Teen Talk. Talking To Teens...
Teen Talk - Live
Chris is taking “Teen Talk” on the road. If you are a member of a parent group or responsible for finding engaging speakers for student or youth groups, please contact Chris at www.chrislincoln-speaker.com
Talking To Teens
A year away from students has given me the opportunity to clarify my thoughts (putting many of them in writing on Hubpages). The problem is, I miss the human interaction. I’m happy to stay informed by email and Facebook, but one of the highlights of my job was simply talking to teens…
In an attempt to rectify that, I have decided that it is time to go on the road. Assemblies and presentations have been a part of my life for over twenty years, both doing them, and listening to them. I have spoken to many groups of parents, from nervous fifth grade parents anticipating the horrors of middle school, to happy graduating groups, and just about everything in between.
Even with the concerns of the parent groups, I can share, with humor, the message that they will survive, perhaps even enjoy, this period with their children.
I am also hoping that I will have many opportunities to speak with teens and tweens, as their issues and concerns are near and dear to my heart. I am not afraid of any topic, from drugs to sexuality, but my focus has always been on finding yourself; the great challenge of developing a strong moral core. And, understanding why you do what you do, even when you know it is not a great idea.
The impact of the ‘Teen Collective” is extraordinary, and goes far deeper than the often talked about ‘peer pressure’. Helping teens understand the effect, and empowering them to hone their individuality, is just as important as the messages to parents who bear witness to the struggle.
Teen Culture is an ever moving target, and it is a challenge to be able to connect with teens, as a group, or individuals, but I have found that simple honesty, sincerity and passion has always worked for me. It is important that the audience not feel ‘lectured at’, but ‘spoken with’. A fine line I think I have managed to tread most of the time.
I do have the advantage of real experience in their world, and having an accent (English) is different and apparently entertaining.
The ‘what’ is easy to define, the ‘how’ is proving to be the greater challenge. With no central agency effectively managing school speakers, marketing becomes a necessity. This is an area where I have little experience, and simply relying on word of mouth is unlikely to provide many leads for speaking opportunities. Oh, and there’s that economy thing…
So, once again I turn to the community on Hubpages, any bright ideas for me?
Back to the original point, talking to teens. This age group has reported to me, on many occasions, that there is a way of speaking to them that they appreciate. First, they hate being spoken down to. They are not mentally deficient (despite some actions to the contrary). Second, they hate it when someone deliberately speaks over their head, or uses language that they believe is the current idiom. The middle ground, which encompasses respect, patience and a clear thought process, is the way to go. Speak naturally, and with honesty. If you are passionate about something, be passionate. The point being that this age is expert at reading body language. They watch each other, and adults if they have to, like hawks. They know fake. They know condescension. They have zero respect for anyone (outside their circle) wasting their time.
Good lessons for public speaking, but equally valuable when talking one-on-one in family situations.
Like most people, teens want their opinions to be respected. Even when they sound entitled or rude or ill informed, they want you to filter and hear their message. “No one listens to us!” is a plaintive cry I have heard many, many times.
As the adult, you need to model both listening and speaking well. Is it fair to expect your child to listen to you, if they feel you never listen to them? If you do not patiently explain yourself, what inclination does your teen have to try?
Modeling the behavior you wish to see is the best, most appropriate, and most successful way to effect change. In current parlance, it is the key component of ‘Parenting Best Practice’. (“Because I say so…” works as badly now as it did when it was thrown at you as a child.)
And of course, all this takes time. Most issues in families come about by neglect, not deliberate action. We have busy lives, but time invested in communicating clearly, and fairly, with your children, from an early age, will pay dividends. Think about the time you invested in potty training, or teaching them to read. Surely, some quality time communicating with your teen is worth it?
I have found that this age group is slow to trust, but once they know you are genuine, they will be very open and honest. (Sometimes brutally so!) Both things I wanted and appreciated as both a principal and as a parent.
And of course their test of genuine is seeing change in action, not just words. I have asked for, and utilized, teen opinion on everything from scheduling, design of new classrooms to my writing and web site. I enjoyed (back in the day) being kept somewhat up to date on life from a teen perspective by my stepsons and their friends. (Realizing that I was about as cool as the middle of Death Valley in summer.)
So, the key is to talking to teens is personal integrity, supported by communicating clearly and honestly. It doesn’t sound so hard now, does it? And when your teen responds to you in the same manner, enjoy it, appreciate it, and appreciate them.
Potty training was probably easier…