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.

I have to be perfect in everything!

April 8, 2014

I'm trying hard, Dad, but I'm not perfect

I’m trying hard, Dad, but I’m just not perfect

All parents want their kids to succeed in school. But what does the word “success” mean to you, as a student? Do you know? Is it all about getting a 4.0 GPA? Being accepted into a top-tier college? Getting a high-paying job so you can buy great clothes, an awesome car and (some day ) and equally amazing house? When it comes to actually defining “success” are you and your parents on the same page? If there’s a possibility you’re not and/or that you and your parents might need to to e-x-p-a-n-d your definitions, check out Challenge Success, where students, parents and schools are learning there are many many ways to be successful in life.

But when a parent’s definition of success equals: “All A’s and nothing less,” life can become way more stressful than it needs to be. Take, for example, this email from a high school student who seems to be cracking up under the strain of his parents’ pressure to be “perfect.”

Hey Terra,

My parents are super successful and push me to be like them. Not only do I have get straight A’s, I also have to get 100% on all tests. If I don’t they take everything from me till I get them. It’s impossible to get 100% in everything. Now all I do is obsess about schoolwork. In fact, everything I do has to be perfect. If there’s a stain on my shirt I spend the entire day trying to get it out. If I have a zit I can barely stand being out in public. I think I’ve become a perfectionist and I hate it. I have no friends any more because I’m just soooo focused on everything else. My parents think I’ve got a great attitude, but it’s a curse to have to have everything be absolutely perfect. Can I change? – Too Perfect

Dear Too Perfect,

You’re right, it is impossible to get 100% in everything. Human make mistakes. It’s how we learn. Your parents are holding you to unrealistic expectations. They have good intentions, but you seem to have reached a point in your life where you are a) unhappy with your need to be perfect and b) would like to make some changes in yourself. The good news is that you can. Talk with a counselor because these behaviors (the compulsion to “spend the whole day trying to remove a stain on your shirt”) are deeply rooted and hard to change without help from a trained professional. Either you can talk honestly with your parents and tell them what you think and feel or you can just walk into the school counselor’s office and be honest with him or her.

 Hey Terra,

My parents are fully aware of my perfectionism and they have told me that’s it’s good for me. That there’s nothing wrong with striving to be perfect. So they’re in another world. I don’t want to see a counselor because I can’t have a flaw and needing to see a counselor is a flaw. You know, I used to be a normal guy who had fun and friends. It’s just gotten out of control. I’m a neat freak now and constantly find flaws with myself. That with a need to get 100% on everything. This just sucks. I literally cried one day when I got home because I got a 98 on a test. – Too Perfect

Dear Too Perfect,

Your level of perfectionism is not a “good thing.” It’s unhealthy. This much stress will continue to make you unhappy. To get healthier talk to your parents about seeing a counselor or talk to them about lightening up or take yourself in to talk with the school counselor. btw, needing counseling doesn’t mean you are “flawed.” It simply means that you (like all humans) feel a bit overwhelmed at times (like now!) and you need some help understanding your behavior so you can lower your stress levels and be healthier. Not flawed… smart!

Hey Terra,

I’ll go and see the counselor.

Dear Too Perfect,

Smart move! Good luck.

In friendship,


PS If you want to find out more about how stress can work on your body and your brain (in good ways and not so much) check out my book for teens, Too Stressed to Think? It can help!



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 for an excerptreviews, and to order your copy.

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