The importance of praising children cannot be stressed enough. Even if they tell you they don’t care what you think, teens want your approval and they want to know that you recognize their strengths, accomplishments, and want you to make them feel important. However, what I have constantly heard from parents of teenagers is that sometimes praise can seem almost impossible due to the many challenges and frustrations parents experience when raising their teenage children. How do you praise when they constantly test limits, slam doors, break rules, or yell at you? While it is not always easy, it is always important to your child’s overall self-esteem and self-perception.
Your adolescent may not recognize that you are praising him or may even question why you are praising him, which is fine; the important thing is that you are doing it consistently.. Teens want to be recognized, so if you don’t recognize the good, they will make sure you recognize the negative or the bad. Giving compliments can improve your overall communication with them because by moving from always having to focus on the negative, you are showing them that your verbal communication can also be positive, which can increase their desire to have conversations with you. Despite your adolescent’s oppositional behaviors, yelling, swearing, rule infractions, poor grades, or other challenging behaviors, it is critical that your teen “find out that they are behaving themselves.” This means that despite all the challenges and frustrations, you should sincerely seek and acknowledge the things they are doing well. Research has shown that increasing positive behaviors will automatically decrease some negative behaviors. If all you do is pay attention to the negative, that’s all you’ll get in return … negative behaviors. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting that anyone ignore negative behaviors, especially if they are potentially dangerous, however, I want to make sure that positive behaviors do not go unnoticed either.
You may need to start with really basic and simple things if you have a hard time identifying positive behaviors. Maybe it’s that they got up on their own to go to school, that they put their dishes in the dishwasher, that they got home on time, that they got a good grade, that you saw them outside throwing a basketball, and they did very well. , that they told you they liked the dinner, that they thanked you for taking a walk, etc. These all seem pretty basic, yet it can be powerful for a parent to say, “I appreciate that you thanked me for the trip I gave you; it made me feel good to feel appreciated.” Think about how your teen would respond if I said, “Thank you so much for taking the dog out every day after school, it makes it so much easier for me when I get home.” These are basic statements that can be very meaningful to a teenager who feels unfamiliar unless they are doing something wrong.
Here are some tips for praising your teen:
1. Be sincere. Sometimes this is the hardest for parents because they are so frustrated. It is important that you take a little time to realize what you like and appreciate about your child and that you really mean it when you praise him or else he will understand and it may create resentment.
2. Praise immediately when possible. Giving immediate feedback is always more powerful than giving it after the fact. So … if you see or hear your teen doing something commendable, it’s always best to take the time to positively compliment him in the moment.
3. Show interest and enthusiasm for what your teen is doing. Take a look at what your teen likes and what motivates him and express an interest in this.
4. Be excited about your accomplishments. Regardless of how big or small it is, let them know that you notice it and that you are proud of their accomplishments.
5. Congratulate them for trying. Even if they are not 100% successful at something, let them know that you admire their effort. Encourage them and give them the credit they deserve.
6. Be specific about what you are praising. It is always good to tell your teen that you love and appreciate him, but it is also very helpful to praise specific things. So instead of just saying, “I’m proud of you,” label what you’re proud of. For example, “I am very proud of you for not giving up during the game and for cheering on your teammates.” Another example is, “I’m proud of you for always testing you on your exams in school.”
7. Never add something negative to praise. You never want to mix praise with something negative. So DO NOT say, “I’m so proud of you for getting home in time for curfew, but I wish you could do it more often.” All your teen will hear in this example is the negative and that you are focusing on what they are doing wrong. Keep praise moments separate from those you are dealing with negative behaviors.
8. Don’t put too much emphasis on complimenting the looks. While it is important for your teenager to know that he looks good, he should not focus too much on this as he is very self-aware. You don’t want them to think that their appearance is the only thing that you are also noticing. Make sure to praise her other qualities as well.