Much like Pavlovian dogs, popular parenting discourse suggests that we should shower children with praise if they do anything well, the working idea being that praise makes children feel special, and they behave better when they feel great. To be more mindful than their own emotionally stunted parents, new-age adults are trying to give out more compliments to the teenagers they interact with. However, even good things can turn nasty when done in excess.
Most praises such as “You’re amazing” or “Good Job” or “I am proud of you”, have become hollow and flippant at best. Due to the superfluous nature of these praises, most teenagers now doubt the honesty and judgment of the adults in their lives who indiscriminately hand out compliments.
Giving out praises is doubly difficult when your child becomes a teenager. Afraid of daylight and adept at sarcasm, these teenagers do not respond the same way to compliments as they once did.
Here’s how your praise can change as your child does.
Take an Interest in Their Interests
Let’s just say as an example that your teen is a budding artist and shows you every drawing or painting; they have done expecting a compliment or two. The easier route to take is to say “Wow, that’s such a great painting!” but it isn’t necessarily the best compliment. To you, their art may seem like an overkill of colours, but to them, it is an expression of their creativity. Ask them the thought process behind the colour scheme and brush strokes, and really listen to their answers.
Praise More Than Just Their Appearance
Compliments frequently revolving around a teen’s appearance can also do a lot of damage. Beauty-centric praise can often make children feel that they only deserve attention or compliments if they look pretty. Particularly common in girls, this early onset of teenagers linking their value with their beauty results in adults with a severe lack of confidence and even body dysmorphia.
Help Them Grow Up
You might have watched your teen struggle with a “grown-up” task such as take driving lessons and finally getting the hang of it. It’s an achievement worth praising. Don’t phone it in by saying something general like “You did it!” or “Good job, buddy”. Instead, communicate to them that you saw them struggle, how proud you are of them for accomplishing it, and ask them how they parallel park so well.
In applauding their children with praise, parents sometimes forget that it is not the exact act of giving compliments that build the child’s self-esteem. The key lies in making the child feel heard and valued.
Psychology, Counselling and Wellbeing Centre can help young people with their issues and resolve complexities of their teenage years. Call us on 07 3891 2273 to schedule an appointment and find more information about our services.