kids don’t know how to  resolve peer conflicts non-violently. Retaliating with social garbage is a form of violence. Suffering silently is a form of self-inflicted violence. If teens can’t master interpersonal skills, it doesn’t matter how high their GPA is, they’re not going to be happy and successful in any measure that counts.

Teen email question #50,001:

Hey Terra,

I’ve never really trusted my best friend with my secrets because she always blurts them out even if she promises she won’t. Recently a boy has been messaging me and telling me that he likes me. Of course went to my best friend and told her. She asked if I liked him. I said I did. That was a mistake! She told my other friends who I really didn’t want to know because they gossip. Now my best friend is messaging the boy and telling him everything I’ve said about him.

“I’m not really one that stands up for myself cause I don’t want to make other people mad at me. So, sticking up for myself is not really an option here. I know I sound pathetic but I can’t help it.”

Anyways, she keeps saying, “He really likes you!” and it’s making me feel bad because I now realize now that I just want to be friends with him. I’ve told him I don’t want a relationship with him right now and that we are just friends. He’s okay with that but now that my best friend is messaging him he’s like “When will you be ready to date???” I know she is telling him to say this stuff.

I’ve tried to tell her that I’m not really into him any more but she gets mad and is like, “You are so annoying! If I had a chance like this I wouldn’t pass it up, so if you do we won’t be friends anymore.”

I know any person would stick up for themselves but I physically can’t. She will get mad at me and I really don’t want to lose her as a friend. She is my comfort zone we’ve been friends forever. I have other friends but if me and my best friend aren’t friends anymore she will turn them all against me and I’ll have nobody.

I guess what I’m really asking is: What should I say to my friend to make her not be mad if I “breakup” with this boy…? – Scared

Dear Scared,

I understand why you’re scared. Most people would be a little nervous to have a conversation like this. But I don’t buy that you can’t do it. You can. And you really ought to learn how. Slow deep breaths can help make you feel calmer and braver. So does practicing what you want to say before you’re standing in front of the person who needs to hear it.

As scary as talking to your friend may be, it’s important to do it any way. Why? Because if you don’t learn to how to tell people what is and is not okay with you, then you will continue to feel powerless. But if you speak up when someone’s not treating you well, you are much more likely to be respected. And for sure, you’ll have more respect for yourself.

Your friend may mean well or she may just like to be in charge… of everything. Either way, this is your life, not hers. You say if you stick up for yourself she will get mad at you and you’ll risk losing her as a friend. That’s a possibility. But before you decide that is not a risk you ever want to take, please answer this question: What is your definition of a friend?

In your mind, is a best friend someone:

  • I can’t trust with my secrets because she “always blurts them out even if she promises she won’t?”
  • who texts a guy and tells him “everything I’ve said about him?”
  • who blabs my business to other people?
  • who doesn’t seem to care what I want (in this case: no romantic relationship with this boy)
  • who keeps pushing forward as a matchmaker when I don’t want her to?
  • who doesn’t listen to what I say and tells me that I am “so annoying” for wanting to decide when I want to date someone or even if I want a boyfriend at this time in my life?

If your definition includes any or all of the above, you’ve got the perfect best friend. If not, maybe it’s time to reimagine what kind of friend would be a better fit for you.

I hope this helps!

In friendship,
Terra

P.S. Happy New Year. May 2018 bring you many opportunities to shine your light.

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A question of broken trust

March 28, 2017

At 36% approval rating, Trump is at a historic low for a POTUS in office less than 100 days. People don’t trust the guy, for lots of good reasons. Consequently, I’ve been focused for months on what’s going on in our government. Blogging about anything but politics feels less important than being part of the resistance. Of course, I’m still responding daily to teen email from around the world, as I’ve done for the past 20 years. For teens, there are no political crises. What threatens a teen’s world is an upended peer relationship. Nothing catastrophic on a national or global scale, but still deserving of compassion and attention.

Like this one:

Without trust all sense of safety is gone.

Without trust all sense of safety is gone.

Teen: I used to be friends with these boys until I started bullying them. I’d make fun of them everyday, move their stuff, occasionally resort to violence. I did it to feel in control. I don’t do it any more and I want to be friends with them again. My best friend is now friends with them and I’m jealous. One of the boys ignores me and sometimes says rude things to me. On one hand I did the same sort of thing to him, but on the other hand, I hate it and I don’t want him to end up being mean to everybody, because of how I treated him.

I’m probably overthinking this because I always overthink everything. Can you give  me any advice?

Annie: You’re not “overthinking” it. This demands a lot of thinking, so I’m proud of you for putting in the time and for reaching out for advice. I’m also impressed that you stopped harassing these boys. What made you stop?

Teen: Because I lost my best friend. He was the only male friend I’ve ever had who really understood me, so when we stopped being friends I started to think about what I was doing and what I hoped to achieve through putting others down and bullying them.

Annie: Have you apologized to each of them?

Teen: Yes, except for the one who ignores me/is mean to me. I don’t really know what to say to him. I feel like even if I did apologize to him, it wouldn’t make a difference.

Annie: Here’s what I know about apologies: for the hurt person to truly let go of those hurt feelings, you (the hurter) need to dig deep. “I’m sorry” is a start, but maybe not enough, depending on what you did. The boy who “ignores” you does not trust you. And you can understand why. You can’t trust someone who bullies you, so you don’t feel safe around them. You don’t believe their words. You can’t count on them, as a real friend. Trust is the key to all healthy relationships (friendships and romantic relationships). The question is: How do you regain someone’s trust after you’ve betrayed him? Think about it this way, if the situation were reversed, what would you need in addition to an apology?

If a friend had been harassing you, what would you need in addition to “I’m sorry”? What would it take for you to trust him and feel 100% safe with him again?

Teen: I’m not sure to be honest. They’d need to prove they were trustworthy and weren’t just going to start the bullying again.

Annie: I agree. Someone who betrays a friend needs to “prove” they are trustworthy and not just apologizing only to start the harassment again.

Teen: But don’t boys think extremely differently? I don’t know if any of them think about when I bullied them. I don’t even know if any of them want to be friends again. What if they’ve just forgotten about it completely and I’m just overreacting?

Annie: I don’t believe that boys think “extremely differently” when it comes to friendship and trust. Some boys may show their feelings differently than some girls. Boys may not talk about the “bully” behind his/her back, the way girls tend to do. But when trust is broken, boys are not likely to “just forget.” Humans have very long memories, and for a good reason. If you are punched and kicked by a close friend and you “forget” and continue the friendship, it’s very likely you will be punched and kicked again… or worse. No, boys don’t “forget.” But they may pretend that it doesn’t bother them.

You said something important… a friend who bullies need to “prove” that it’s never going to happen again. Your goal, moving forward, is to figure out how to prove you’re truly sorry and that you are someone who can be trusted 100%. HINT: We prove things by our behavior.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

 

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