Hey Terra! Parent Forum
Vol. III, Issue 8 October Newsletter October 1, 2007

Welcome to
Annie Fox's Parent Forum Newsletter

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Parent Forum 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

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Need a Parent Education Speaker?

Annie at parents workshopAnnie’s work on her upcoming book series, Going Your Own Way in Middle School and Beyond (2008), has inspired her to develop these dynamic new Parent Education presentations:

  • What Do They Want? What Do They Need? – Understanding the basics of teen well-being
  • Fighting Peer Approval Addiction – Helping teens strengthen their sense of self
  • Turn that Thing Off! – Improving adult-teen communication in the Digital Age
  • Stepping Back and Letting Go – Raising fully functioning young adults
  • Relationship Smarts – Teaching our daughters healthy ways to navigate the Boyfriend/Girlfriend Zone

If these topics strike a chord and you are looking for a parenting expert to speak at your PTA or congregation, please contact Annie. Here's what other parents say about Annie’s presentations.

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October Parenting Article
Halloween and the Art of Faking It

by Annie Fox, M.Ed.

click for Parent Forum Article

A week before Labor Day I trekked to the nearest megabox store where you can buy a bottle of ketchup that lasts two lifetimes. Since my current ketchup and I just celebrated our 5th anniversary, I’m still good, but we needed other things so a Costco run was in order. Forty minutes and eight free samples later I pressed toward the checkout and passed a crowd swarming around a rack of Halloween costumes. You heard me… it’s August and these parents and kids are acting like they have maybe 10 minutes to grab a costume and hit the streets. Of course that’s exactly what retailers expect when they jump the gun on the seasons. April shopper spots holiday merchandise. Shopper freaks. “Omigosh! I haven’t bought my summer solstice decorations! Gotta get on it… NOW!”

Big night aheadDon’t get me wrong. I love holidays and for me Halloween is right up there with Millard Fillmore’s Birthday (January 7th). No, seriously, Halloween rocks. Our kids don’t even live here any more and David and I still stroll the neighborhood to check out the trick-or-treaters. We usually don’t ring doorbells, though we have a neighbor who’ll give you a draft beer if you tell him a joke, so there’s that. Sometimes I dress up as a mime. David usually wears his “I’m a multi-media producer” costume — subtle, but totally convincing.

Halloween aside, my senior year in high school I was voted Class Actress, so I understand the fascination with pretending to be someone else. And I’ve been investigating the daily masquerades played by students across the country. I’m talking about faking it… or as I defined it in my recent online teen survey: Doing or saying something just to impress other people OR holding yourself back just so others won’t give you a hard time.

Here’s how kids answered this question: “How do you know when you’re faking it?”

Continue reading the rest of the article...

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Annie's Books

Annie's BooksSince 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 store. Order your copies here! My new 5-book series Going Your Own Way in Middle School and Beyond is part graphic-novel and starts in Fall 2008!

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The Breathing Challenge

The Breathing ChallengeIn 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.

“Bring on the SATs”

“After the assembly at my school today, I tried your breathing exercise and I found that it does work after all. It was when I was taking a practice SAT in preparation for the real test which I am taking soon. I realized that I was under stress when I had less than 15 minutes left for the section and had many problems to complete. My heart was racing, and I was very nervous. I breathed. Immediately, I did not notice much, but gradually I began to relax. My head became clear and I was able to think better, I was almost unnervingly relaxed seeing as I am used to stress! I am eager to try it during the real thing, and I thank you for your insight into the psychology of teens, and all humans, for that matter. Thanks a bunch.” —an 11th grader

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Letters from Parents and Teens about Family Problems

“My son has been very disrespectful.”

Dear Annie,

My 8 ½ year old son is an only child. He is a bright, happy, creative and well-liked child who has been given plenty of personal responsibility. We’ve always been very close and I have spent a lot of time getting to know his friends in a way that respects his freedom. I have not been possessive or intrusive. He is well behaved, often exemplary (we don’t expect him to be perfect, we expect him to be respectful). Very recently, he has started being rude and sarcastic to me, often in front of friends. I have trouble not taking his behavior and comments personally. I think this will become more common as he gets older and I want to nip it in the bud. When he speaks badly to me in front of his friends, the friends generally don’t respond so I don’t get a clear view that he is trying to impress them. I always respond to these comments although usually I use a firm tone and tell him that this is unacceptable. How do you suggest I respond to him? Is this developmentally appropriate for his age (although behaviorally inappropriate)?

Thank you very much. I heard you speak last year and really enjoyed your presentation.

Dissed Mom

Dear Dissed Mom,

It’s not uncommon for a boy your son’s age to start to get mouthy with his mom, especially around his friends. Not that it is acceptable at all! You are absolutely right to let him know, in a firm tone, that what he’s doing is unacceptable. Though there’s no need to embarrass him in front of his friends, you should not give him the impression that when his friends are around that you are impotent to do more. You are not. You are the parent. You need to take back your power from this little boy.

Have a conversation with him today. Tell him what you have observed. “It seems that you are rude to me when your friends are around. Maybe you believe that your friends think this is cool. Being rude to your mother is never cool. And I am no longer willing to have you talk to me this way.”

Clearly, he is targeting you for a reason, though he may not be able to articulate it. Please don’t think that I believe you have done anything to deserve rudeness. I know that you have not! But in his 8 ½ year old brain, he may be feeling the need to push back against you. Perhaps he is trying to distance himself from his vulnerable, nurturing and “feminine” side (which you represent) as he becomes more aware of social definitions of “maleness.” By acting this way, he is telling you that you cannot give him everything that he needs right now.

Of course his behavior is hurtful and it’s challenging not to take it personally. But you’d be wise to realize it is NOT about you. Allowing yourself to be stung by a little boy’s lashing out does not teach him the lessons you want him to learn.

Instead, tell him this is going to end NOW. Tell him that the next time he speaks to you disrespectfully there will be an immediate and predictable consequence. If your son chooses to be rude to you IN THE LEAST LITTLE WAY, then he chooses the consequence. He needs to understand that you are not “doing this to him,” that he is choosing this behavior and this outcome himself. If that happens when his friends are there, then you will inform his friends immediately that the visit is over. No need to be emotional or reactive. Stay neutral, but stick to your guns. By doing so, you will be educating your son about how his choices have consequences. You will be role modeling that you are a person who keeps her agreements. You will also be teaching your son that you are no longer willing to let an 8 year old be the boss of this family.

His behavior may get worse before it gets better. If so, he’s testing you. Stay neutral and stay CONSISTENT. If sending his friends home doesn’t wake him up, then institute a consequence that has more value to him. Computer time? TV time? Whatever your son values most is what he chooses to lose when he chooses to be rude to you. When the rudeness is replaced by respectful behavior toward you, then he earns back his privileges.

In friendship,

“I’m afraid they’ll think I’m too soft.”

Hey Terra,

I asked this girl who I really like to homecoming and she said yes. However she wants me to ask her again in a more cute way. I want to go with her but my friends think that what she said was just stupid and I shouldn’t go with her just for that. What should I do?


Dear Superbad,

Hmmm. Sounds like she’s playing some weird game... Either she wants to go with you or she doesn’t. I don’t think you need to bend over backwards to ask her in some “cute” way (whatever that means). On the other hand, if you let your friends’ opinions rule your life, you may end up missing an opportunity to make your own choices. If you “want to go with her” then do it.

In friendship,

Superbad: Ok thanks I’ll go with her and hope my friends will be ok with it.

Terra: And if your friends aren’t ok with it, then what?

Superbad: I dunno but if they were really my friends they shouldn’t mind.

Terra: True. And if you are your own person, you wouldn’t let other people tell you who to go out with.

Superbad: Ya thats true too. I just don’t want my friends to think I’m too soft.

Terra: If “soft” means “tender-hearted” or “paying attention to your own feelings” then why is soft a bad thing? And if you are soft then why wouldn’t you want your friends to know it? Because they might make fun of you for having feelings? I don’t know any human being who doesn’t have feelings! Maybe these friends don’t really “get” you.

Superbad: Okay. I guess they are just going to have to accept me for who I am and what I do.

Terra: You’ll find that you care a lot less about acceptance and approval from
other people (including friends) if you totally accept and approve of yourself.

Superbad: Thanks:)

Terra: You’re very welcome. :O)

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 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 here.

Date Description Location
10/24/07 Dublin High School — Parent University: “Is Your Tween/Teen too Stressed Out to Think?” — For information call 925 829-4322 X7921 or download this PDF Dublin, CA
11/02/07 Healthy Teens Marin Committee presents Peer Summit XII — Annie's Workshop for 7th and 8th graders: “Going Your Own Way” — For more information call 415 492-4786 College of Marin, Kentfield, CA
11/17/07 Mill Valley Middle School Parent Ed Mini-conference: Enjoy the Roller Coaster years: Positive Parenting for 10 to 15 Year Olds. As a workshop presenter, Annie will focus on “What Everyone Else Thinks — Helping your child fight peer approval addiction.” This event is free. Mill Valley Middle School, Mill Valley, CA
2/2/08 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area annual DISCOVEREE. As a workshop presenter Annie will focus on: “Peer Approval Addiction – Helping teens strengthen their sense of self” Alvarado Middle School
Union City, CA
2/6/08 Girl Scouts of San Francisco Bay Area “Friendship Workshop” for 4th graders Piedmont, CA
2/23/08 San Ramon Valley Council of PTAs Annual Parenting Conference. As a workshop presenter Annie will focus on: “Giving our Daughters Relationship Smarts” 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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