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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.

Day 23: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Standing up for the underdog)

October 23, 2013

I seriously need a friend.

Kids and teens can view of themselves as powerless in a world where adults call all the shots. But that’s not the whole story. Kids have power. And every day, your children and mine get opportunities to use that power to do good or to do harm. Sometimes, turning a blind eye and choosing to do nothing results in more harm.

If we, truly value kindness and appreciate it when it comes our way, we can’t ignore suffering. We’ve got to do our part to keep kindness alive… every chance we get. And we’ve got to teach our kids to be kind. But how?

Child or adult, it takes extra social courage to exit our comfort zone and to help a vulnerable person. When kids ask me about standing up for someone who is being harassed, I tell them they should never put themselves directly in harm’s way. But I make it clear that there are many ways to help an underdog and let him or her know: “I’m not like the others who are giving you a hard time. I’m here to help.”

Fuel for Thought (for adults) —At different times we have all been underdog, top dog, and middle of the pack dog, so we know what it feels in each of those places. Being on the bottom, without support, can be terribly lonely. Think about a time when you felt like an underdog. Where did you turn for support? What response did you get?  Think of a time when you helped an underdog. What happened?

Conversations That Count (with kids)– Talk about the concept of a “pecking order” amongst animals and humans. Say this to your children: “Most of the time, when we’re not on the bottom, we don’t give much thought to those who are.” Now ask your kids what they think about that. True? Not true? How do you know? Talk about who is “on the bottom” in your child’s class. (Even kids as young as second or third grade have a keen awareness of social strata.) How do other people treat that child? How do you treat that child? What might happen if you stood up for the underdog?

Teach—Challenge your child to be a hero and shake up the social strata at school by standing up for someone who needs a friend. Follow up and find out from your child what happened with the challenge.

Please let me know how you teach your kids about the importance of standing up for the underdog.


Day 11: Kindness and Respect Challenge (T’is always the ‘season’ for spreading good will)

October 11, 2013

Sure been chilly in the mornings and evenings. My neighbor’s dahlias scream for their close-up. Local trees outdo each other in their annual “Look at me!” competition. And yesterday I went sweater shopping. So, yeah. No doubt about it, t’is the season to show a little good will toward our fellow humans.

T'is the season for bountiful kindness

Makes me wonder why Kindness and Respect isn’t a year-round thing. We’d all be better off if it were.

With that thought in mind, here’s excerpt from my book Teaching Kids to Be Good People. It’s a Christmasy kind of essay, but I’m putting it out here two and half months ahead of schedule to plant some kindness seeds and see what happens.

One Foot in Front of The Other

I don’t believe in Santa’s Naughty or Nice List, but I do believe in the inherent value of doing good deeds. I always try, at least in public, to be a positive role model, just in case some child happens to be watching and taking notes. In other words, I do my best to avoid missteps.

Some missteps can be corrected before it’s too late. Like when you choose a puny pot for making applesauce. After cutting up and tossing in four apples any fool can see that the other eleven on the counter will never fit into that pot. So you simply dump everything into a larger pot and carry on. Misstep unstepped. That assumes, of course, that a certain someone who already mentioned how the first pot was obviously too small isn’t standing right there watching. If he is and you two have been keeping score about such things, then timely self-correction without losing face is more challenging. But it’s still a viable and prudent option.

Some missteps, on the other hand, can’t be undone. Like making that offhand comment when you knew a certain person probably wasn’t going to fully appreciate the humor. Even if you swear you were “Just kidding!” you’re still stuck having to apologize and deal with your own disappointment in your lack of self-control. You’re also left wondering why the hell you haven’t yet learned that everything that pops into your head a) isn’t as funny as you think it is and/or b) isn’t worth saying.

As I write this, it is now December. ’Tis the season of spreading goodwill and comfort in the cold. So I light candles and look for opportunities to take steps in the right direction. And I got one this afternoon! As David and I walked to the post office, we passed a neighbor standing in front of her house. She wore a thin pink dress, bedroom slippers, and an agitated expression. She said something to us, but since the guy across the street was running his leaf blower, I couldn’t make out what it was.

Just so you know, this neighbor is . . . how can I put this . . . a bit erratic. Over the years we’ve heard her scream at passing cars, “SLOW DOWN!!”


Because I never know what I’ll get from her, I was a bit apprehensive when I saw her talking to me. At that moment I could easily have begged off by pantomiming something like: “Sorry, I’d love to stop and chat but I can’t hear you because the darn leaf blower is too loud. So I’ll just shrug and smile and wave and keep on walking.”

But that felt like a misstep. And I had the sneaking suspicion the campus rep from Karma College was lurking about taking notes. So I inhaled, exhaled, crossed the street and went up to her.

LADY: Did you see the mailman up the street? Has he come down the hill yet?

ANNIE: I didn’t see him, but we already got our mail.

LADY (frowning): So did I. But I wonder if he’s passed by yet.

ANNIE: Yeah. I think he’s gone for the day.

She looked upset as she stood there in the cold. Her toes were kinda bluish in those flimsy slippers.

ANNIE: Was there something you wanted to mail? Because we’re walking to the post office.

Magic words! She lit up and ran into the house. I stood there hoping she wouldn’t come out lugging a fifty-pound box and toss me some stamps. But no. She emerged a moment later waving a single white stamped envelope . . . Christmas card- size.

LADY: It’s for a man in a nursing home. You’ll take it to the post office for me?

ANNIE: Sure thing.

Misstep unstepped. Right foot forward.


Enjoy your mid-October weekend. One step at a time. And then check out Day 14 of the Kindness and Respect Challenge.



Guest blogger: New Country, New Life

December 10, 2012

by Jessica Oh, 16 year old high school student.

This personal essay, by Jessica Oh, was submitted to my teen website  If you’ve got some expressive writing you’d like to share, fiction, or non-fiction, poetry or whatever, please send it in, I’d love to read it! And maybe your words will get featured on my site.

Got that right!

There she was standing alone in the corner while everyone talked among themselves. She was not loquacious enough to fit in. All she heard was rambling going through one ear to the other. Petrified she was, she finally decided to smile at a little girl from across the room. However, the little girl made her feel alienated. She got glares from every inch around the room when the teacher introduced her. It was such a different view coming from another country. Hearing the different language soak into her brain, she was frightened. The room was filled with little kids running around enjoying themselves, excluding her. She just wanted fit in, she just wanted someone to talk to, and she just wanted a friend. Even though she would probably not understand one single word that came out of their mouths, she would casually act along. However, who would want to be friends with a girl who came from another country with no sense of their language or their culture?

Her life was perfect as it was until a trembling announcement was made by her parents, “We are moving!” She feared this day would come but tried as hard as she could to make it go away. When they made the announcement, it hit her like a bee sting. Right there and then, she knew her whole life would collapse right in front of her. The solid ground that was the foundation of her life was shaking and the buildings were crumbling. Her heart was torn apart, she was devastated. She never knew what it felt like to be betrayed and depressed. Not only was she moving to a new house but moving to a new school, new country, and new everything. She was moving half way around the globe and her parents expected her to be fine? Tears fell from her left cheek and then her right. She would have to make new memories and her old memories would be long gone. She thought, ‘but what can I do that can change their mind?’ However, she had to face the fact that there was nothing, absolutely nothing she could do to alter their mind. She sluggishly packed her belongings and took whatever she could but had to leave the memories behind.

Read the rest of what happened to Jessica as she faced the challenges of being a stranger in a strange land…

Filed under: Parenting,Teens — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 4:13 pm
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