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.

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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Parenting Question: How do I teach my tween to set boundaries?

July 30, 2015

What's wrong with you? Can't you take a joke?!

What’s wrong with you? Can’t you take a joke?!

For better or for worse, our tweens and teens spend immeasurably more time with their friends than we did at their age. UOK wid dat? If we allow it, digital access enables them to connect every waking hour. These interactions strengthen interpersonal skills as often as they undermine them. Our kids must learn to set boundaries with other kids so they’ll develop confidence in who they are and what they need in a relationship.

Today’s question comes from a parent whose 10-year-old daughter has two challenging friendships.

Friend A says things to my daughter  that undermine her confidence (“Everyone knows your writing sucks.”) but then laughs it off as a joke. Friend B is very sweet and kind, but too clingy. She always wants to do whatever my daughter does.  Are there phrases she could use to help her tell the bitchy chick to change or go away, and to tell the lovely friend to be more independent?

– Frustrated Mom

Setting boundaries is something we all have to learn, because we need to teach people how to treat us. When we stay silent in the face of insults or we laugh along with the people mocking us, we send this message: “It’s OK for you to put me down.” Since that’s not the message your daughter wants to send, she needs to speak up for herself.

When Friend A makes nasty comments then hides behind “Just kidding!” your daughter needs confidence to let the girl know she just “crossed the line.” Ah, but how?

Many girls equate challenging a friend with being “mean” and that’s part of the reason they avoid “confrontations.” Make sure your daughter understands this isn’t a confrontation, it’s a respectful communication. Let her also know that standing up for herself (or others) doesn’t make her “mean” it makes her brave.

Advise your girl to stay calm and strong while she makes eye-contact, and simply speaks the truth. She might say something like this to Friend A: “That didn’t feel like ‘kidding’ to me. It hurts. If you’re really my friend, you won’t do that again.” Now Friend A has been put on notice and your daughter has taken back her power. If your daughter needs help saying these words, role play with her until she feels ready for the conversation. Hopefully this will work. If Friend A continues to make cutting remarks, then your daughter will have to continue standing up for herself and/or find the EXIT to this friendship.

In the case of  “too clingy” Friend B… that’s a bit trickier. Your daughter has the right to choose who she spends time with but she doesn’t ever have the right to intentionally hurt anyone. (Remind her how it feels to be on the receiving end of one of Friend A’s zingers.) But that doesn’t mean she must continue to allow herself to be smothered in her clingy friend’s embrace. She might say something like this to Friend B: “I like spending some time with you but not all the time. I want to spend time with other friends, too. So today, let’s hang out together during lunch recess. Then tomorrow I’m going to hang out with Friend C.” That’s a clear communication and it is sensitive and respectful. Friend B may not be happy to hear that she won’t be with your daughter tomorrow, but if your daughter stays calm and delivers the message clearly and confidently, Friend B will (eventually) figure out that she needs to widen her friendship circle.

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They stole your bra?!!

September 9, 2014

This recent email has me vibrating with rage. I know. I know. I’m supposed to manage my destructive emotions. Take re-centering breaths and all that. But as a woman, a mom, and an educator, this one has me ready to strangle someone.

I'm not going back there.

I’m not going back there.

Just read it and tell me what you think:

Hey Terra,

I just started freshman year and I have to take swim class. I have large breasts and the girls in the class make fun of me in the shower and in the pool. Today, while we were swimming, one girl went into my locker and stole my bra. I had to get dressed for my next class without a bra!! Do you have any idea how humiliated I felt walking around like that? Guys were staring at me and a few guys tried to touch my breasts! That’s what I had to go through for two whole periods until my mom came and brought me a bra.  This is the first year of high school and I’m a joke already. All my friends are at another school so I’ve got no one who has my back. – Who Cares?

Before you read my answer, here’s my video response on Vidoyen:

How do we teach kids that cruel is not cool? posted by Annie Fox, M.Ed. on Vidoyen.

My Answer:

Dear Who Cares?

First, let me say that I care. A lot!

Second let me say… WOAH!!! What happened to you today is beyond awful. It is also totally unacceptable. For starters, shaming you about your body, having people stare at your breasts and try to touch you… all of this is sexual harassment and it’s against the law.

I understand how awful you feel, but please talk to your PE teacher ASAP! (That’s who runs the swimming class, right?) She or he (hopefully it’s a she) but either way, the PE teacher needs to know immediately what happened today. No way should any girl get away with going into your locker and stealing anything! But a girl stealing another girl’s bra… that’s so cruel I am actually seeing red. (That’s how angry I am right now.) And no boy should get away with trying to touch you without your permission! (Give me a break, guys. What idiot told you that’s ever OK?!)

I get that you might not want to talk about this, but you wrote to me for advice and I’m giving it to you. Talk to your mom right now. Get off the computer and talk to her. You think that “no one has your back.” Not true! Your mom has your back. She proved that today. She can help you. She wants to. If you were my daughter I would tell you this, “I am so sorry that this happened to you. My heart is breaking to hear about it. I know how humiliating this must have been! We need to work together, you and I, to make things better for you at school. Better for you with the girls in your gym class and better for you with those ignorant boys who bother you and made you feel even more uncomfortable when you walk down the hall. You need to let the school know what happened. If you feel you can call for this meeting on your own, then go for it. But if you need my support to call the school and set up a meeting with the PE teacher and the counselor and school administration, then I am here for you 1000%.”

Talk to your mom right now… before another day of school.

OK, sweetie?

In friendship,
Terra

If you or anyone you know, has had an experience involving sexual harassment or “body shaming” at school, I want to hear about it in the COMMENTS section. Thanks.

Filed under: Cruel's Not Cool,Teens,Tweens — Tags: , , — Annie @ 5:20 pm
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Day 14: Kindness and Respect Challenge (Keep your head)

October 14, 2013

At the start of middle school my best friend ditched me for a popular new girl. Confusion turned to shock, hurt and then anxiety when Popular Girl got my ex-BFF (and pretty much the rest of the class) to turn against me. They teased me, started rumors, blamed me for stuff. I was drowning in a sea of social garbage with no clue what to do to help myself.

Getting to know you... and myself

When our teacher announced we were putting on The King and I, Popular Girl and ex-BFF let all the girls know they had the two female leads sewn up and no one else need apply. Despite their mind-games, I tried out for the lead role of Anna. Looking back, that took guts… and stupidity. Oh, I knew I could sing (though no one else did at that point), and I had confidence in my acting ability, but I also knew none of it mattered because the other students would be “voting” on the cast. Screw ability, it was going to be a popularity contest. I didn’t have a chance.

We each auditioned for the roles we wanted. Then we all voted. By some twist of fate, I got the lead.

Playing “I” in the King and I provided life-altering education. For the first time, I found something I could do well that transported me into someone else’s life. And through my performance I could take an audience along with me. Magic! So began my life-long passion for theater. And since Anna was a teacher, it may also have started me thinking about the delights of working with children. The role was challenging and joyful, but dealing with the off-stage drama in class was very hard.

Thank goodness for Rudyard Kipling. He was another part of 6th grade that’s still with me because our teacher required us to memorize and recite Kipling’s, If. Line after line that poem served as my life-preserver during that Year of Social Garbage.

That’s why, whenever I get emails from girls and guys suffering at the hands of enemies, friends and “fren-emies” I think of this bit of wisdom from Kipling:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs, and blaming it on you.

Or this:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or this:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise

Today’s challenge… keep your head about you.

Check out Day 15 of the Kindness and Respect Challenge

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