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.

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.



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.

Find Annie Fox: Find Annie on Facebook Find Annie on Twitter Find Annie on Pinterest Find Annie on YouTube Find Annie on Google+ Find Annie on LinkedIn Find Annie on Goodreads Find Annie on Quora