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.

My parents always tell me how a girl should act!

December 5, 2017

Why is who I am a problem for you?

Why is who I am a problem for you?

Parents of very cooperative teens may hear how “lucky” they are. This usually comes from parents of teens who are… well, acting like teens.

In the same way that most infants spit up until they get the hang of feeding, most teens push back against their parents until they get the hang of managing their own lives with integrity. The inevitable struggles  are rarely pleasant for the teen or her parents, but they’re beneficial to character development. If teens can’t or won’t challenge their parents, how can they formulate a vision of their own life? If they aren’t permitted to make their own choices and their own mistakes how can they gain confidence in relying on their own judgment?

Today’s letter comes from a teen who just wants to be her own girl.

Hey Annie,

My parents don’t really like my tomboyish personallity. Whenever I wear something boy-like or act like a boy they always yell at me or tell me how a girl should act. Because of this we always get into fights. One time my dad told he would kick me out of the house if I show any signs of being a tomboy. How do convince them that being a tomboy isn’t a bad thing?

– Tomi

Hi Tomi,

I get why you’re pushing back. Many people see their choice of clothing as a very personal expression of self. You want to dress in ways that a) make you feel comfortable and b) make you feel like you’re being true to yourself. As for your behavior?  That’s the essence of who you are. There is no more personal expression of self than that!

I don’t know your parents, but I can guess what they might be having a problem with. When you dress or act “like a boy” they might see it as a sign that you are queer.  Maybe you are. Maybe you’re not. Who you are attracted to is no one’s business but yours, but some parents have a really hard time when their little girl doesn’t fit into a neat box with a pink bow around it. ;O)

What you wear isn’t necessarily a sign of your sexual orientation or your gender identification. Some queer girls like to wear boys’ clothing. Some straight girls dress that way, too. It’s not a big deal… except to your parents.

You ask: How do I convince them that being a tomboy isn’t a bad thing?

I don’t have the answer to that one, because it’s impossible to change someone else’s attitude if he or she doesn’t want to change. The best advice I can give you is this: Being yourself (inside and out), without worrying what others think, is a sign of maturity. It’s also the best way I know to live a happy life.

Good luck.

In friendship,

P.S. You might want to read my answer to a parent’s question about her daughter wearing boy’s clothes. Check out the comments, too.


Now more than ever, as new sexual misconduct allegations surface each week, we need to focus on raising daughters who refuse to let anyone tell them how to dress and how to act. Our parenting job includes many things, but it does not include teaching our girls to keep their mouths shut when anyone disrespects them, makes them feel uncomfortable or tries to dictate their “place” in the world.





Back-to-School Clothing Wars: “My 12yr old looks and dresses like she’s 18!”

August 26, 2016

What's wrong with it, Mom?

What’s wrong with it, Mom?

Back-to-school means new clothes. We’ve had previous conversations here and here about how the clothing and toy industries sexualize kids. It’s hard for parents to push back against billion dollar corporations who couldn’t care less about your standards for appropriate attire for your children.

But you have to shop, so you head to the store armed with your standards, but you can’t find anything you feel good about purchasing. To make things dicier, your child loves the clothes you despise.

That’s this mom’s problem:

Dear Annie:

How do I talk to my 12 year old daughter about how the way she dresses? She has a very “womanly” body and could easily pass for 18! She’s proud of the way she looks and I am delighted she is comfortable with her body. I don’t want to ruin that by saying the wrong thing, but I also do not want her to continue dressing in a way that seems to me to be provocative. She may be teased, she may get “hit-on” by a MAN! I want to protect her and at the same time, foster her confidence in herself.

Please help me with the right words.  Thanks! – In a bind

Dear In a bind,

It’s great your daughter feels so comfortable in her body. May her self-confidence continue throughout her lifetime!

I’ll assume you pay for her clothes. If you aren’t comfortable with her choices you have veto power. Avoid heated conversations in the store. Talk about it before your next shopping trip or before handing over money to her for purchasing clothes.

You might say something like this:

“Sweetheart, I love how confident you are about your body. Many girls don’t feel so comfortable in their own skin as you do. But you need a reality check. We live in a society where men and boys (and other girls and women) judge you based on how you dress.

It isn’t fair to make assumptions about people because of how they look or dress, but fair or unfair, it is part of the reality of growing up as a girl.

We also live in a society where some men and boys feel entitled to treat women as sexual objects not human beings with equal rights. Sexual harassment is unwanted attention (crude remarks, touching, etc.). It is never ok. And it is never a compliment. So don’t be confused.  Harassment makes girls feel uncomfortable and unsafe.  No one has the right to do that to anyone. And yet, too often, harassers take no responsibility and are not held responsible for their behavior. They simply shrug and say, “She brought it on because of the way she dresses.” She (who ever she is) did not “bring it on.” To say that is a lie. It is also disrespectful to girls and women.

As your mom it’s my job to keep you safe and to educate you about the messages your clothing choices might be sending, without your knowing it. Let’s talk about this.”

Stay calm and keep your voice neutral and respectful and you could open up a very positive ongoing conversation with your daughter.

I hope this helps.


P.S. I reached out to my wise friend and fellow educator, Iréné Celcer for added input on your dilemma. Here are her three tips and thoughts.

1) Engage her in a conversation vs a lecture. Find out her thoughts, feelings and ideas on the topic. (See the paragraph below for a way to start.)

2) This conversation is not a ONE TIME thing. It will develop ebb and turn and change. And it may be the one area that she choses to drive you crazy with. Be smart and chose your battles.

3) No matter how she looks on the outside, she is still only 12 years old. And you are and should be the one who approves the clothing. You hold that wallet.



What do moms & daughters want from each other anyway?

February 17, 2011

Love comes from understanding

I recently led a very special Mom/Daughter workshop. Sixty moms showed up each with a middle or high school daughter in tow. My goal for our 90 minutes together was two-fold:

1) Offer pragmatic calming down strategies which I knew would come in handy next time Mom & Daughter find themselves in one of those “I can’t believe we’re fighting about this again!!!” fights.

2) Provide Moms & Daughters with opportunities to understand and appreciate the unique challenges facing the other generation.

I introduced the Calming Strategies: I’m going to teach you how to do re-centering breathing. So next time you feel off-balance (and believe me there’s always a next time), you can get yourself back to the place where you do your best thinking. Give me a couple of  minutes of your time and you’ll have a tool you can use whenever  you’re about to ‘lose it.’  It’s very easy to breathe. The real challenge is to remember to breathe when you need to. And that would be any time you and your daughter or you and your mom get locked in a DESTRUCTIVE WASTE OF TIME yelling match – which covers pretty much all yelling matches.

Here’s how to breathe. Go for it!

As for the Opportunities to Understand one another, those came in the form of 20 posted questions lining both sides of  the room. These first six were for Moms and Daughters:

1. I’m very proud of my daughter/my mom when______

Most common Mom answers: Shows backbone. Achieves a goal she’s worked for. Helps others.

Most common Daughter answers: Wears cute clothes. Does what she loves. Trusts me & relaxes.

2. I wish my daughter/my mom would _______ more.

Most common Mom answers: Help (do chores) without being asked. Open up and talk to me.

Most common Daughter answers: Trust me. Understand me. Listen to me.

3. I’d like to apologize to my daughter/my mom for______

Most common Mom answers: Yelling & losing patience. Being critical. Not listening.

Most common Daughter answers: Being rude/disrespectful/bitchy. Taking things out on her.

4. Sometimes I’m embarrassed when my daughter/my mom ______

Most common Mom answers: Is rude to me in front of others. Dresses like she does. Gets upset over nothing.

Most common Daughter answers: Dances/sings/laughs/talks too much. Gets too ‘involved’ w/my problems. Tries to act cool around my friends.

5. I feel especially close to my daughter/my mom when______

Most common Mom answers: She confides in me. We hang out together.

Most common Daughter answers: We do stuff together (shop, watch movies, etc.), We talk, We hang out.

6. Most of our conflicts are about______

Most common Mom answers: Chores/helping out. Homework/time management. Siblings.

Most common Daughter answers: Attitude. Grades. Clothes. Social stuff (Curfew, Parties, Texting)

Then there were four Moms Only questions:

7. I could do a better job as a mom if I______

Most common Mom answers: Calmed down. Slowed down. Just relaxed. Had more patience. Had fewer tasks to do.

8. The best advice I could give my daughter is______

Most common Mom answers: Respect yourself. Trust yourself. Do what makes you happy.

9. The hardest part about being a mom is _____

Most common Mom answers: Being patient. Feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing.

10. Sometimes I _____ (Same thing I hated as a kid!) I’m trying to change this behavior.

Most common Mom answers: Get mad about the messy room. Say things I should know are embarrassing to my daughter. Want my daughter to be someone different (from who she is)

And here are the four Daughters Only questions:

7. I would be easier to live with if I______

Most common Daughter answers: Wasn’t so emotional/stressed/bitchy. Listen more. Argued Less. Cleaned up after myself.

8. When something is bothering me I’d like my mom to______

Most common Daughters answers: Leave me alone. Be nice.

9. When we argue I sometime_____ (even if I know it’ll increase tension). I’m trying to change that behavior.

Most common Daughter answers: Yell. Say mean things.

10. If I’m ever a mom, I swear I will_______

Most common Daughter answers: Have an open relationship with her. Be cool if my child wants to go out. Listen.


As you read the questions and mentally answer them you’ll probably wonder how your daughter would respond. Maybe you could use them as a way to let each other in on how each of you feels about your relationship. I invite you to take these questions and your answers as tool for identifying what works in your relationship with your daughter. Celebrate those positive things and continue making time for them. On the flip side, use what you both learn here and work with your daughter to change the aspects of your relationship that could use improvement.

Oh, and one more thing… don’t forget to breathe.

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