Giving Advice to Teenagers
Annie Fox, an online adviser to thousands of teens and the author of 12 books including “Teaching Kids to be Good People”, reveals the best ways to give teens advice when they need some guidance.
Full Show Notes
Teenagers don’t ask for advice all that often. So when those moments do come up and your teen wants your guidance, parents need to make the most of these rare occurrences.
In past episodes, like my interview with Ned and Bill (the authors of The Self-Driven Child), I’ve talked about the importance of not giving teens advice that they didn’t ask for. If you don’t at least get their permission before giving them advice, it is never going to work.
But what about those times when your teen does ask you a question or expresses an interest in hearing how they could do something better? When these situations arise, you don’t want to mess it up and say the wrong thing! After all, it might be months before another golden opportunity pops up again.
How can you make sure to say the right thing?
This week, I got some advice on how to give advice to a teenager from Annie Fox. She’s the author of 12 books including Teaching Kids to Be Good People, The Girl’s Q&A Book on Friendship, and the Middle School Confidential series. For many years, Annie has maintained an anonymous advice column for teenagers and she’s answered thousands and thousands of questions from teens all over the world.
So she’s a complete expert on giving advice to teenagers.
Annie has uncovered some amazing tactics. One thing I found really interesting is that she doesn’t tell the teens what to do in her responses.
Wait, isn’t telling people what to do the whole point of giving advice?
Not exactly. Most of the time, teens already know what the right thing to do is deep down. They aren’t looking for a lecture, just someone to listen to them and help them work out the best way to do what their heart is telling them to do.
Sound complicated? Actually, Annie makes it surprisingly simple in this episode.
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1. What to say when your teen tells you one of their friends is being mean:
“Let’s take a step back and think just a little bit about why she might be behaving in this way. What might be going on with her? It might have nothing to do with you and you’re just getting the brunt of it. Is there something you could do to let her know what your needs are, but also to be a good friend by giving her an opportunity to talk about what’s going on?”
2. When your teen is complaining about their friends or kids at school:
3. Any time you want a closer relationship:
1. Make sure your teen is getting what they need from you:
When you were a kid, what was it that you most wanted from your parents but weren’t able to get? Spend a few minutes brainstorming a list of all the things you remember wanting from your parents in the space below. Then circle the one that feels the most intense or emotional to you.
Now grade yourself. How are you doing on giving this thing that you wanted from your parents to your own teenager today? Keep in mind that your teenager is not the same as you and you aren’t the same as your parents so things may be different. Are you doing a good job of providing for your teen the things you wanted at their age?
If you aren’t sure, ask them. Have a conversation about what you never got from your parents and say you want to improve. Ask your teen for help giving them more of what they need from you. Maybe they need something different than what you needed from your parents!
2. Get what you need from your teenager:
3. Live the values you want your teen to learn:
About Annie Fox
When Annie Fox’s first book People Are Like Lollipops was published, she wasn’t old enough to legally sign the contract! By the time she turned 21, though, she decided that helping kids was going to be her life’s work. After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies then completing her Master’s in Education from the State University of New York at Cortland, Annie set off on a teaching career. After a few years in the classroom, computers changed her life as she began to explore ways in which technology could be used to empower kids.
In 1977, Annie and her husband David opened Marin Computer Center, the world’s first public access microcomputer facility. Her work there led her to write her best selling book, Armchair BASIC. After a detour into the world of screen writing, Annie returned to computers as an award-winning writer/designer of children’s CD ROMs. (Putt-Putt; Madeline; Get Ready for School, Charlie Brown; and Mr. Potato Head Saves Veggie Valley are just a few of the titles on which she has worked.)
In 1996 Annie dreamed up the idea for The InSite, a place “for teens and young adults to turn their world around.” For 3 years she served as creator, designer, writer, and executive producer of that award-winning site. One of The InSite’s most popular features was Hey Terra, a Cyberspace Dear Abby. Her book The Teen Survival Guide to Dating & Relating is based on hundreds of emails to Terra and Annie’s responses to them.