How often are you telling your adolescent you’re proud of him or her? Even if your teenager is acting out in terribly frustrating ways, there is something to be proud of. There is some reason you’re thankful this child is your child.
Your teenager needs to hear this from you. They care deeply about your opinion even if they act as though they don’t. They have to know the ways you approve of them. That’s why they’re always arguing with you. They really want you to agree with their ideas and opinions. This translates to approval.
Try not to make comparisons to other teenagers. It’s okay to compare your teen to his or her former self. What I mean by that is it’s fine to point out ways they’ve grown or improved. Also, let’s not do left-handed compliments. Don’t tell them, “Even though you have a long way to go, you’re much better at math than last year. Good job!” The beginning of that sentence doesn’t really accomplish anything.
You don’t have to approve of things you don’t actually approve of either. You’re under no obligation to tell your daughter you like her gangster, drug-abusing boyfriend. However, you can tell her she looks nice if she’s dressed well one day. You can also tell her you’re proud of her for keeping her room clean this week, etc.
The main point of this is that we can sometimes become so wrapped up in the ways our kids need to improve that we forget to point out how they’re doing well. We become nitpickers. That is a quick way to demoralize someone. Teens are very easily demoralized. They’re at the early stages of trying to figure out how to be mature and behave responsibly. They were only children as little as 36 months ago. That’s really not very long if you think about it. They are still easily frustrated and still give up on things they feel like they can’t accomplish. Just because they look more like an adult doesn’t mean they have the mental capacity of an adult.
So, be patient and find things to compliment. If you point out the things you’re proud of you just might get more of it.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT