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.

Three things parents should stop doing in 2014

January 5, 2014

Self-improvment New Year’s resolutions usually fade after Week 2 because they require us to do things we’re not used to. Most people aren’t wired that way. So I’m thinking it might be easier to stop doing something unhealthy rather than to start a whole new regime. So here’s my list of three common things parents should stop doing this year.

That's it! I've had it!!!!

That’s it! I’ve had it!

1. Yelling. Parenting is messy and stressful. With everything that’s expected of you it’s easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed. If yelling has become your go-to place, you need to stop. When you lash out at your kids, your spouse, or your dog, you are polluting your home and hurting your family. If you don’t have at least one stress-management tool in your toolkit (alcohol and tobacco do not count), you aren’t fully equipped for your parenting job so you’ll be less effective. I recommend breathing. It will help you learn the relaxation response. Breathing requires no gym membership or special shoes. It’s free and always available. Yes, it’s habit-forming, but in a very good way. Stop yelling and start breathing and your kids will give you less to yell about. Guaranteed.

2. Tuning out. Parents, teachers, coaches… adults in general are always telling kids what to do, how to act, and what to believe. When kids take the bold step of opening up to us (because they need to be heard), we often aren’t listening… not one hundred percent. And if we are listening, as soon as we hear something that indicates a “problem” we may well jump to invalidate it (“You don’t really feel that way.”) And yet, we want our kids to stand up for themselves amongst their peers – whether they’re being overpowered in the kindergarten playground or in a teen relationship. But how are they going to learn to be speak up if we don’t give them practice by respectfully listening to what they have to say? Stop tuning out and start listening with a more open heart and mind and your kids will feel more confident in themselves.

 3. Rushing around. Every family needs down time, and hopefully you all got some during the holidays. But most of us need and deserve daily down time… together… as a family. If your kids are still young enough for story time, what a great chance to cuddle and reconnect each evening. If your children are past being read to you can still make it a nightly ritual to check in with them for a quiet talk about how the day went for each of you. (This is a great way to teach kids that conversations are a two-way street. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re always the one asking “How’s it going?”) And let’s not forget meal time. Maybe you’ve heard this before but the research findings are so amazing they’re worth repeating: Kids whose families sit down and eat dinner together at least three times a week get all kinds of benefits. Have dinner together and your kids are more likely to do better in school, less likely to use alcohol or illegal drugs, and less likely to be overweight. They’re even less likely to have friends who do drugs! Don’t you love it?

Happy New Year from my family to yours.

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Day 8 Kindness and Respect Challenge (Plea to the Goddess of Patience)

October 8, 2013

Sorry, Mom. You still love me, right?

The Pupster was crazed this morning. Pulling on the bedspread. Chewing on my sock. Biting my yoga mat. Jumping on the table. Barking at squirrels. Barking at trucks. Barking at me! And through it all, I breathe and tried to re-center while I answered email, prepped for my 10 o’clock call, cooked oatmeal. But Gracie  wasn’t calmed. Neither was I.

I tried to distract her by tossing the orange ball. The short red ropey toy. The long pink and black ropey toy. The  squeaky toy. The deer antler that we just spent $15 on. Nothing worked for more than a couple of minutes. Then I barked at David… LOUDLY: “I’ve got a 10 o’clock. She needs to get her ya-yas out. Take her for a run. Now!”

Ahhhhh… they’re gone now. My call went well. The living is quiet. All I hear is the bubbling of the fish tank filter. Life is good. I feel so much kinder and more respectful. I will show them when they come back. Hopefully not too soon.

Check out Day 9 of The Kindness and Respect Challenge

Filed under: Kindness and Respect Challenge,Parenting — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 10:53 am
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Day 7 Kindness and Respect Challenge (We’re here to help)

October 7, 2013

On Saturday (Day 5 of the Challenge) I drove to Stanford to a Challenge Success student event. My job was to lead two round table discussions. The topic: “Too Stressed to Think?” in which I would help tweens and teens understand the link between being in so-called emergency mode and doing stuff we later regret.

I’ve written a lot about stress over the past eight years. Done countless presentations for kids and the adults who live and work with them. Even though Saturday’s event was at a world-class university, teaching doesn’t rattle me. What did shake me up in advance was the challenge of finding exactly where I needed to be. Stanford is a big place and map-reading is not my thing.

Arriving in the vicinity I asked some students for directions to the Graduate School of Education. They wanted to help, but they were newbies and like I said, Stanford is huge. So they kindly brought over this older guy who knew the campus well. He was kind and patient. Helped me decipher my map (yeah, I had one) then told me a) where to park-no charge on weekends! and b) where my building was.

After the event, heading back to my car, I spotted two confused people peering at a map. I asked them if they were lost. They were looking for the campus bookstore. I admitted I was also a visitor, but I wanted to help them. (Pass it forward, right?) Between their map and my knowledge of the name of the building I had just emerged from, we figured it out.

So, take this into the new week: We’re here to help each other. Sure, there are more self-serving ways to play the game, but I don’t recommend them. For one thing, it feels good to help. For another, there’s karma and being helpful will help you. If you need more motivation to go out of your way to help other people, how about this: it’s the right thing to do. Not always easy, as I told the girl who asked this question, but always right.

Got another minute? Read on:

A girl has bullied me forever. She just got glasses and now people are making fun of her. Should I stick up for her? (from The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship, by Annie Fox, illustrated by Erica De Chavez, © 2014 by Annie Fox and Erica De Chavez. Now available)*

What a great question! Isn’t life interesting the way things can turn around? This girl picked on you, so you might be thinking, “Why should I help her?” The answer is simple: Because she needs a friend right now. Another reason you should help is because you know exactly how bad it feels to be teased. If you stand by and let others make fun of her you’ll be unhappy because you’ll know, deep inside, that you could have done something to make things better.

The answer to your question is yes! Stick up for the girl with the glasses. It’s the right thing to do. But you already know that because you’ve got a hero’s heart (otherwise it wouldn’t bother you that people are making fun of her).

If you help her maybe she’ll learn something about the importance of respect and kindness. Then who knows? This may be the beginning of a great new friendship!

*(Excerpted from my upcoming The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship)

Check out Day 8 of The Kindness and Respect Challenge


UPDATE October 3, 2014: The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship: 50 Ways to Fix a Friendship Without the DRAMA is now available in print and on Kindle (the ebook can be read on any device, your mobile phone, tablet, or computer with the free Kindle reader app). Visit GirlsQandA.com for an excerptreviews, and to order your copy.

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Mom, Daughter and the Art of Button-pushing

August 26, 2013

Unless you’ve got like 40 years experience in meditation, you’re going to get your buttons pushed. When we lose it, it’s usually because other people can be so annoying. If everyone else just got it together and met our personal standards of perfection, we’d be happy. C’mon universe, is that too much to ask? Guess so, because the universe doesn’t seem interested in making any of us happy all the time. Which kinda sucks. But there’s a creative challenge in there that’s intriguing. It’s about figuring out how to find our own peace of mind… even when other people are so… you know.

Mom has lost it... again

A girl was having a rough time with her mom and wrote to me for advice.

Teen: A few years ago I lied to my mom and told her I was getting a B in French when I was getting a C. She still says she can’t trust me even though I’m a good student. Mostly A’s and a few B’s. I want to prove to her that I am trustworthy and I want to stop us fighting so much. More recently our fights seem to be bigger and scarier and I’m surprised she hasen’t hit me because often she’s so angry she can only stutter. All her brothers and sisters joke how out my mom has an anger problem. (It’s true!) I know she has my best interests at heart but I need her to back off a little and stop being so critical. I’m scared we’ll have a horrible relationship when we are older because of this useless fighting!

Annie: This sounds like the unhappy relationship my mom and I had when I was a teen. Part of what’s going on here is probably normal: Teen girl starts to grow up, expresses her individuality and mom feels uncertain about how to relate to this emerging young woman. Seeing our kids as young adults reminds parents that our “job” has changed. We don’t have the same level of control over our kids’ lives. That can be scary for parents, though it sounds like you know how to make healthy choices (aside from lying about your French grade).

It takes two people to have a fight. Since you can not control your mom’s behavior try to get more control over your own. If she starts complaining or arguing what might happen if you don’t get all worked up in response?

Teen: I have never shouted back at my mom, I usually just sit there and stay calm while she yells- hoping that she will stop soon! I try not to let her anger get to me- but I think that could be something that annoys her, the fact that I don’t really show angry/mad/sad emotions. Maybe she feels like she has to yell extra long and loud to make a point.

Annie: You want more independence to make your own decisions without feeling negatively judged by your mom. And in a few years you will have that independence. The real challenge is “How do we co-exist in a more peaceful way, until then?” Have you ever talked with any other adults in your family about the challenges you’re having with your mom?

Teen: I’m close to my dad. He’s definitely more relaxed than my mom about all this growing up/girl stuff, but usually he doesn’t take sides. Wise man! What can you recommend that would help my relationship with my mom?

Annie: Slow deep breathing (AKA re-centering) whenever you feel tempted to “engage” in her negativity. Check out  The Breathing Challenge. It is a challenge not to get stressed when the people around you are!

Also, try opening up to your dad and tell him how much you want a healthier relationship with your mom. Ask for his help in talking to her. Perhaps some calmly worded feedback from your dad would make your mom aware of how her behavior is contributing to the arguments. So talk to your dad and practice breathing. OK?

Teen: OK- thanks a lot Terra, I think I will be able to handle these situations with my mom better in the future.

Filed under: Parenting,Teens,Tips — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 4:35 pm
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