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.

Celebrating all forms of freedom and independence

July 4, 2013

Happy 237th Birthday, America. ( You don’t look a day over 200.)

Great risks reap great rewards

From the beginning we’ve been an experiment in democracy. But before we got our license to own and operate our own place, we teenage colonies had to break away from the mother country. (We’ll always love you, England. Sorry, we haven’t called in a while, but we’ve kinda busy here in the lab, electing our first African American president, passing the Affordable Health Care Act, getting rid of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, supporting Marriage Equality in 14 states, striking down DOMA, and passing an Immigration Reform bill through the Senate. Will you be around Monday night?)

Like I said, we’ve been swamped, but today, we’re taking a break to celebrate the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence. Let’s also offer a toast to independence of the more personal kind: the journey our children make toward adulthood and how we parents are transformed profoundly during our role as our kids’ teachers and mentors.

In case you can use a break from the bar-b-que, beer and fireworks, here’s a smorgasbord of posts focusing on personal freedom and power.

My kid is starting (kindergarten, middle school, high school, college, real life) YIKES!

Is your kid an independent thinker or a “Sheeple?

Sometimes a little less independence is a good thing

Declaring independence isn’t so easy for girls and their best friends

Teen girl’s road to independence goes through Victoria’s Secret

Freedom from a friendship “Loyalty Oath”

Graduating toward independence with a fashion statement that Mom hates

Kids just wanna be free

 

OK, I’m outta here. Enjoy your holiday weekend. Stay safe.

 

There's a party going on

 

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Independence Day reminder to parents: Kids just wanna be free

June 24, 2013

Flying free

It’s a bit early for 4th of July, but never too early to talk about independence, especially if you’ve got tweens or teens.

In my parenting workshops I often ask moms and dads: “What did you want more of from your parents?” Answers vary, but “independence” always tops the list along with “understanding” and “patience.” If that sounds familiar then you can understand why your kids probably want the same from you. Just like us, our kids are programmed to become independent.

The moment she emerges from the dark and narrow place, the infant begins exploring, compulsively gathering knowledge she’ll use on her journey. That journey is filled with unknowns and kids are easily overwhelmed. Since they must keep moving forward (the only direction Life goes), we offer reassurance: “You’re safe with me.” “I won’t let anything hurt you.” “Don’t worry. I’m here.” And we remain vigilant. Not because the world our kids inhabit is inherently evil or dangerous. It isn’t. We watch over them because our concern for their wellbeing is programmed into the deep recesses of our mammalian brain. We celebrate when they’re happy. We commiserate when they’ve experienced  loss. We fight for justice on their behalf. We do all within our power to keep away everything that is uncomfortable and unfortunate. Our kids aren’t even free to be bored!

Maybe we protect them too much.

Here’s where I make a pitch for a little old fashioned benign neglect, i.e., letting kids do things on their own with the real possibility of making mistakes and yes, even failing. Without benign neglect, 21st century kids don’t have a lot of independence to explore, get messy and mess up. Kids with over-functioning parents have trouble developing real self-esteem and self confidence. Without the freedom to experience frustration and (age-appropriate) risk-taking, tweens and teens miss major opportunities to process disappointment and build resilience.

Some questions to think about:

  • What’s the difference between a parent’s natural protectiveness and over-protectiveness?
  • On a 1-10 scale, how would you rate yourself as a parent? (1=I’m a totally hands-off parent, 10=I haven’t relaxed since the day my child was born!) Now ask your child to rate you. If there’s a wide discrepancy, talk about it.
  • In the past year, how has your child exhibited his or her growing independence? How have you responded?
  • How have you encouraged and helped your child become more independent?
  • In what ways might your fears (or the fears of your partner) be an obstacle to your child’s developing independence?

As our kids move toward young adulthood, maybe we should focus less on keeping them happy and more on helping them become independent thinkers with good judgment. In order to get there, they need ongoing opportunities to fly free.

Happy Birthday, America. Here’s to independence!

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