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.

Parenting worry: Am I playing favorites?

May 3, 2017

What if I don’t love them equally?

Conventional parenting wisdom dictates: Parents should (must) love their children equally. “Equal” implies “exactly the same.” Not buying that in theory or in practice. We all savor different qualities in the people we love. We cherish the time we spend together for very different reasons. Why compare? It’s pointless.

I have a daughter and a son. I would drop everything in a hot minute if they asked for my help because I love them both deeply, but not equally.

Got an email from a mom who seems uneasy with how differently she feels toward her 14-year-old son and his twin sister.

Mom: He always had good grades in middle school, even if he missed some homework. Now in high school he realizes that not doing homework actually affects his grade so he is doing all of it, except math.

He doesn’t do his pre-calculous homework since the teacher doesn’t check it everyday. He can’t keep up with the material during the class. He frantically studies the night before each test and he got B+ last semester. At least he studies before the test, but If he did his homework regularly he could have received an A easily without studying like that the previous night.  I know B+ is okay but I’m more worried about his habit of procrastination as well as his grade.

Even though I’m suffering inside watching him putting off his work we have a good relationship. He has friends and does sports, but no other club – he has no interest in putting his effort into anything other than sports.

His twin sister is doing great in every way – she has good friends, doing a lot of club/sports, as well as she gets perfect grade (because she DOES her homework in time even though she is super busy). The problem with me is that I know what homework they have because of her. If I didn’t know what homework he should be doing I would be less anxious.

I try not to say too much about it but it’s really hard (HARD) for me to watch him just spending time looking at his iphone even though there is homework to do. Should I just watch him and hope he will realize or should I have a some sort of conversation about it? I just tell him something like “Why don’t you do your homework before it’s too late?” He says, “OK,” but it never has any effect on him.

Annie: I think it would be helpful if you tried to step back a bit. Your son is doing so much that is “right.” He really is. In your own words:
“He got a B+ last semester in pre-calculus.” (A strong grade)
“He studies before the test.”
“We have a good relationship.”
“He has friends.”
“He does sports.”

Your worrying seems misplaced. He is young and time management is a challenging skill to master.

I understand it’s hard not to compare your son to his twin sister, but please remind yourself that he is not his sister. He is also not you. He is developing at his own pace with his own strengths and challenges. He will figure this out. He already has “realized that not doing homework actually affects his grades…” At this point, his good relationship with you is much more important than how he is progressing in pre-calculus.

Please try to relax about his math studies. At this point you should not be involving yourself in his school work to this degree. The “contract” is between your son and his teacher. When you step back and let him work it out on his own, he is more likely to realize the connection between attentiveness in math class, homework, studying, etc. and grades a lot faster than if you make this your project.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Annie

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How do I keep my kids from fighting with each other?

October 5, 2015

"I hate you!" "I hate you more!!!"

“I hate you!” “I hate you more!!!”

My two older brothers constantly picked fights with each other. I’m talking about shouting, punching, wrestling and chair throwing. While I wasn’t engaged in any of the physical stuff, one of my brothers took special delight in teasing me to the point of tears. My mom did a lot of totally ineffective yelling. Thankfully, the three of us get along very well now, but, man, it didn’t have to be the way it was back then.

I swore, as a parent, I’d do my best to raise my children in a way that gave us peace in the house. We all want that, right? We want our kids to get along with each other so that this life-long connection of theirs will be a loving and supportive one. We want them to grow up looking forward to visiting each other on holidays, with their own kids in tow, and really enjoy being together. Right? Of course!

So how do you get there if you’re currently entrenched in sibling wars? 

Start by taking a good hard look at the way you respond to your kids’ conflicts with each other. Your response can make a whole lot of difference when it comes to turning this ship around. Sometimes our kids fight and bicker and argue so frequently that we become desensitized to the noise and tension and just tune them out. You may only wake up when someone outside the immediate family notices the decibel level and comments, “Wow, it’s kinda loud in here. What’s going on with your kids?” To which you may respond, “Oh, they’re always like this.”

When you, as a parent, turns a blind eye to sibling conflict, the message you’re sending to your kids (especially to the current aggressor) is: “What you’re doing is OK with me.” But it’s not OK. Don’t accept the unacceptable. What you put up with you promote. Time for a change.

Tips to help you make a more peaceful home:

1. Tune in to the your kids’ conflicts. Disagreements are normal and beneficial in the social and emotional development of children. They need lots of practice negotiating, compromising, and problem-solving. But when hostilities between siblings heat up to the point of aggression (verbal and/or physical) your parental leadership is needed… now.

2. Stay calm. To teach kids to be respectful with each other, you need to respond to their conflicts calmly, maturely and respectfully. If you can’t do that in the moment (because your kids’ fighting has pushed your buttons way too many times), take a break… take some slow deep breaths…  and then start to talk to your children about what’s going on.

3. Talk to them separately. Give each child a chance to talk to you very openly and honestly about what is at the bottom of their constant hostility. After each has told you their “side”,  bring them together while you help them figure out a way respectful way through their conflict. Keep doing this and after a while your kids will do this on their own.

4. It’s your job. If you don’t teach them to deal with their emotions in productive ways so they don’t hurt each other, they won’t learn it. Ultimately your leadership will determine how your kids will resolve conflicts with each other, with peers and, later in life, with romantic partners.

If you could use some professional support, please avail yourself of parent coaching. There are many many great parent coaches who often specialize in helping parents resolve sibling conflicts. You might ask your pediatrician or your child’s school counselor for a referral.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Annie

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10 common BS excuses from kids and what’s behind them

May 27, 2014

It's all your fault!

You started it!

Empathy training begins at home. So does compassion training, truth-telling, good listening skills, and bullying prevention. And you thought helping with 7th grade math was going to be the hard part!

We want our kids to learn to be good people and most of us know that doesn’t happen solely by osmosis. So we teach them and we do such a good job that by the time they are five, they say “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry” on command. Underneath the programmed responses is the beginning of kids’ awareness of the right way right to treat other people vs. the wrong way. But because they are young humans they mess up. Often. They lash out and hurt the feelings and body parts of other children. And we hear about it. Yet no matter how many after-the-fact conversations that begin with “How would you feel if he did that to you?” they will continue to go out of their way to hurt other kids. So what’s up with that? Are your kids “bad”? No. Even though they do bad things, they aren’t bad kids. And don’t you dare think they are or, god forbid, tell them that!

Since they’re not bad, why do they keep doing this hurtful stuff? Simply because they haven’t yet learned to manage their destructive emotions (anger, jealousy, resentment, frustration and poor-me-ism, to name a few peace-busters guaranteed to bring out the worst in our species.) Consequently, kids of all ages maim first first and ask forgiveness afterwards. Another reason they do stuff they know isn’t OK is because they’ve constructed a set of handy justifications that makes it OK.

Because most kids get their peer relationship training with their siblings, cousins, and close family friends, let’s imagine a typical sister-brother conflict in your home. Suppose your 7 year old daughter purposely wrecks the Lego castle your 5 year old son’s been building all afternoon. He’s crying and screaming and you yell at her, “Why did you do that?!” Turn down the volume for a sec and listen to her justifications:

1. I didn’t do anything.

2. I thought he wanted my help.

3. I thought he was finished.

4. It was already broken.

5. He always hogs the ____.

6. He always blames me for everything.

7. He’s annoying.

8. His stuff was in my way.

9. He was doing it wrong.

10. You always take his side.

What can you say to any of this? Your own destructive emotions have launched surface to air missiles from your eyeballs and your tone of voice is ugly and scary. But who can blame you? This is already the third … no fourth… fight between these two and it’s only Saturday afternoon of this loong “Happy Holiday Weekend.” So if you’re not in your “Calm Mommy” place hey, we get it. But if you were sane and centered enough to actually hear and acknowledge every one of your daughter’s justifications (which doesn’t mean you’ve got to agree with any of them) she could rattle them off and pile them neatly to one side and maybe, just maybe, she’d then feel safe enough to lift the lid on her anger, tentatively reveal the soft underbelly of her heart, and tell you the real reason she’s determined to destroy her brother’s happiness.

Sniff… whimper… “I think you love him more than me.”

What do you say now, Mom?

 

 

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Frontline: Sibling Wars “I don’t want a new baby”

June 17, 2011

Maybe he's not so bad after all.

Got email from a young dad who recently had a second baby. He and his wife were surprised at their 5 year old daughter’s reaction. “Emma clearly doesn’t like receiving less attention and has shown a change in behavior since the baby arrived. Thankfully she hasn’t taken it out on him, just directed it towards us.”

It was only 6 AM but Big Sister’s reaction was so familiar I skipped my starter cup of Earl Grey and immediately replied:

Hey Worried Dad,

If not classy, your daughter’s reaction is classic. During our son’s first 6 months, our daughter (also 5 at the time) was no ray of sunshine. Like your Emma, our girl never directed her resentment toward her brother, but she was obviously pissed at us… specifically me. Stands to reason. Five years she’s a mega star. Parents, grandparents, hell, even the UPS guys light up when they see her. She starts walking, talking and drawing pictures… OMG! Accolades pour in! That’s her life until… one day, Mom & Dad bring home a little blob in a blue blanket and bingo, Glory Days are gone.

From Child #1’s point of view, the arrival of #2 is the equivalent of Husband telling Wife, “Sweetie, I’d like to introduce you to my second wife. Isn’t she beautiful? And guess what? She’s going to live with us… FOREVER. I still love you, but you won’t be getting as much attention. We won’t be doing as much fun stuff together either. You see, my second wife has lots of needs so I’ll be focusing on her. When I’m with her, don’t interrupt us. If you do, I’ll probably get annoyed. I may even yell. Be quiet while she’s sleeping. And don’t bother me while I’m resting. Even though it looks like the coast is clear and I may be ready to spend time with you, I don’t have extra energy because it’s all going to… you guessed it, my second wife.

“What’s that? You’re not happy with these changes? You wanna know what you’re going to do about all this? I dunno. That’s your problem. Oh, one more thing… You must love my new wife as much as I do and share everything you’ve got with her. And don’t forget to smile. That’s very important. I want her to feel welcome.”

How would you feel if your one-and-only laid that on you?? OK, I see you’re starting to realize that Emma’s got a legitimate beef. Look, incorporating a new baby into the family isn’t an easy transition for any of you. Here are some suggestions that might help:

1) Acknowledge to Emma that her feelings of jealousy, resentment, etc. are TOTALLY VALID. Don’t make her feel like she’s “bad” if she’s not thrilled with the baby. While it’s OK for her to feel whatever’s she’s feeling, obviously it’s not OK for her to act out. Let her know that you guys get where she’s coming from then provide her with opportunities to express her feelings in responsible, appropriate and safe ways.

2) Dad, create special one-on-one time with your daughter. You and she deserve a weekly “date” outside the house, just the two of you. It will do wonders for your relationship and her behavior. Same with Mom and Emma. Insist they go off together once a week (at least for an hour or two) while you bond with your new son and give Mom a break.

3) Give Emma special “big sister” responsibilities. (No cleaning up or other yucky duties. Only the fun stuff!) Have her read to the baby. Sing to him. Draw pictures for his wall and let her explain the art to him. Show him how to play with his toys. Tell your daughter that her brother wants to get to know her. He’s curious about and impressed with all the things his Big Sister can do. He needs her to show him so much. Give her the opportunity to be one of his teachers and they will learn to love and appreciate each other.

It sure turned out that way with our little girl and her baby brother.


 

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 4:49 pm
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