Margit Crane, M.A., M.S., M.Ed., is The Gifted-Teen Coach and an award-winning author and speaker on family relationships, child development, and learning strategies. A former teacher and school counselor, Margit coaches families to achieve clearer communication, greater understanding, mutual respect, and a lot more FUN in their relationships.
Margit is the author of several books, including the forthcoming, How to Train Your Parents in Less Than One Week: A Teen Handbook, and the award-winning STOP THE STRUGGLE! Solutions for Parenting Gifted Tweens and Teens. She also created the CD program, Gifted With ADD/ADHD: Insider Strategies to Increase Your Child’s Success and Happiness.
Margit is passionately devoted to making growing up much easier for ADD/ADHD kids, discombobulated teens, and the stressed-out parents who love them! I’m so happy she’s stopped by to tell us about her work and her books.
As the mom of two teenagers and one tween, your web site caught my attention. The information and resources provided are comprehensive. Despite my best intentions, communication is not always as clear as I would like it to be. Can you explain the communication gap between teens and parents?
For me, this is a huge question! I teach a whole class on Talking to Teens. In a nutshell, you've got several things going on at the same time. From the parents’ point of view, they're starting to think about their kids leaving home and they're afraid. Parenting from fear never works, particularly because most teens don't operate from a place of fear. So you've got fearful parents trying to talk to fearless teens. Teens don't have the emotional maturity to fully comprehend their parents concerns. That would require them to imagine a situation happening to them that seems unimaginable.
Like college fears - parents look at their teens' work/study habits and think, "No way is she/he going to make it through college." A teen thinks "OMG, there's my mom/dad overreacting again. I'll be fine. All my friends do fine in college." Their assurance is based on several assumptions, none of which they really know anything about. Like, "I'm fine in high school; I'll be fine in college."
At the same time, it's hard for parents to find a balance between hands-off and being smothering!
How can we close this gap and open up the lines of communication with our children?
Both parents and kids have a skewed understanding of what a conversation is. No conversation should include yelling or nagging. A yelling is called an argument, not a conversation. Nagging is more like lecturing than it is a conversation.
Also, lots of encounters that start out as conversations have an ulterior motive. "I'll just warm them up for what I REALLY want to talk about!" So everyone comes with an agenda and that means that many conversations start with one or more participants on the defensive. Obviously that doesn't work.
I suggest that both teens and parents learn to talk to each other politely and calmly with no agenda. This is a good first step, for practice. Also teens and parents need to practice what I call "Fearless Listening". I call it that because it's scary to listen and not correct, judge, butt in, change the topic, or SET THEM STRAIGHT!
Fearless listening is non-correcting and non-judgmental. You don't have to like what they're saying but both parents and kids need to feel like they are heard, and both hate to be judged.
That's for starters.
Can you share two of the most common mistakes parents make with their tweens and teens?
1. Parents underestimate the importance of sleep. If your child isn't sleeping well, it's super important to get that taken care of. There are natural products (herbs and such) to help, and a variety of physical interventions. Kids who lose sleep can't focus, are forgetful, can't organize, can't concentrate, get sick quicker and more often, and are emotionally temperamental (anger, depression, anxiety). If your child has ADD or ADHD and already has trouble with these things, they'll just get worse. Sleep is more important than grades!
2. Parents tend to take one of two opposite paths when they're frustrated. Either they give up and ignore the situation or they push harder to try to force a change. Neither works, because both are based on a Control paradigm. Who's got the power? That's a painful thing for families and has long-lasting consequences for all. If you're struggling, get help! And be prepared to work. The family is a system. Your child isn't just a loose cog that needs to be tightened. The system often needs to be reworked. But if you're willing and you find good help, you will generally notice changes and gain hope pretty quickly.
Even though my children can’t imagine it, I was once a teenage girl. I would have thought that experience would help me connect with my own teenage daughter, but it’s not. If anything, we tend to have more conflicts than I do with my teenage son. Is there a negative dynamic between moms and their teenage daughters that does not exist with their sons? In your experience have you found communication with tweens & teens differ based on gender?
In my opinion, boys and girls tend to communicate differently and we parents tend to communicate differently with them as well. I've read about negative dynamics between moms and daughters, etc., but I think it has to do with the extent to which parents affirm their kids and have a trustworthy relationship with them. If I may be so bold, saying that you were a teen once and so you should be able to get along with your daughter is like saying you took Spanish so you can still speak it.
Relationships with teens are tricky because teens have changed and you haven't been a teen in a while. In order to relate well to a teen, you kind of still have to be a teen yourself - you have to be willing to FEEL that confusion and angst - but with the experience and wisdom of an adult. What I do in my practice is translate teen-speak to parents and parent-speak to teens.
I understand you offer classes on such topics as motivating your children and avoiding traps & pitfalls. You also offer teleclasses for people who can’t attend in person. I am interested in the teleclasses. Where can we find your schedule? Do we need to have special software installed on our computers to view the classes?
The teleclasses are done over the phone so they're audio. If you can't make a class, they're recorded so you can purchase the recording! You can find out about them by following me on Facebook or Twitter, following my blog, checking my website, or subscribing to my monthly parenting tips. Here's all that info:
Website, blog, and newsletter sign-up (on the right):
Facebook: @Margit Crane: Gifted Kids, Gifted Parents
I’m eager to learn more about your forthcoming book, How to Train Your Parents in Less Than One Week: A Teen Handbook. Can you tell us some of the topics covered?
The thing I love about the book is that there are exercises for teens to do to get along better with parents and also to just improve their lives. This is really about relationships. What works for your parents will work for a boss, a teacher, or anyone else. Topics include: understanding parents and where they're coming from, types of parents, stereotypes about teens, becoming an expert on training your parents, and a huge section on effective communication. I've been getting great pre-publication reviews from teachers, parents, teens (both boys and girls), clergy, and university instructors.
Margit, this is a much needed resource which I’m looking forward to reading. Thank you for joining us today and sharing your wisdom.