Sunday, April 10, 2011

Margit Crane Offers Parents Help Understanding their Tweens & Teens

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
Twitter: @margitcrane

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.


  1. Thanks for the write-up! If any of your readers have questions they'd like me to answer, they can leave them here in the comments or they can email me:

    I'll answer them anonymously in my blog and via email.

    I'd also encourage parent-readers to check out this book, available via amazon and my website, STOP THE STRUGGLE It will help parents with tweens and teens repair their relationships and help parents with younger kids prepare for adolescence!

    Thanks again,

  2. When will your new book be released?

  3. ImASoccerMom@g...April 11, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    I'm in charge of our local school Parent/Teacher Assoc. Do you travel to speak to groups? If so, what is the best way for the school to reach you?

  4. My son has ADHD and I've read many books on the topic. Just want to say your web site is jam packed with useful info. So glad I found you!

  5. Good point about sleep. My teen insists she can handle less sleep and does homework late into the night. How many hours should most teens get these days?

  6. @SloanStyle - that is the $64,000 question! If you "friend" me on my FB page: Margit Crane: Gifted Kids, Gifted Parents, you will be kept up to date for sure. My goal is that it be out by early September. I'm having to push some people...

    @ImASoccerMom - I do travel and I love PTA talks. You can call me at 206-326-8446 or email me: I'll also email you (hope that's a gmail acct)

    @Jeanine - Thanks! Glad to know that I'm being helpful.

    @Rob - Well... Supposedly, teens should get 9 hours of sleep. That's a big challenge of course! I'd say 7 hours MINIMUM. No less.

  7. So my step-daughter is now 22 and boy could I have used you...back when I married her dad and she was 11 and not living with us it was all cool. Then she came to live with us and her family relations with her mother weren't great BUT she remained loyal and I blew it and well between 16 and 19 we had to take a hiatus from having an active relationship. Happy ending though, we made up and began over. That being said, you as the resource you are, are a godsend for parents and step-parents alike with tween and teen years to navigate. Keep it going Margit. Much appreciation. Always.

  8. Thanks @Deborah. Parenting is hard. And we can be so ashamed to ask for help. It's unfortunate because often the "fix" is simpler than we think.

  9. Ok, YES! I'm getting ready to do a pre-sale of the book, and I'm changing it back to its original title: "How To Train Your Parents in 6 1/2 Days" Much better, don't you think??

    Check on FB and you'll be in the loop: @Margit Crane: Gifted Kids, Gifted Parents

  10. I have a very hard time raising my child with ADHD, I really do. Sometimes I even wished that she wasn’t mine but I feel very sorry every time I think of it because she is my child, a gift that no one can replace. So I always think and study how to help her in her struggle I even sent her in an alternative school where she will learn and cope up like a normal kid.



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