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.

Self-respect: The anti-bullying drug

July 14, 2012

Here’s the final installment of this ‘expert’s‘ 4-part Bing Summer of Doing series. (Bing’s got lots of cool stuff happening through Sunday, but since the word of the week is Giving, tomorrow David and I are doing the AIDS WALK SF, so no blog from me. If you’ve missed anything I’ve served up on this shift, check out the blogs from Monday (Giving), Wednesday (Unplugging)  and Friday (Urban Gardening). Today we’re talking Anti-bullying, so let’s get at it.

Bing Summer of Doing - Be nice, do nice

When stuff comes up between real friends, they show how much they value the friendship by working things out. That can be especially hard when Friend A crosses the line (knowingly or un) and Friend B is upset. But with real friends it’s worth the effort it takes to talk and listen and understand each other’s point of view.

Friendships get damaged when stuff that needs to be said is left unsaid. Unexpressed emotions don’t just fade away. Often they work like acid, silently eating away at a relationship’s foundation. We start doubting our friend’s intentions. We look for evidence to reinforce our doubts while demanding reassurances that our doubts are ungrounded. We talk about the friend instead of talking to him/her. If you’re beyond middle school, you know this crap never helps. It only makes things worse.

Kids with the stickiest peer relationship issues are 6th and 7th graders. Their interpersonal challenges have become increasingly complex. Unfortunately, their ability to resolve conflicts in their multi-tiered friendship doesn’t match the challenges they face. And so it goes in the 21st century. We communicate with more people, but the way we do it, through texting, chatting and tweeting, increases the likelihood of miscommunication, which leads to hurt, jealousy, betrayal, retaliation, AKA social garbage. Unless we learn to effectively resolve conflicts with the folks we like, we’re not going to be able to stand up for ourselves with truly aggressive people, i.e., bullies.

The following question was asked of me by a 6th grader:

What do you do if your friend is bullying you and you don’t want to hurt them?

Sounds like you’re getting hurt by a friend but aren’t willing to stand up for yourself. You’ve got to learn to be your own best friend. That means acting like you deserve to be treated with respect. This new self-respecting attitude won’t guarantee respect from others, but it does mean that when people treat you badly, you  let them know it’s not OK.

You say you’re being hurt but you don’t want to “hurt” your friend by telling him/her to cut it out. I understand your hesitation. Nobody likes to be told that they’re out of line. Your friend might get mad at you and that’s never pleasant. S/he might say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” In which case you’re left feeling confused and embarrassed. Your friend might even accuse you of trying to “ruin” the friendship and may turn other friends against you. OR… s/he might stop and think about what you’ve just said and make some positive changes. That would be a good thing, right? But when we stay silent about things that are bothering us, the person who is ‘bullying’ continues to bully. Things usually just stay the same or get worse. But when we’re brave enough to risk standing up for ourselves (or for others who are being mistreated) we open the door for change.

Back to the question from the 6th grader. How would you have handled that situation when you were 11? How does the question and my advice, apply to any of your current relationships? Funny how our middle school experience can sometimes feel like it all happened in another lifetime… to someone else. Or it can feel like we’re still right there. sigh.


Teens: I’ve got a bf but he doesn’t act like one!

May 12, 2011

Didn't sign up for this!

It’s spring. Nature’s juices are flowing all around us… and inside us too. If you’re single and wish you weren’t and all that flowing juice isn’t enough to remind you how much you want a bf/gf, let’s add Prom to the mix!

If your top priority is getting a bf/gf , it may seem like your school is packed with lovey-dovey couples. The sight or the sound of them (talking endlessly about each other) may be enough to make you wanna scream, barf or cry.

If you have a bf/gf (w/the added status boost that comes with it) you probably don’t want to lose them. That’s why t(w)eens in relationships often try to ignore the bad stuff and convince themselves things are cool even when that little voice inside screams “I’m not happy!” Your Inner Voice knows you better than Mom. Ignoring its messages rarely helps a situation.

I just got this email from a girl who doesn’t seem to trust her Inner Voice, which is why she turned to me for a second opinion. What do you think of the opinion I gave her?

Hey Annie,

Me and this boy are together but he doesn’t call me and that makes me cry. I need help. What should I do?



Hi Confused,

It sounds like you and your bf have different ideas about what it means to be “together.” You’re unhappy because he’s not paying as much attention as you want. Have you talked to him about it? You might say something like, “I want you to call me every day.” (Or however often you think he should be calling.) Of course, telling him straight-up what you want is no guarantee that he’ll change his behavior.

The real question is: Does this guy want to be with you as much as you want to be with him? You deserve that level of interest from a boyfriend… but you can’t force someone to care about you. If he doesn’t want you, dry your tears, move on and find someone who treats you better. If you keep putting up with less than what you want, you’re sending him a message that says, “I don’t deserve any better than this from a boyfriend, so keep on ignoring me and I’ll keep putting up with it.”

If that’s not the message you want him to get, then tell him what you really mean.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,



Podcast: Talking with your kids so they’ll listen and open up

September 19, 2010

David McQueen

David McQueen, The Dave Mack Project

You don’t need me to tell you the road gets plenty rough during the teen years, for them and for us. 21st century parents frequently miss opportunities to take the lead and maintain meaningful connections with their tweens and teens. Of course, it’s not all our fault. Teens don’t encourage dialogue, at least not with us! But we can only change ourselves and we need to do a better job when it comes to really listening and trying to understand what’s going on with the young people we love most in the world. Because the lessons of intimacy we teach at home help our kids grow into adults with the confidence to discover who they ought to be.

When we miss those opportunities to connect, it’s not because we don’t care, it’s just that all of us (the kids too) are too busy to check in with each other. Sometimes reminders are needed.

My guest today is David McQueen and he’s here to provide some reminders. David is an educator, international speaker, and blogger extraordinaire. He empowers adults and youth alike on subjects such as leadership, careers and communication skills. Dave is also the founder of The Dave Mack Project, a teen empowerment movement that combines speaking, live events, social media and youth coaching for teens and those who work with teens.

For the last 22 years, Dave McQueen has reached over a million teenagers through  live speaking and workshops, on TV and online, with messages of empowerment about inhabiting the present and creating a brilliant future.

Listen to our conversation right here:

If you have iTunes, you can subscribe to this podcast in the iTunes Store.

Or, you can download an MP3 version here.

Upcoming guests include:

Ronit Baras, author of Be Special, Be Yourself for Teenagers

Sean Buvala, author of DaddyTeller: How to be a Hero to Your Kids and Teach Them What’s Really Important By Telling Them One Simple Story at a Time

Dr. Karyn Purvis, co-author (with Dr. David Cross, Wendy Lyons Sunshine) of The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family

Judith Warner, author of Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety and We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication

Katherine Ellison, author of the memoir, Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention


But “I still love him…” Puh-leeze!

July 15, 2009

I know what love is. And I know what it sure as hell isn’t. No one’s born knowing. In my case, I only got it after many tedious attempts at misplaced affection. (Thankfully, my suffering yielded a few not too shabby souvenir poems and songs, so there’s that.)

Understanding this stuff is essential. I mean, really, if you don’t know how to love and how to get what you need from your partner, how are you ever going to create and maintain a healthy relationship? You’re not! Which brings me to this email from yesterday:

Hey Annie,

I have been with this guy for 2 years. We were engaged and living together. He left me  two months ago and I can’t figure out exactly why he won’t even say I love you anymore. I had caught him before on chat lines giving other women his number talking very very dirty. Even talking to his ex and well, I left him. After a couple months I went back because he proposed to me and swore it was me he wanted. He said he was gonna change and he wanted to make me  happy. That lasted about 5 months. I found out this time when we broke up he was still talking to his ex. He even told me he met a girl at a bar for a one night bj but swears that’s all that happened. Now he said he wanted to be “f__  friends” with me and that’s all or nothing. I don’t know what to do anymore. I love him still so much after all that’s happened and I can’t understand why. I just wish he loved me. I don’t think he ever has. Please help me I’m seriously depressed…

Lost and Confused

Dear L & C,

You say that you “still love him” and that you wish he would “just love” you. I’m not sure what kind of love you’re talking about, but it isn’t enough to make this work. What the guy did was flat-out wrong, disrespectful and low. But let’s be fair… you didn’t show the greatest judgment either.  Part of your current situation is a direct result of taking him back after he betrayed you. I’m guessing that you really didn’t trust him. You still don’t! Yet you allowed yourself to believe he’d get his act together. (Based on what? “LOVE”?) It also sounds like you two never addressed the hurt caused by the first betrayal. Never discussed why he thought it was OK to cheat on you. And because you never dealt with it, it came back to bite you… hard. The fact that now all he wants from you is to be one of his “f__ friends” really says it all, doesn’t it? And the reason you “still love” this self-centered disrespectful individual “so much” is… why?

What you need to move forward is more self-respect. When you develop that you won’t need me or anyone else to tell you that this isn’t love. If you need help sorting out your feelings and working on self-esteem, then I strongly suggest that you find a counselor or a therapist to talk with.

In friendship,

Most parents I talk with say they absolutely want their teen daughters and sons to grow up to be “a good partner in a healthy committed relationship.” If we’re going to walk the walk, we really need to be teaching our kids that love isn’t enough.

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , , , — Annie @ 11:32 am
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