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.

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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Parenting Question: Why is it good for kids to make mistakes?

July 20, 2015

I give up!!!!

I give up!!!!

Part 6 of my Parenting Q&A series brings a question about kids and mistakes. While it’s natural for parents to be on the look-out for our children’s missteps, how we respond can have a huge impact on a child’s developing autonomy and her view of a problem vs. a challenge.

When my daughter tries something and things don’t turn out the way she envisioned, she gets upset and gives up. We hear a lot these days about the importance of kids developing persistence and GRIT. What can I do to help her learn from mistakes and try again?

We’re all human and we all make mistakes. At least that’s what we say. But in some families children have learned it’s not safe to make mistakes because parents tease or shame.  If a child repeatedly makes the same mistake parents may get frustrated and say, “You know better than that!” But if children actually knew better they would do better. Right? The fact that a child makes a mistake should not be cause for a parent to jump down the kid’s throat. That kind of reaction will only teach children that mistakes should be avoided!

Here’s the truth about mistakes: They are amazing opportunities to learn. Think about the word mistake … it’s a moment when learning has not yet taken hold. When the learning takes, then we don’t make that mistake again.

Parents might gain insight into their attitudes about mistake by looking back to their own childhood and how their parents responded to mistakes. Maybe you got yelled at or punished. Hopefully, you did not get hit, slapped or spanked, but maybe you did. If you experienced that kind of parental response, then you learned that mistakes must be avoided at all costs. But wait a minute! What kind of lesson is that? The first time we try anything we are going to fail. It would be a lucky fluke if we got it right, first time out of the gate.

How about we turn this “Avoid mistakes” mantra on its head? What if we give kids the realistic expectation that they will fail and they’ll learn something useful from every failure? What if we give them permission to fail and try again?  When parents encourage their children’s to make mistakes, we teach them about persistence, GRIT and determination. They will learn to pick themselves up and evaluate what just happened. They will learn to modify their response so that their next attempt may result in a different outcome.  That’s how you raise successful children who are fearless in facing obstacles.

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Friendship issues from the 2nd grade

March 12, 2012

A few weeks ago, I visited a school in St. Louis where the word “respect” is much more than a poster on the wall. (I love it when that’s the case!) Walking through the front door I sensed that social and emotional learning at this school was the real deal. Throughout the day, I presented five separate grade-specific sessions. And let me tell you, those 2nd –  6th graders were some of the most engaged students I’ve met in the dozen or so years I’ve been doing this stuff. The kids eagerly took my tools for dealing with friendship issues and in return, gave me their hand-written, anonymous questions to take home and ponder. I promised I’d address each one, right here, in my blog, so they could log on, with their parents, and have a serious conversation about what’s going on in their lives and what it means to be a real friend vs. the other kind.

Because I also teach the importance of keeping agreements, I’m starting today with part 1 of a 5 part series in which I will respectfully answer each of the thoughtful questions I received from those St. Louis students. See Part 2 Friendship Issues from the 3rd grade. and Part 3: Friendship Issues from the 4th grade

(NOTE: If you are one of the students who wrote a question and you don’t find yours in your grade’s blog post, I may have put it in the wrong place by mistake. Look for it in another blog in this series.)

My best bud lost to me in a state capital contest and hasn’t liked me since. What should I do?

Sometimes it’s hard to lose. Maybe once or twice you have felt angry at someone who beat you at a game. I know I have! It sounds like your friend may be feeling that way since you won the contest. I suggest you go to your friend, maybe at recess or lunch. Smile, and say, “Let’s be friends again” then invite your friend to play or to sit with you. See what happens!

What do I do if someone is only trying to play with my friend, not me? And I tell her “May I play with my friend?” and she says ‘No.” It sounds like you and this person are having a little tug-of-war! But instead of pulling on either end of a rope, you are pulling on your friend! This person does not ‘own’ your friend, but neither do you. If you and this person and your friend can not play well all together, then suggest you talk to your friend and set up a time to play with just her. You may have to take turns playing with her. And during the time when your friend is playing with the other person, you find someone else to play with.

What can I do if someone makes someone be a certain thing in a game? Make believe games are a lot of fun, but it’s not so much fun if one person gets a little bossy and tries to “make” other people be certain things they don’t want to be. Of course, if you’ve never told the person that you aren’t comfortable with all of his/her ideas, then it’s time to speak up! The next time this happens in a game, you might say, “No. I don’t want to be that. Instead, I’m going to be______.” Try it and good luck!

How do I find out if people like me, cause I want to be nice to them? I think you have this “being nice” stuff a little bit backwards. We aren’t “nice” to people just because they like us and we want to reward them! We should be nice to people is because we can be! Also it feels good to be nice to people and makes the world a better place! And you know something else? When you are nice to people, they are more likely to want to be your friend because you’ve shown that you are a kind and friendly person. So don’t worry about whether certain people like you. Just be nice and see what happens!

What should I do if somebody retaliates for something you did not do? You do your best to tell them that you didn’t do the thing that they’re blaming you for. If they won’t listen or won’t believe you, you should talk to an adult about this. Hopefully a parent or teacher can help you and this other person get to the bottom of this misunderstanding.

What should I do if someone tattles on my friend? You don’t need to “do” anything except to take yourself out of the middle of this one. It really doesn’t have anything to do with you. If your friend did something that wasn’t OK and got in trouble for it, then your friend is the one that needs to set things right. As for the person who “tattled”, well, honestly, I’m not so sure what that word means. If it means, “Someone was mean to me and I told the teacher about it.” I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that is the right thing to do!

What if somebody pushes me into another person? If it was on purpose (and not accident) then you apologize to the person who got bumped and you talk to the person who pushed you. You might say, “If you’re angry about something, let’s talk. But don’t push me.”

What if somebody promises to sit with me at lunch but doesn’t? Sometimes people forget their promises and they need to be reminded. And sometimes people make promises when they really don’t mean to keep them. If this person is a real friend, then set up another time to sit together at lunch. If this person never seems to want to sit with you at lunch, I suggest you find some other people who DO want to sit with you!

What should I do when people give me the silent treatment because they don’t want to be my friend? I know that it hurts when people you want to be friends with act like they don’t want you as a friend. You can’t force someone to be your friend, but you can always remind yourself that you deserve to be treated with respect. Giving someone the silent treatment is disrespectful. If someone does this to you, I suggest you do two things 1) tell them “STOP. You’re being cruel.” and 2) look around you and find some kinder people to hang out with.

What should I do if no one likes me? I wonder how you can be so sure that “no one” likes you. I’m sure that’s not right! But I can tell that you believe it and it’s making you feel sad and lonely. You need at least one good friend you can count on. And it sounds like you need some help finding that friend. Please talk to your parents about these feelings and talk to your teacher. Tell them “I need a friend.” and that will be the start of something better.

My friend says “I can do this and you don’t have the powers to.” What should I do? Invent some super powers of your own! It all starts with your wonderfully powerful imagination. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do!

 

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App Friday: Be Confident sale – $.99 May 6th only

May 6, 2011

"Be Confident" on sale for $.99 (May 6, 2011 only)

Fridays are inherently cool. App Fridays are especially welcome because that’s when Moms With Apps* features their weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. And guess who’s featured today? That would be me and David (aka Electric Eggplant). Which is why,  for today, Friday, May 6th 2011, our Middle School Confidential app (aka Be Confident) is on sale for 99 cents. Got a 4th-8th grader? Got access to an iPad. For $.99 you can give that kid you love something (s)he wants more than anything… the gift of confidence to be who they really are.

MWA: seeking to promote quality apps for kids and families

*Never heard of Moms With Apps!? Let me tell you, for newbie app developers like me and David, this wonderfully supportive consortium that’s committed to quality kid and family content, has been the difference between stumbling and bumbling on all-fours vs. having a lighted path to walk on. We’re grateful for their friendship and ongoing support, so here’s a plug for them. They’ve launched their own app the Moms With Apps App Catalogue (of apps, of course!) Check ’em out.

Update (May 7th, 2011): Our app has now returned to its normal price of $3.99. Download our Be Confident iPad app.

 

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