Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. III, Issue 2 February Newsletter February 1, 2007

Welcome to
Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter

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This issue marks the 2nd anniversary of Annie Fox’s free monthly Parent Forum. We’re all about helping parents, teachers, counselors and youth leaders build healthier relationships with tweens and teens. Adults who live and work with kids deserve acknowledgement and support so please forward this newsletter to anyone who’d find value in it. Miss any back issues? Read them in our archives. Not a subscriber yet? Step right this way!

In this Newsletter

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February Parenting Article
Show Us the Love, OK?

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

Sometimes we need reminding that we’re a family and that makes us part of a team.
Happy Valentine's DayCountdown to Valentine’s Day and already we’re feeling the love around here. One recent night I went to bed early while David paid the bills and wrote up last minute instructions for the house sitter. Not romantic enough for you? Wait, it gets better. The next morning, while David slept in, I made pancakes. While he cleaned up after breakfast, I vacuumed. While I gave the dog a much-needed flea bath, he did the laundry. Still doesn’t make you feel all warm and tingly? To each his own, but in my book, all of this spells L-O-V-E, especially since we were leaving for Tokyo the next day and mutual support is what our 32-year partnership is all about.

HeartSomeone once said, “Taking turns is the lowest form of cooperation.” They got that right. Something’s mixed-up when lovers resort to “I emptied the litter box last week, so it’s your turn!” Where’s the love in keeping score like that? Individuals in the most successful partnerships are tuned into each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They communicate openly. They do what needs to be done regardless of whose “turn” it is. Likewise, the partnership that is the family demonstrates love by respecting the needs of the individual members while supporting the well-being of the entire family.

Your ability to love someone else is directly proportional to your ability to love and respect yourself. That said, no one’s suggesting that you replace turn taking with martyrdom. Acting the doormat doesn’t serve your partnership, your personal development or the development of your kids. If you feel resentful because others slack off while you lift, fetch, and carry then speak up. Sometimes we need reminding that we’re a family and that makes us part of a team.

Continue reading the rest of the article...

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February’s Recommended Read

''How Much is Enough? Everything you need to know to steer clear of overindulgence and raise likeable, responsible and respectful children - from toddlers to teens'' by Jean Illsely Clarke, Connie Dawson, David BredehoftHow Much is Enough? Everything you need to know to steer clear of overindulgence and raise likeable, responsible and respectful children – from toddlers to teens
by Jean Illsely Clarke, Connie Dawson, David Bredehoft

At first glance I thought this was yet another book about affluent parents giving materially to their already entitled kids and thus warping their character development. I was wrong. The type of overindulgence the authors write about here has little to do with a parent’s earning power.

With data from extensive research amongst adults who deemed themselves “overindulged” as children, the authors identified the different ways in which well-meaning parents can make huge mistakes raising kids. It also discusses the ramifications of such mistakes and offers clear guidelines for preventing them.

As the authors so wisely point out:
Over-functioning parents raise under-functioning kids.

Overindulgence is when your parenting choices do not match your parenting goals. You want your children to grow into likeable, responsible and respectful adults. But when you overindulge and do too much of what kids ought to be doing on their own, or when you offer your kids squishy family rules AKA “soft structure” you do your children a disservice without meaning to. As a result, the kids suffer by not developing as they should. They are less confident, less able to trust their own decision-making skills, less able to set a goal and achieve it, less able to deal with frustration and resolve conflicts. As the authors so wisely point out: “over-functioning parents raise under-functioning kids.”

How Much is Enough? is a terrific handbook for parents of any age child. I loved the use of scenarios to demonstrate what is and what is not over-indulgence. (It’s not always what it appears to be to the casual observer.) Likewise I enjoyed the clear language and the 4 question “test” for over-indulgent parenting, the first question of which is “Does it prevent the child for mastering age appropriate tasks?” For example, when the loving Dad carries his 4-year-old daughter into preschool, hangs up her coat and puts her lunch in her cubby for her, is he preventing her from mastering age appropriate tasks? If she can walk, you bet he is! Same goes for the well-meaning mom who continues to take responsibility for getting her 15-year-old son out of bed and to school on time even to the detriment of her own sanity and on-time arrival at work. Both are clear cases of over-indulgence. If you recognize yourself or someone you know in there, you’d find this a very valuable read.

Check out my Recommended Books here...

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Annie's Books

Annie's BooksMy books make great gifts for the 12-18 year olds you love. They provide the encouragement, relationship smarts, and clear thinking needed to navigate through these years. Any adult who cares about young people 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 copies here!

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The Breathing Challenge

The Breathing ChallengeIn my student assemblies I explain how stress impairs clear thinking. I teach the kids a step by step process to help them: 1) Notice when they’re feeling stressed, 2) Stop, 3) Breathe, 4) Think about their options. Then I challenge them to use the tools in the real world and let me know how it goes. Each month I’ll highlight a young person’s account of the amazing things that can happen when you’re not Too Stressed to Think.

“I was doing some homework and my brother walks in my room, and starts messing with my iPod. My iPod has a speaker so the distracting music was blaring out. I tried to ignore him, but I couldn’t... then I was about to seriously hurt him, but I remembered again about what you said, and calmed down, and said... “Hey, could you please take the music to another room or turn it off?” And he did! It was like magic. He never listens to me. He has noticed my kindness today, thanks to you. You have really changed my mood today. Everyone noticed.”

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A Letter from a Parent

I think I’ve made my daughter into one of those mean girls.

Dear Annie,

Having just read your “Mean Girls” article, I had to write. At times my 13-year-old daughter is one of those mean girls. She’s in the in-group and is invited to everything. She also can be critical of others. I blame my husband and myself. I spent 30 minutes at a party last night trying not to criticize other guests. “Look what he’s wearing.” “She is SO annoying.” I sound just like a mean girl. I am trying to be a better role model, but I fear the damage is done. At this point we are trying for, “You don’t have to spend time with everyone, but you may not be mean and critical.” I have come to see my parents and siblings as very critical as well. When my mother feels any discomfort, she finds fault with the person involved.

I also feel that the school has done everyone a disservice by identifying her group as “the popular girls,” and then telling them how they should perform in that role. What suggestions would you make for mean girls parents and teachers.


Dear Corrine,

I so appreciate your honesty and your self-awareness of your own critical behavior toward other people. I understand what you’re saying about feelings of discomfort leading to finding fault with others. Very perceptive observation. In that case, it would be a defense mechanism. For example, suppose I’m feeling uncomfortable in a social situation for whatever reason. Rather than admit that to myself I notice someone across the room and poke fun at him/her to my companion. In that moment I chose to put down someone I may well create a “bond” with the person beside me and thus feel a bit less insecure... It’s the old “pecking order” at work.

When kids feel that they are higher up in the pecking order they believe that putting down “lower status” kids is part of their entitlement as higher-ups. They rarely take the point of view of the kids they’ve targeted. And that’s the problem. If “mean” kids could experience what it’s like to be on the receiving end of what they’re dishing out, they would understand how much it hurts. They’d also understand that they aren’t naturally entitled to lash out at others (either overtly with insults, put downs, etc., or covertly with shunning or other exclusionary behavior).

As a parent, you need to ask yourself, “What do I want to be teaching my daughter about how to treat other people?” If you sincerely want her to be an open-minded and open-hearted individual who is compassionate and empathetic, then what are the day-to-day lessons you provide for her? Those “lessons” might come in the form of conversations about teasing, popularity, etc. They might come in the form of “teachable moments” while watching a film together on the subject (“Mean Girls” or “High School Musical” are films I’d recommend). Those lessons also come in the form of “silent curriculum”, i.e., your modeling the kind of behavior your want her to emulate.

Here’s an article I wrote about this topic.

I hope this helps.

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.

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Upcoming Events

Over the next few months, Annie will be speaking at the following places. Click here for Annie's full calendar of events. Click here for a list of Annie's past events. Read what they're saying about Annie's presentations. If you want Annie to speak at your school, event, or conference, click here.

Date Description Location
2/7/07 San Ramon Library — Parent Education Night: “Too Stressed to Think? Staying clear-headed and compassionate even when your kids drive you CRAZY.” For information call 925-973-2850 San Ramon, CA
2/9/07 Union for Reform Judaism Pacific Central West Council — Education Day Youth Leadership Training Workshop Santa Clara, CA
2/11/07 St. John's Episcopal Church — Parent-Teen Communication Workshop Oakland, CA
2/24/07 San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs — annual parenting conference, Parenting 2007 and Beyond, “Parenting Your Daughter with Compassion and Respect (even when she's acting irrational)” San Ramon, CA
3/10/07 San Ramon Library — “Make it Write” Teen Journaling Workshop. For information call 925-973-2850 San Ramon, CA

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

Recommended Books – Annie highly recommends these parenting books.

AnnieFox.com – includes parenting tips, 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.

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