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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: What’s the most important thing I should teach my child?

July 13, 2015

That was challenging, but you did it!

That was challenging, but you did it!

Here’s Part 5 of my parenting Q&A series. Today’s question may be one of the most fundamental I’ve received in my 18 years at this online parent education gig. Here goes…

What is the most important thing I should teach my child?

Obviously an essential part of every parent’s job is teaching your children to survive, to keep themselves safe. But I’m going to take a different tack here. My answer to your question is: Teach them to handle their distressing emotions, i.e., the emotions that throw us off-center, muck with our moral compass and interfere with clearly thinking. I’m talking about anger, jealousy, resentment, etc. Oh and let’s not forget frustration and rejection! These emotions can very easily push us over the edge. And when we go over we are much less likely to treat others with respect and sensitivity. This is the why people become violent. Why we so often hurt each other.

When we teach kids to manage their distressing emotions they are in a much better place to deal with life’s challenges. And you don’t need me to tell you there are plenty of challenges to be dealt with… at least a dozen turn up in your path every day. Emotions are like solar flares.  We need the tools to regulate and rein them in.

I’m not suggesting that we teach kids to try to rush ahead of our children and clear their path of all possible obstacles. Nor should we teach them to take everything as it comes with a cheery smile, pretending everything is OK when it isn’t. No way! A more realistic and valuable approach is helping kids understand that they will be pushed to the edge at times. They can count on feeling frustrated, hurt, and angry at times. Our feelings are important, but our behavior is even more important. Our behavior in the face of really strong emotions is something we need to master. Mastery comes from practice.

So let’s give our kids lots of practice in calming down. Lots of practice in finding the words when they feel out of control. Words are very important. We need to help our kids understand that even when we feel we’re about to lose it, it is never OK, to be cruel or disrespectful to anyone. The best way to do this is to model it. Our kids give us plenty of opportunities to show what it’s like to get one’s buttons pushed. They do that to us every day! We need to show them that we know how to control ourselves so that they can learn to do it too.

I hope this helps.

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Cure for obessive teen love?

July 16, 2014

Who gets to break my heart without my permission?

Who gets to break my heart without my permission?

Breaking up is hard to do. And painful. Hopefully, though, there were good times before the relationship tanked, so at least you’ve got some happy memories. On the other hand, if you’re obsessed with someone who was never nice to you, well, that’s just pain on pain. No one needs that.

Recently got an email from a girl in that dark place. Read on…

My heart aches for him and I really want to move, but I find myself checking his instagram, facebook, and all other social media  just to see him.  I cant let go, even though I want to so bad. I’m torn between wanting him to want me and wanting to forget about him completely. It’s been almost a year. I just hate this obsession. What do I do? –So Stuck

Dear So Stuck,

The truth may hurt, but I’ve got to say it anyway. This guy doesn’t care about you, That’s the way it is. You may wish things were different, but all the wishing in the Known Universe and beyond will not change fact.

Here’s something else that’s true: You deserve someone who wants to be with you as much as you want to be with him. This guy is not The One. The sooner you accept it, the sooner you will find The One (Maybe during this coming school year! There’s an exciting thought!)

In the meantime, you’ve got to stop checking up on this guy. It’s a total waste of the summer and, more important, it’s bringing you down. You have gotten into an unhealthy habit here, but you can get back in control. Here’s how:

1. Make an agreement with yourself to stop stalking him.

2. Whenever you get the thought, “I’ll just check his instagram, FB, etc.” notice that thought. 

3. Imagine the device you’re holding is burning hot. Get your hands off the darn thing right now this minute! 

4. Close your eyes and BREATHE mindfully. Inhale slowly and evenly through your nose. Then relax your jaw and exhale, slowly and evenly through your mouth. Repeat 5 times….. S-L-O-W-L-Y.

5. Did you do it? If not, what are you waiting for? Do it now.

6. After breathing, the urge to “check on him” should be less intense. If not, breathe some more. If it is less, congrats! You got yourself back in control. Well done. You know how to do this. And you’ll probably get lots of practice. Whenever you feel the urge to check up on him, think “Fire!!! Will not get burned again. Hands up! Breathe…”

7. Go do something you enjoy. Something away from the phone or computer with people you like who like you back.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,
Terra

 

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Day 10: Kindness and Respect Challenge (R-E-S-P-E-C-T) Part 2

October 10, 2013

In case you missed yesterday’s episode, you might want to take a minute to read the email from the teen whose friendship with her bff made her feel like a prisoner “in jail.” She wanted out, but didn’t know how to find the exit. I advised her to talk to her friend and take a vacation from the friendship.

Here’s what happened next:

Hey Terra,
Thank you very much! I’ve already told her today but things got all crazy. I said that I don’t want to be her best friend anymore, just want to be an ordinary friend to her. But I think she got it all wrong. Guess what she did?? She bad-mouthed me to my other friends!! She created bad stories about me! None of it was true! I hate her and exams are next week but my head just can’t focus!! Help!

Now What?!

Dear Now What,

I’m not surprised she turned against you.  She hasn’t been acting like a real friend for a while. This is just more of the same… with the volume cranked up. If your other friends believe the lies she made up and turn against you too, they’re not acting like real friends either. You deserve so much better.

I understand this is hard. We all want to be liked. We want people to say only good things and think only good thoughts about us. But no one has the remote controller for anyone else’s mouth or brain. People say what they want to say and think what they want to think. People also believe exactly what they choose to believe. You’ve got no control over any of it. Zero. But…you can choose not to let this upset you so much. Your ex-bff and the other girls have no power over you unless you give away your power to them.

You need to relax so you can study for your exams… and do your best. Every time you catch yourself thinking about the social garbage these girls are creating and spreading around, STOP… and take some slow deep breaths. Here’s how:
Inhale slowly and evenly through your nose (Try it right now)….
Then relax your jaw, open your mouth and slowly and evenly exhale.
(Go ahead.)
Repeat the cycle.
Inhale (and think “I am breathing IN….”)
Exhale (and think “I am breathing OUT…”
Close your eyes and continue breathing, slowly and mindfully.
IN
OUT
DEEP
SLOW
CALM
EASE
SMILE (Go ahead. Even a half smile will do)
RELEASE
PRESENT MOMENT
WONDERFUL MOMENT

From now on, whenever you catch yourself getting sucked back into this silly drama or the next one, stop and breathe.  Re-center. Be kind to yourself. Be respectful of your power for good. Be here.

I hope this helps. Good luck with your exams.

In friendship,
Terra

A few days later I heard back from her one more time:

Thanks a bunch! (= it really helps.

Ahhhh!

Namaste

See Day 11.

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