Podcast: How Do You Teach Kids to Be Good People

Guest Biography
Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected author, parenting expert, family coach, and trusted online adviser for teens. She describes her life’s work as “helping youth effectively manage their relationships and emotions so they can feel confident in who they are.” Her latest book, The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship, is a thoughtful guide built around tough questions about friendship relevant to girls ages 8–12. Her latest book for parents, Teaching Kids to Be Good People, is a guide for navigating 21st century parenting challenges.

Podcast Highlights
Here are a few of the highlights from my conversation with Annie.

On developing the concept for her book The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship (4:45)
I'm the Q&A woman; this is kind of what I do. I built this whole career as being an adviser and when I go to schools, I invite kids to ask me questions that are troubling them. So I'm very comfortable with the Q&A. So I thought, “Okay, maybe I can just figure out a way to make it really simple where you've got a question about a friendship from a real girl and an illustration that is very pointed and sometimes over-the-top funny, so girls can see themselves, sometimes as overly dramatic.” There's an illustration of a girl dissolving in a puddle of tears. A girl who feels that she's invisible, and in the illustration, you're seeing right through her as if she's a phantom.

I wanted to also obviously give the answers. So you've got a question and an illustration on one side and on the facing page, you have a very distinct “Here's what you can do” answer and that's kind of the format.

On her response to the question “How do I get out of a friendship?” from The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship (7:25)
Sometimes, we outgrow a friendship. We don't want to hurt anybody, but on the other hand, it becomes clearer that this person that I used to get a lot of satisfaction being with and for whatever reason, the magic is not there anymore. I want to choose to spend less time with that person. How do I do that in a way that respects the person, but also respects my need for different kinds of friends?

On the question “Why are people mean to each other?” from The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship: (11:00)
It's a wonderful, deep, and big philosophical question. I think most of the time, people who ask questions like this are thinking, "Why are people mean to me?" "Why have I observed meanness?" But they never consider the other side of it, which is "sometimes, I feel angry enough to be mean to other people," and I want them to explore that as well.

On developing the concept for her book, Teaching Kids to Be Good People (17:30)
I help adults help kids develop a moral compass. What is that about? That's about doing the right thing. So I thought, “Okay, I want to write a book about what that process might be like for parents at any point in the parenting journey.”

So I came up with this idea of “I want to help parents teach kids to be good people.” But first, I got stuck on that word "good" because everybody has their own definition of what goodness is. What is that? Is there some universal truth about that? Is there a universal understanding of what it means?

On the concept of social courage, from her book, Teaching Kids to Be Good People (19:00)
Another thing that was resonant was what I call "social courage." Standing up and doing the right thing despite the fact that other people will watch you and might judge you harshly. That sense of knowing "this is what's right and to hell with other people's opinions at this moment." This is the right and proper thing to do and it really all comes from that sense of wanting to be helpful.

Her definition of a good person (19:37)
Ultimately, a good person is someone who actively looks for opportunities to ease the suffering of other people.

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