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.

Should I just send the nude pictures and make him happy?

December 8, 2014

This feels weird, but as long as he's happy....

This feels weird, but as long as it makes him happy….

Smart girls and guys often make stupid choices. Smarter teens recognize when something feels off. They’re the ones who stop beforehand to get a second opinion. Here’s a recent email I received from a smarter girl:

Hey Terra,

My boyfriend and I have a long distance relationship and he really wants nude pictures of me. He doesn’t pressure me about it, but I have a hard time explaining why I can’t do it. I was raised with conservative values, though I have different views from my parents on lots of things. I’ve realized it’s okay to break certain rules, but I can’t even take the picture without feeling disappointed in myself or guilty. He understands my boundaries, but I still feel bad about it. I know plenty of other girls do it and I feel abnormal. Should I just send the pictures anyway, even if I’ll feel down about myself but will make him happy??

–Feeling Abnormal

Dear Feeling Abnormal,

You already know the answer to this one, but it sounds like you need support. OK, here it is: NO. You should not “just sent the pictures anyway, even if (you) will feel down about (yourself) but make him happy.” No way!

It’s not your job to make your boyfriend happy. It is your job to live your life in a way that makes you proud of who you are. Sending nude pictures will not make you feel proud. You know that, so don’t do it.

Now, let’s talk about this request. You say “he doesn’t pressure me about it…” and yet he must be pressuring you because you “know he really wants” these nude photos of you. Repeated, insistent requests = PRESSURE. He is pressuring you about it. He is not “understanding (your) boundaries.” This is not OK.

I hope you’ve told your boyfriend how uncomfortable you are with these requests. If you haven’t yet been crystal clear, here’s what to say to him ASAP: “When you ask me for nude photos it makes me really uncomfortable.” If he asks, “Why?” Simple say, “Because it does. So stop asking.” If that doesn’t get him to quit bugging you, then you need to seriously consider what kind of guy he is and why you are still in this relationship.

I hope this gives you the courage and support you need to do the right thing.

Does it?

In friendship,
Terra

Thank you, Terra.

I guess I just needed someone to confirm it for me.

–Happily from Not Feeling So Abnormal Anymore

This smarter girl just joined the group of Smartest Girls – the ones who demand the respect they are worthy of. How are you teaching your daughter to respect herself, to treat others with respect, and to demand respect from friends and partners?

Filed under: Parenting,Teens — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 2:08 pm
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Making peace this summer with your teens

June 30, 2014

Give peace a chance

Give peace a chance

In addition to raising young adults who chew with mouth closed, pick up after themselves, and return library books on time, the gold ring of this parenting gig (after the “under the same roof” phase ends) is a healthy relationship with your adult kids. I’ve been a mom for 34 years and believe me, that’s what you’re after. But how do you get there from here? It can be a hard slog. Especially if you’re currently the parent of a tween or teen and already clocking in way too much time yelling and mis-communicating. It’s stressful enough when they’re in school most of the day, but now it’s summer and said t(w)een may be hanging out under said roof. Result? More time for fault-finding on both sides. yippee. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can be the change-agent your parent-teen dynamic needs. Here’s how…

Parenting plan for getting along better with your t(w)een

1. Sit down and ask your child: What would you like me to do less of this summer? Make the question sincere and make it safe for your child to answer honestly. Whatever he or she says, stay calm and do not get defensive. This conversation has the potential of greatly improving your relationship.

2. Take what you’ve heard to heart. If you want to teach your kids to be respectful of others you must treat their feelings and thoughts with respect. If you need a clarification, ask for it. “You say you want me to nag less? Gee, I don’t think I nag at all. Please give me an example of what you mean, sweetie.”

3. Work together to address the request. After you understand your child’s request, see what new ways you can come up with to lessen the unwanted behavior (e.g.. nagging). Relationships are a two-way street. If there is a ‘nagger’ there must also be a “nagging-inducer.” Explore both sides of all issues.

4. Monitor your progress. Once you’ve identified a problem and strategized a solution check in with each other periodically to see how you’re feeling about the changes. Praise where praise is due. Make modifications when needed.

5. Reverse the flow. It’s a two-way street, remember? So give yourself a chance to tell your t(w)een something you’d like less of from him or her. Follow the rest of the steps and see how it goes.

Good luck! I hope this helps you and your family this summer.

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Halloween and the art of faking it

October 23, 2009

We know we're fakin' it, and it's a blast

When we're fakin' it for fun, it's a blast

UPDATE (October 2013): This essay is included in my book, Teaching Kids to Be Good People. (Electric Eggplant, 2012)

I love Halloween. Always have. Even though our kids don’t live here any more, David and I still trawl the neighborhood, checking out trick-or-treaters and home makeovers. David usually wears his multimedia producer costume— understated, but totally convincing. Typically I pull out all the stops and morph into a mime with whiteface, red-bow lips, massive amounts of black eyeliner, and a pink tutu on my head.

My senior year in high school I was voted Class Actress, so I fully appreciate the fascination with taking on a new persona and milking it for all it’s worth. The irony isn’t lost on me that this Great Pretender has built a career exploring the MO of kids who constantly fake it by pretending to be someone they’re not, just to get other kids to like them.

I recently emailed a bunch of middle and high school students and asked: “How do you know when you’re faking it?” Here are some answers:

 

  • “I have a feeling of guilt and hatred for myself. I feel like I’m a wimp for not speaking the truth.”
  • “It’s hard for me to really shine thru and show people who I am because I am always worried about impressing them. I hate it when I act this way.”
  • “I feel like a fraud in my own body. I feel betrayed by myself because I’m not showing everyone who I am and it hurts because I don’t know if they will like me for who I am.”
  • “I get a nagging feeling tugging at the back of my brain, telling me ‘Don’t do this, you know this isn’t you.’”
  • “Whenever I’m putting on ‘my mask,’ I feel sort of terrible and messy inside, like a lot of spaghetti, all tangled up. I feel almost sick to my stomach and a little anxious, but I still do it to impress others. But it never feels quite right. I do it because I feel like I’m not good enough sometimes.”

Their responses saddened me. We want our kids to be happy and self-assured. We want them to be courageous enough to drop the mask and confidently be themselves. But that’s a huge challenge when they’re unwilling to make a move without first checking out what everyone else is doing. If everyone else is being unkind, our children need tremendous strength of character not to join the hating party. Because the price of social poker is so very high, not many of them are willing to gamble.

Of course some kids embrace their authentic self and don’t hesitate to do the right thing. They show their goodness with equal confidence when no one is watching and when everyone is watching. But more kids need that kind of courage. Too many of them are Peer Approval Addicts, compulsively doing whatever it takes to fit in, including stuff they’re not proud of. For these children, everyday is Halloween, only they don’t get candy—just the hollow feeling of wimping out and not being “good enough” without their mask.

How can we help our kids resist conforming to negative peer behavior? By modeling and reinforcing, early and often, what authenticity looks like. By teaching that our choices matter and everyone deserves respect even when we’re feeling angry with them. Let’s talk about people in the news, characters in books, movies, TV shows, and anyone we know who did the right thing despite the risk that friends might not approve. Let our sons and daughters know that they already are “enough” of everything that matters. Remind them that they’ve got the courage to do the right thing, even when they’re not sure they do.

A week after my initial survey question, I followed up with this one: “How would your life be different if you didn’t have to worry what other people think?” Here’s what they said:

  • “I’d probably share with people that ‘Hey, being yourself is cool, and if you can’t do this now… why not?’”
  • “I would not spend a lot of money or do stupid things just to fit in.”
  • “I would try out for football with the boys.”
  • “I’d go to school in costume every day, dressed as a medieval knight, an astronaut, a soldier, or something totally new!”
  • “I wouldn’t formulate the perfect words to say to those perfect people. I would say exactly how I feel.”
  • “I would eat a cheesecake and wear a flannel vest. Woah! That would be a pretty darn cool world!”
  • “I would love it! It would be like a freedom that lets you fly and soar.”

Big night ahead

I’ve got no guaranteed tip sheet for you at this point, just a simple question: As a parent and a teacher, what could you do, today and every day, to help your kids fly and soar?

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