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.

Back to School: Shifting gears without too much grinding

July 29, 2013

Hey dude. Welcome back.

During the school year The Routine keeps the family on a short leash, jolting us into each day: “Get up or you’ll be late! Quit hogging the bathroom! Quit texting and finish your breakfast! Where’s your homework? Don’t forget your cleats! Get going!!”

Then summer comes. We exhale. We’re off leash. The voice inside our head takes a vacation and happily forgets to write. We feel free. And it dawns on us that, yes, we are human beings, not machines.

Hopefully every adult and child in your family had some special time during the break. Time together for fun and bonding. Time on alone for fun and self-discovery.

Now’s the time to get back in gear. It’s an adjustment for everyone. But for some kids going back to school is a real challenge, especially if last year wasn’t memorable in a good way. Maybe there was a personality clash with a “difficult” teacher. Or the (home)work repeatedly overwhelmed brain and emotions. Maybe there were issues with friends or ex-friends that made school a battlefield. If any of this happened to your kids, not surprising they don’t want to go back. But go they must.

So your job is to make it easier. Call a family meeting to debrief from last school year. Because let’s face it, not everything you and your kids did last term is worth replaying. It’s probably safe to say that a lot of what went down ought to be avoided. NOTE: I’m not implying that all the social garbage and arguments were intentional or avoidable, but I do know this:

1. It takes one person to start an argument. But it takes two people to keep it going.

2. Doing nothing in the face of a bad situation typically encourages more of the same.

3. People aren’t mind-readers. You’ve gotta tell them how you feel and actively teach them how to treat you.

4. Pain is part of life.

5. Suffering (blaming, feeling sorry for yourself, and/or rehashing) are optional.

So gather the troops for a safe and open conversation about what you each did (at home, at school, and online) that worked well last year and what didn’t. This may take 30 minutes, give or take, so schedule accordingly. If you blow off the family meeting rules (no interrupting, no invalidating, etc.)  it’ll take longer and accomplish much less. More tips for a successful family meeting:

  • Turn off all digital devices.
  • Insist on respectful listening. Model it too.
  • Bring snacks.
  • Appoint a “secretary” to record new family agreements and policy. That way later, no one can get away with “I/You never said that!”
  • Meet together regularly for progress reports. Celebrate what’s working. Tweak what isn’t.

Working together, as a family, you can contribute to a better school year for your kids and yourself. Good luck!

In friendship,


PS I’ll be writing more about Back-to-School challenges in the coming days. Stay tuned.

Filed under: Parenting,Tips — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 1:35 pm

Day 11: Those annoying people at school

June 19, 2009

Does this water make me look fat?

Does this water make me look fat?

The responses to my teen annoyance survey keep coming in, but I’ve got enough now to see a trend. Apparently, school is the most annoying place in the world. Why? Because so many of the other students are sooooo annoying. Here are a few of the choicest descriptions I received in answer to the first question: “What things at school annoy you?”

“I was on my way to class and a bunch of ignorant stuck-up girls had the nerve to just walk right into me without so much as using their manners to excuse themselves but only to keep on babbling their heads off.”

“When people leave the faucet on and water goes drip drip.”

“This girl insults people as if it’s just a big joke to her, but then when they lash out at her, she starts to cry or gets upset and insulted. But no matter how hurt she gets when people respond to her annoying not to mention retarded and immature teasing, she just goes on and does it again the next day.”

“There are these know-it-alls in my class who like licking up to the teacher every minute and not letting anyone get a word in.”

“I have a sorta friend who is always saying ‘I’m so fat.’ when she is not. And I know she does it just to make the rest of us feel fat. It’s really annoying!”

“The most annoying person in my school is The Dolt. He constantly says stupid jokes such as ‘That’s what she said.’ and ‘Your mom.’ And yes, is a junior in high school. In other words, he’s so insecure he feels he has to constantly make people laugh, even if it makes him look like an idiot. And did I mention he’s got a 2.0? He’s a real role model, alright…”

“‘The Everything-You-Say-Means-Sex’ People.  I know a guy and a girl like this. Everything you say when you talk to them has a dirty meaning. From ‘short bus’ to ‘what’s up’ to talking about how you had to water the garden. If a guy has girlish features, he’s a hermaphrodite. If a girl hates guys and kissing, she’s secretly a slut… at least to these two. They use the vulgar terms for everything sexual and only want to talk about sex and things related to it. It’s really annoying!!”

“There’s this girl I’ve known since I started 6th grade (I’m in 8th now). She was OK at the beginning but when we got close she started to become very clingy, annoying and a bit like a stalker. Since we have had an argument she has purposely been talking out loud to other people about me… so I can hear her. Grrrrrrrr.”

Wow! None of those people sound like much fun, but if you saw any of them, they’d probably look like normal. Shows what you know! From the point of view of the kids who sent in these responses, their behavior is sooo annoying that the very thought of them is enough to get under your skin.

If you’re no longer a student maybe you can recall some annoying former classmates of your own. Like the kid in my high school who used to come up behind some unsuspecting girl and wrap his arms around  her. He thought he was being charming. Today we call it sexual harassment. Or the girl in my math class who couldn’t wait until the tests were returned so she (of the 4.5 GPA) could ask everyone “What did you get?” Ah yes… school days, school days, good old golden rule days.

So at summer’s end when you’ve had it up to here with the annoyance of your kids being around all day and you ask them: “Are you excited to start school again?” Don’t be surprised if the answer is an emphatic no. In addition to returning to the joys of homework and sleep deprivation, they may very well be thinking of those annoying people they’ll be dealing with again. But hey, it’s all part of their life skills education, right?

Filed under: Annoyance Challenge,Teens — Tags: , — Annie @ 5:46 pm

Day 9: Asking teens to weigh in

June 16, 2009

Hey! Watchoo lookin' at?

Hey! Whachoo lookin' at?

Yesterday I expanded my Annoyance Challenge exploration by emailing a survey to one hundred tweens and  teens. The topic: annoying behavior at school. Here are the six straight-forward questions.

  1. At school what things annoy you? (Lots of details please but no names!)
  2. When someone’s behavior annoys you, what do you usually do about it?
  3. At school, what do you sometimes do that annoys OTHER PEOPLE? (whether you mean to or not)
  4. At school, what do you sometimes do that annoys YOU?
  5. How have you tried to change your own behavior so that it’s less annoying to others or yourself?
  6. If someone else’s annoying behavior didn’t get to you so easily, how would school be different?

So far I’ve heard back from twelve students. I’m thinking 12% teen response to a random email questionnaire is pretty good. This may indicate either that the topic of annoyance is a hot one and they’re eager to vent or that even though school’s only been out for a week, they’re already bored and willing to reply to anything that wafts into their IN Box. Maybe it’s a little of each. Anyway, I’ve already gotten some really interesting answers. I’ll be sharing the results over the next several days.

In the meantime, if you’ve got a 10-14 year old in your house and you can manage to get them to respond to these questions (anonymously, of course) I’d really appreciate it. They can email me here. If they’re not up for it, that’s cool. I certainly don’t want to annoy anyone!

Filed under: Annoyance Challenge,Parenting,Quizzes,Teens — Tags: , — Annie @ 6:56 pm
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