Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter
supports parents, teachers, counselors and youth leaders as they help teens journey through adolescence.
Adults living and working with kids have the most rewarding and the toughest job in the world, so please forward this newsletter
to anyone who would welcome a new free parenting/mentoring resource.
Miss any back
issues? Read them in our archives.
Not a subscriber yet?
Step right this way!
In this Newsletter
February Parenting Article
It’s All in the Game, But What Are The Rules?
by Annie Fox, M.Ed.
One Saturday during my sophomore year, before I headed out to meet my boyfriend at the high school tennis courts, my mom said, “Let him win.”
Even though it was before Billie Jean King served Bobby Riggs a massive slice of humble pie, I was stunned. Let him win?!
Even at 16, there was no way in hell I would play the Dating Game by rules that also included:
“Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve.”
“If a boy asks you out after noon on Wednesday for Saturday night, tell him you’re busy even if you’re not.”
Assuming it had been in my nature to downplay my abilities, nurture would have won out. Mom was extraordinarily intelligent, independent, capable and competitive. Dad made no secret that he admired my “spunkiness.” I also continually tried to keep up with my two older brothers.
So, despite the fact that my parents had a strong and loving marriage, I didn’t get any useful dating advice from them. Like most teens, I muddled through.
Recently, I asked other adults what Boyfriend Girlfriend Zone advice they got from their parents. As you can see, some of the pointers were right-on, others not so much:
What love lessons did you learn from your parents?
- “Play hard to get.”
- “Go out with self-actualized (liberated) girls, but open the door for them anyway!”
- “Always go out with everyone who asks you because you might fall in love with his brother or best friend.”
- “Don’t trust boys who are too nice to a girl’s parents. It’s always an act!”
- “Always be a gentleman. This will automatically put you above most other guys in a girl’s eyes.”
- “A man wants a woman who makes him feel comfortable.”
- “Be yourself. That way the person you’re dating will like you, and not someone you’re pretending to be.”
- “If you wouldn’t want to bring them home to meet your family then they’re not good enough for you to date.”
- “When a girl says no, she means no.”
- “Don’t just be ‘good,’ that’s only a rule. Be wise.”
- “Give references, but no samples.”
- “If you’re going to be stupid (have sex before marriage) be smart (protect yourself!).”
Continue reading the rest of the article...
1997 I’ve answered teen email from around the world because
kids often need help sorting
things out. My books provide students with encouragement, relationship smarts,
and clear thinking needed to navigate through adolescence. Caring adults 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 directly from me and pay by credit card at our own online
your copies here! My new 5-book series is part
graphic-novel and starts in Fall 2008!
The Breathing Challenge
my Stress Education student assemblies I
teach this invaluable step by step process:
1) Learn your own stress symptoms and notice when you’re feeling off-balance, 2) Stop, 3) Breathe, 4) Think about
what you want and whether getting it is within your control, then 5) Consider your options for getting what you need. I
challenge tweens and teens to use the tools and let me know how it goes. They quickly discover they can change their lives
in many ways when they’re not Too
Stressed to Think.
“I got scared and didn’t know what to do”
“I came home and showered, and then I put on my brand new robe. I sat against my wood bed with my hair rubbing against my robe and my bed. The wood paint (top coat) rubbed off the bed and onto the robe! I got scared and stressed and didn’t know what to do. Then I remembered, just sit there, take a breath and relax. After I relaxed I thought about how I could fix the robe before my mom finds out. Then I realized I could wipe the stain off with a very hot washcloth. That’s what I did and my mom doesn’t even know. This breathing stuff really works!” —Relieved 9th grader
Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems
“My daughter’s moods stress out the whole family”
My 13-year old daughter used to be happy and cooperative, but in the past month… what a change! I suspect she is about to start her periods, but I cannot let her disrupt family life with her constant moods. I’ve told her that if she wants to act like a child then we will treat her that way but if she would like to enter the adult world she needs to behave like one. I love her so much and ask her what’s going on, but she just tells me she doesn’t understand why she’s acting this way. Tonight she just decided to throw food at the table, and I said if you don’t stop you’ll clean the floor with a mop. She ended up cleaning the floor. I don’t give out consequences and not follow them through but at the same time I feel for her. Am I doing the right thing? When I put her into bed I asked if she was hurting anywhere, her reply was “yes the base of my spine.” I gave her a 10-minute massage and we ended up laughing but I have 2 other kids that do not get that and I feel as though I’m overindulging in her bad behavior.
I empathize with how emotionally draining it can be to deal with your daughter’s “constant moods,” but I get the impression that you believe she is choosing to act this way. I am quite sure that she’s telling you the truth when she says she “doesn’t understand” why she’s acting this way. Her body is going through intense changes and it’s very likely that her current hormonal levels on top of the stress of being a middle school girl in 2008 is temporarily taking away a lot of her control and former emotional stability. She’s not choosing this and your anger and annoyance at her isn’t helping her or the situation.
I suggest you take a leadership role yet remain calm compassionate and supportive. That doesn’t mean you need to “overindulge bad behavior.” But recognize that her acting out at times is not about you or about “acting like a child.” It’s about transitioning into adolescence. It does no good to insult her. Of course she shouldn’t be permitted to throw food! But how else might you handle it? Don’t wait until the next time she’s “lost it” to talk about this. Instead, find a quiet time when you’re both relaxed... I loved the image of your sitting with her and rubbing her back. Do more of that. And in the context of that closeness, talk to her. Tell her what you remember about being her age. Be honest. You probably weren’t always sweet and even-tempered with your family. I certainly wasn’t!
Don’t expect perfection. Tell her that you understand that this is a challenging time for her. She’s growing and changing in all kinds of ways. Her body is only one of the changes she’s experiencing. The other (which is a huge source of stress) is relationships. With friends and with guys and with you! Everything is topsy-turvy. She needs you to be a safe person to talk to, not someone who appears rigid and judgmental. Show your love for her. Show your compassion.
You might want to read “Ophelia’s Mom” and “Yes, Your Teen is Crazy”. Click for
my reviews of each.
I hope this helps.
Thanks for the advice it has made me stop and think about my own teen years and I like the idea of empathizing with my daughter about those topsy-turvy years and talking to her in quiet moments. I will try very hard not too lose my cool but I know it will happen again. Any mommy coping strategies that I could use to remain calm but take leadership of the situation?
I appreciate your willingness to adjust your approach. I’m sure your daughter will notice and appreciate it too!
Read this strategy I wrote for parents guiding teens through an emotional/stressful episode. You can certainly use it to prevent yourself from “losing it.”
Hope this helps and please let me know how it goes.
It’s been two months since we emailed and I’m happy to say that treating my daughter with a little more respect has paid dividends. Our relationship has vastly improved, and in fact we just went on holiday together for some mum and daughter time—it was great. Sometimes we all get so wrapped up in errands and to do lists that we forget the very reason we are doing all those things—our children. Having someone like you to make us take a step back and review our attitude is very important. You’re worth your weight in gold!
Your email made my day. Thank you so much for sharing your progress! Thank you also for being willing to shift your approach to parenting. Some parents who write for advice seem to assume that the whole problem lies in the behavior of their son or daughter and if they could just “fix” the kid, then everything would be great. Rarely do I find a parent who is willing to take some ownership in the conflict and, more to the point, take a leadership role in changing the dynamic.
Keep up the great work!
“My parents don’t approve of my boyfriend”
There’s this guy that I feel like I love completely! But my parents don’t approve of him. He’s 17 and I’m 14. He says he loves me and all of these wonderful things and we want to be together forever! But if my parents find out I’m still talking to him after telling me to get away from him, they would kill me! But even my friend’s mom says that if were truly in love we wouldn’t let the fact that my parents don’t let me be with him stop us from getting back together. But my friends don’t approve of me going back and if I were to get back with him they would be so disappointed and not talk to me. What should I do?! Go back with him, or not?
Confused and In Love
Dear Confused and In Love,
I’m really glad that you respect your parents and their opinion enough to be thinking about what is the right thing for you to do. If you didn’t have that love and respect for your parents, you would probably be sneaking behind their backs going back with him without asking for a second opinion.
You are not the kind of girl who would be happy sneaking around and lying to her parents. That would cause you too much pain and inner conflict. Here’s my advice:
- This guy is too old for you. I am worried about a 17-year-old boy who is focused on a 14-year-old girl. I am concerned that he is saying “all of these things” to get you to do things that you are not ready to do. You know what I’m talking about.
- Your parents love you, and it is their job to protect you. There is a good reason that they would be upset if they found out that you are still talking to this boy. There is a good reason that they told you to get away from him. If you don’t know the reason, then ask your parents.
- Your friends love you, and they don’t approve of your going back with this boy. They have a good reason for not wanting you to be with him. If you don’t know what it is, then talk to your friends.
- You don’t really love him. Otherwise you wouldn’t be asking a total stranger (me) whether you should “go back” with him or not. That tells me that you know that you shouldn’t. If you were sure that this was right, then you wouldn’t need to ask anyone.
Be the kind of girl you can be proud of.
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
Upcoming Parenting Workshops and Student Assemblies
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
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.
If this newsletter was forwarded to you
and you’d like to subscribe (free!), click