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.

“Sometimes I get really angry!”

November 13, 2017

What are you looking at?

Our kids live in a faster, noisier, more stressed out world than the one we grew up in. That contributes to more people “losing it” more often. Not surprising kids may wonder if they’ll grow up behaving as poorly as some of the adults they observe at home, at school, on TV. That was on the mind of this teen who recently reached out to me:

Teen: I get angry kind of easily and I’m afraid that I might abuse when I get older. Please help.

Annie: What makes you angry? Just certain things? Or everything and everybody?

Teen: Sometimes I just get angry because someone is bothering me and I ask them to stop and they don’t stop so I get really angry. I get angry over little things sometimes, too.

Annie: Humans have lots of emotions. Sometimes we get angry over little things and bigger things. Frustration, annoyance, irritation… those are parts of anger. Emotions are just emotions. They come and go, right? We don’t always get to choose how we feel about someone or the situation we find ourselves in. You feel whatever you feel in the moment. But here’s the thing, your emotions can’t hurt other people, but your behavior can. Sounds like you’re worried you will have trouble controlling your behavior in the future. Is that it?

Teen: Yes. I worry about that. A lot.

Annie: The future doesn’t exist. There is only now. This moment. But the choices you make, the way you act in this moment and the next one can lead to the kind of person you will become in the future. It’s all about your behavior. So, tell me, what do you do now when you get angry?

Teen: If I’m in class I go out in the hall and just cool down. But when I’m not in school I usually just hit something soft like a pillow.
Annie: I’m proud of the good job you’re doing cooling down. You recognize that it’s never ok to be violent. When you get angry you know what you need to do so no one gets hurt. Awesome! You said you were worried that you “might abuse” when you get older. Is there someone in your family who is not doing such a good job when he or she gets angry? Someone who is verbally or physically hurting others when they are mad?
Teen: I don’t know anyone in my family that abuses.
Annie: I’m really glad to hear that! You are being very responsible with your behavior when you’re angry and it sounds like the people in your family are doing the same. You’re learning from them to do the right thing. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.
Teen: Ok. Thanks.
Annie: You’re welcome. Email me any time you need to talk about something that’s worrying you.

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Is my 12-year-old daughter old enough to have a boyfriend?

June 23, 2016

What does she think it means to have a boyfriend?

What does she think it means to have a boyfriend?

Sometimes our kids say they’re ready for the next step toward independence and we totally agree. We celebrate the milestone, brief them on the house rules, making double sure we’re all on the same page, then we let them go and hold our breath. When they stumble, we listen with compassion and as much patience as we can muster. We help them evaluate their mistakes and we hold them accountable. And they do better next time.

That’s how we all learn.

But sometimes we’re just not convinced they’re ready, no matter how fiercely they lobby us. Then what? That’s where this mom finds herself…

Dear Annie: 

Is it okay for my 12-year-old to have a boyfriend if she seems emotionally ready? She seems pretty mature when it comes to situations like this, but is she too young? – Worried Mom

Important question. Glad she asked. Here’s my response…

Dear Worried Mom:

Is this an abstract question coming from your daughter or does she already have a boyfriend and is trying to back-date the permission slip?

You ask “Is it okay?” and you sign your letter Worried Mom. That tells me you don’t think it’s okay. It doesn’t matter what I think. She’s twelve. You’re her mom. You make the rules. But it’s not always that simple, is it? Twelve-year-olds can be super persistent. Maybe your “mature” daughter has been crying and screaming at you for a year that she’s the only one not allowed to date and that she hates how you still treat her like a baby!

That’s hard to take. But don’t let her bully you into saying “yes” to anything you’re not comfortable with. On the other hand, you shouldn’t automatically say “no” without digging deeper.

Be strategic.

You say she is “emotionally ready” and “pretty mature when it comes to situations like this.” Emotionally ready for what, exactly? What “situations” are we talking about?  What does your daughter mean when she talks about having a boyfriend? What does she believe is involved in being someone’s girlfriend? What does she think this kind of relationship means to the boy? Not sure? Ask her. Maybe not the easiest question for a 12-year-old to answer, but it’s important for her to think about it and share her thoughts with you. The way she thinks about it may determine how she behaves when you’re not around.

For example, does having a boyfriend mean that she and the boy text and snap chat and hang out together at lunch but never actually see each other outside of school? Or does it mean the two of them go to movies or the mall just the two of them… (public unsupervised time)? Does it mean they go to each other’s homes and hang out in each other’s bedrooms? (private unsupervised time)?

Lots to talk about. Her responses will give you insight into how “emotionally ready” and “mature” your daughter actually is when it comes to the Boyfriend/Girlfriend Zone.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Annie

P.S. You might want to check out Annie’s 10 Tips for Teaching Your Daughter Relationship Smarts.

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Mom, can you just be quiet and listen?!

May 3, 2016

You're not listening to me!!!

You’re not listening to me!!!

Somehow my mom and I just didn’t get along when I was in high school. (Hey, it happens.) I was an overweight, overachiever who believed nothing I did was good enough. It didn’t help that my dad, aka my #1 fan, died suddenly when I was fifteen. I was my mom’s youngest child, only daughter. After she lost my dad she couldn’t give an insecure teen the support and encouragement I craved. Conversely, she expected, no hoped, I’d provide her with support and comfort. That didn’t happen.

I remember her yelling: “You’re not listening to me!”

I was listening, I just didn’t like what I heard. I didn’t agree with her and I wasn’t going to do what she said. Even if she had a good idea, I’d reject it, on principle. What principle? That it was her idea.

Our relationship turned into a quagmire of hurt feelings, misunderstandings and miscommunications.  We both longed for a cease-fire, but didn’t how to call one.

When I moved across the country, distance made the heart grow fonder. And when I became a mom, my mom and I learned to appreciate each other a lot more.

Now you understand why an email from a teen with parent problems gets to me. And why I do understand.

Like this one:

Teen: I have this disorder where I feel like I’m suffocating in my own self but can’t die. My mom says she understands but I think she understands what she wants to believe and now she says she wants to send me away to foster care because she doesn’t want to deal with me anymore… what do I do??

Annie: Aside from your mom, who else have you talked to about your feelings of “suffocating in yourself?”

Teen: I have a counselor but whenever I try to talk to him it never comes out right.

Annie: How about writing out what you’d like to say… like in a letter? Take your time. Choose your words carefully. When your letter says what you want it to say, go to the counselor and hand him the letter. Sound like a plan?

Teen: yeah. Thank you, but what do I do about my mom??

Annie: Hopefully, after you talk to the counselor, he will have a conversation with your mom and help her understanding your feelings better. You need her help but she can’t give you what you need until she understands what’s going on. It’s going to take both of you working together to make this better.

Teen: Hey, so I talked to my mom myself and explained everything and it helped sorta. We still have a lot of work to do.

Annie: I’m proud of you for talking to your mom. That took courage and you did it! I’m glad it helped. Keep talking and listening to each other.

I hope you and your mom have a Happy Mothers Day.

In friendship,

Annie

 

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“My mom is neglecting her role as a parent!”

April 6, 2016

Attention must be paid

Attention must be paid… when they’re little and when they’re teens.

From today’s IN BOX, a letter from a teen who blames her mom for her falling grades and friendship issues. Fair or unfair? Read on…

Hey Annie,

My mom is incredibly busy at work and she just remarried. I’m 17 years old, but I still need her support and attention. If I try to ask her to listen to me for a minute or if I ask her for anything at all, she gets angry and annoyed, and I get a lecture and punishment. 

My grades are going down, I’m losing my friends, people have started rumors about me, and I feel incredibly depressed. All these are consequences of my mom neglecting her role as a parent. 

How can I get her attention without her getting agitated? – Neglected Teen

Dear Neglected Teen,

I’m sorry you are feeling so neglected at home. You know what you need and it sounds like you are not getting it from your mom. That happens. Sometimes kids (of all ages) wish they could get more attention, more understanding, more acceptance from their parents. On the flip side, some kids want less of certain behaviors from their parents (less criticism, less anger, less annoyance, fewer lectures.)

You say your mom gets “angry and annoyed” when you try to talk to her about this. Maybe she lashes out because she feels like you’re attacking her for not being a good mom. I’m not saying it is okay for her to treat you this way. It’s definitely not. I am simply offering a possible explanation to help you understand what might be going on with her, so you do not take it personally.

I am sure you are an awesome girl. And I understand that it hurts you when your mom acts too “busy” to give you what you need. I understand that it can cause you to doubt yourself. But here’s something to think about: You are 17 years old. At some point in everyone’s life we stop waiting for our parents to do things for us. At some point we must take care of ourselves and create close relationships with other people who can give us the support and understanding we need.

Maybe now is the beginning of that time for you. Instead of continuing to let your mother’s “neglect” upset you and bring you down, how about looking elsewhere for the support and positive attention you need? You deserve it. You might start by talking with your school counselor about what’s going on inside. You will find support there.

In friendship,
Annie

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 6:48 pm
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