Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. II, Issue 5 May Newsletter May 1 , 2006

Welcome to
Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter

* * * * * * * * * * *

About this Newsletter

Annie Fox’s Parent Forum Newsletter helps you build healthier relationships with your teen and pre-teen sons and daughters. This free newsletter features parenting tips, recommended books, letters from parents about their teens, letters from teens about their parents, and a schedule of Annie’s live events. Adults who live and work with teens need as much encouragement and support as they can get. So please forward this newsletter to parents, educators, counselors, mentors or community activists who’d find value in it.

New Press Coverage

Newspaper On April 16, Annie was featured in the Marin Independent Journal. Click here to download a PDF of the interview.


* * * * * * * * * * *

May Parenting Article
Real Friends vs. the Other Kind

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

...until kids can see that they’re making unhealthy choices ... they’re going to feel stuck in unhappy friendships with no awareness of their own power to make changes.
When our kids are little, we actively teach them the importance of being nice to others. Most 2-3 year olds have repeatedly been commanded to “Share!” They usually comply—not because they’re altruistic by nature, but because they know they’ll catch it from Mom if they don’t. As parents and as members of society, we have a vested interest in teaching children empathy, compassion, etc. But what happens to those lessons when they get older?

As friends play an increasingly vital and complex role in adolescents’ lives, we should continue discussing these issues. But for some reason, parents of middle and high school kids don’t often talk about what it takes to be a good friend and how to stand up for yourself when you’re not being treated with respect.

That hurt...Tina and Danielle have been best friends since 2nd grade. Now as 6th graders, Danielle has been hanging out with the popular girls. Monday at lunch, Danielle was with her new friends. Tina tried talking to her, but Danielle made some joke about Tina’s shoes and all the other girls laughed. That hurt, but Tina pretended it didn’t bother her. On Tuesday Danielle ignored her old friend completely. At the end of the day Tina got up the courage to ask what was going on. Danielle just smiled sweetly and said, “What are you talking about?” Tina thought that maybe she imagined the whole thing. On Wednesday morning, a couple of popular girls asked Tina why she was being so mean to Danielle. Tina’s heart pounded as she denied it. The girls exchanged a knowing look and walked away. By lunch Tina’s fate was sealed – not one girl in the 6th grade girl would talk to Tina.

What had Tina done to turn everyone against her? She’d broken a cardinal rule of girl friendships: No matter how much your friend hurts you, do NOT talk honestly to her about it or you risk losing all your friends.

What happened to being assertive? What happened to self-respect? What can parents do to help their daughters stand up for themselves?

Continue reading the rest of the article...

* * * * * * * * * * *

May’s Recommended Read

''Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls'' by Rachel SimmonsOdd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls
Rachel Simmons

Anyone with a daughter past pre-school age ought to read this book… immediately. In fact, I’d suggest that you share parts of it with your daughters. It will serve as a powerful discussion driver.

Odd Girl Out provides an in-depth exploration of “alternative aggression” (rumor spreading, non-verbal gestures, alliance building, shunning, etc.), an undeniable part of girl culture. If your daughter hasn’t yet been brushed or battered by this behavior at the hands of her so-called friends, she’s lucky. Unfortunately, she’s very likely to encounter it in one degree or another before she graduates high school.

Here’s the problem: middle-class girls are socialized to be “nice.” Because all human beings (including nice girls) sometimes have intense feelings of jealousy, resentment, competition, and unadulterated anger toward their friends, girls are in a terrible bind. They simply don’t have the tools or the role models for being “nice” and “angry.” Nor can they give themselves permission to be direct and assertive… not when it comes to their friends. Therefore they must figure out ways to vent their inevitable aggression covertly and/or swallow their hurt when they’re targeted.

...Since relationship is precisely what good, ‘perfect’ girls are expected to be in, its loss, and the prospect of solitude, can be the most pointed weapons in the hidden culture of girls’ aggression.
—Rachel Simmons

If you’ve ever heard your daughter talk about what other girls have done (they rarely admit to any of this behavior themselves) you can’t help but be amazed at how convoluted, controlling, calculating and manipulative it all is. Through Simmons’ very personal interviews with 5th-12th graders, moms, and some twenty and thirtysomethings, she shines a light on the little known world of girl culture where abuse and emotional devastation mostly exists below the radar of parents and teachers.

When adults become aware of what’s going on, they have trouble understanding how otherwise nice girls could so callously commit such cruel acts. And why would the targeted girls refuse to stand up for themselves and instead, remain in these abusive friendships?! For girls, the reasons are perfectly logical. They clearly explain that they put up with abuse because the alternative, social isolation, is worse than death. As Simmons puts it, “Since relationship is precisely what good, ‘perfect’ girls are expected to be in, its loss, and the prospect of solitude, can be the most pointed weapons in the hidden culture of girls’ aggression.”

Visit Rachel Simmons’ Web site here.

Check out my Recommended Books here...

* * * * * * * *

Annie's Books

Annie's BooksThe main focus of my work is helping teens and pre-teens navigate their way through the maze of adolescence. I write my books for teens, but any adult who wants to understand them better should read them too. “The Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating” and “Too Stressed to Think? A teen guide to staying sane when life makes you CRAZY” (co-written with Ruth Kirschner) are available here, or from Amazon or at your local bookstore. Order an autographed copy of it directly from me and pay by credit card at our own online store. Order your copy here!

* * * * * * * * * * *

Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

Some of our most valuable and enduring relationship lessons come from inside the family. These can have long-reaching effects on the way our kids conduct themselves in close relationships throughout their lives:

“I want my daughter to stand up to her mother.”

Dear Annie,

I have an issue regarding my 14 year-old daughter’s relationship with her Mom (two-homes). Long story short, Mom imposes her desires on our daughter and thinks our daughter “agrees.” Our daughter does not. Therapy session set for tomorrow. Mom has been invited to hear daughter’s feelings but Mom refuses to come. Mom doesn’t believe there’s a problem. She thinks daughter wants same thing as her. I know the other side of the story. My daughter lacks courage to speak her true feelings to Mom because Mom browbeats and yells. I want to empower daughter to find “her voice” with Mom (and with me and everyone one in her life). To avoid conflict, daughter deals in vagaries as a defense with Mom, leading Mom to believe wrong things; to make predisposed assumptions.

How do I get my daughter to learn to share her true feelings and learn to manage the fallout with Mom well?

Montana Dad

Dear Montana Dad,

I’m sorry your daughter is unable to speak her mind to her mom, but from the girl’s point of view, what she’s doing makes some sense. If, for example, anytime she disagrees with mom she gets “brow beaten and yelled at”... well, anyone would naturally want to avoid that response. If she were an adult getting that from a friend, she could choose to stay away. But with her mom, what choices does she have other than to feign compliance? From her perspective, she’s doing what she needs to do to avoid conflict with mom.

I understand that you want to help your daughter become more assertive because it’s important in the overall scheme of things that she learn to be open and honest (especially in close relationships).

I suggest you bring up this discussion in tomorrow’s session. Let the therapist help your daughter (in safe ways) to negotiate her current emotional landscape with her mom.

As for you, Dad, my suggestion is that you role model the communication skills you want your daughter to value and emulate. Encourage her, in your relationship with her, to be assertive and honest and open. Just be realistic in your expectations. Hey, you were married to her mom so maybe you know it’s not so easy! If that was the case, then imagine how much more challenging it might be for a 14 year old.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Friendship issues can be overwhelming and confusing for tweens and teens. Often they have more questions than they have answers for:

“I’m not sure I want to be me in this friendship any more.”

Hey Terra,

My best friend can get easily jealous. If I’m with her and a bunch of other friends, and I don’t talk to her, she’ll get really sad because I’m not talking to her. But when she ignores me for her other friends I don’t complain to everyone about how I’m ignored like her. It bothers me but I don’t tell anyone that it does. Do you think that this friendship is worth staying in?

Teddy Bear

Dear Teddy Bear,

Before you decide whether to end your friendship, how about telling your best friend what you told me? Shouldn’t you have honesty in a friendship? Shouldn’t you be able to say: “I really care about our friendship and I want to make it stronger. I want to work on problems when they come up so that bad feelings don’t get so big they make us not want to spend time together. It makes me feel smothered (or whatever) when we’re with a bunch of people and you seem upset when I talk to them and not just to you. I’d like to talk about that.”

Then see what she says.

And please don’t say that you can’t tell her the truth because it will “hurt her feelings.” (I hear that a lot.) If it’s your intention to make the friendship stronger, then “clearing the air” is very important. If you keep quiet about this you’re going to end up losing your best friend.

In friendship,

Got a parent-teen problem you need help with? Click here to Ask Annie

Read other parents’ questions here.
Read teens’ letters about parents here.

If you’re a teen and you need some help, click here.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Upcoming Events

While the school year is winding down, Annie has launched a new series of "Friendship Workshops" for Girls Scouts in the early grades. Click here to learn more about this new workshop. Click here for her full calendar of events.

Date Description Location
5/10/06 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area “Friendship Workshop” for 4th & 5th graders Piedmont, CA
5/12/06 Pinole Girl Scouts “Real Friends vs. The Other Kind” — a friendship and bully-proofing workshop for 4th-6th grade girls Pinole, CA
5/31/06 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area “Friendship Workshop” for 4th & 5th graders Piedmont, CA

If you want Annie to speak at your school, event, or conference, click here.

* * * * * * * * * * *


Past Newsletters – read our archive of past Parent Forum Newsletters.

Recommended Books – Annie highly recommends these parenting books.

AnnieFox.com – includes letters from teens and parents, Parent Forum articles past and present, information about Annie’s books, and workshops/seminars.

The InSite (www.TheInSite.org) – created especially for teens who have ever thought about making a difference. The InSite provides teens with the information, the inspiration, and many possible game plans so they can take charge of their choices and their lives.

* * * * * * * * * * *

If this newsletter was forwarded to you
and you’d like to subscribe (free!), click here.