If you’re the parent of a teenager, you know this…
Teens aren’t always easy to read—or approach!
But one thing is true of all teens, no matter what their attitude, demeanor, or words relay. They need encouragement from you more than anyone else in the world. They may roll their eyes or shrug their shoulders when you offer it, but inside, they’re soaking up every word.
Teens face so much criticism—most of which is often their own inner dialogue—and that uncertainty can be crippling. Encouraging words from you can work to stave off the damage being done by the hyper-critical world around them.
At House of Hope, we want to make encouraging your teen a regular part of your parenting routine. We have some ideas for you! Here are 5 ways you can encourage your teen this week and rebuild their self-esteem one word at a time.
1. Share a Compliment
We all need compliments, whether we admit it or not.
You can likely remember word-for-word some of the nicest compliments you’ve ever received. And whether you realize it or not, those compliments shaped you, inspired you, and countered—even just a little bit—the seemingly unending negative feedback the world is so eager to offer.
Teens are just the same—even more so. They’re wading through so many uncertainties in life and trying desperately to figure out who they are and whether they have any significance in this big world.
That’s where you come in.
It may not seem possible that a few words that take but seconds to recite could change the heart of a teen, but words are POWERFUL. And even if your compliment is met with a shrug or an eyeroll, be sure that it has made an impact.
Teens aren’t always known for their diplomatic or polite responses, but make no mistake, teens CRAVE compliments. Especially from YOU.
This week, make a point of complimenting your teen. But make sure it is genuine. Teens can smell flattery a mile away and just like you and me, they don’t appreciate it. Make sure it’s something you really think. Some examples could be:
“It is so thoughtful of you to always wait for your brother after school. People know they can always count on you and that’s a big deal in this world.”
“You have some strong leadership qualities and that really comes out when you….”
“You seem to really have a gift for….”
Remember, make it genuine and don’t gauge the result on the initial reaction. Trust us, it’s doing a good thing in the heart of your teen.
Find more ideas with our 10 Things You Should Say to Your Teen.
2. Hold Off on Criticism
If you’ve ever gone through a challenging time—perhaps the loss of a job or a difficult relationship issue—you know that when you’re already feeling down, you’re more sensitive to criticism even something that just *seems* like a criticism.
Well, your teen feels like that All. The. Time.
Between hormones and brain development, teenagers face a flurry of doubt, fear, and insecurities on the regular. It can often seem irrational, but if you think back, you’ll remember you felt that way, too.
So what may seem like a simple statement can come across as a harsh, belittling criticism to your teen.
Now that doesn’t mean that you never correct your teen—they need it! It just means you choose your words wisely. So, this week, hold off on the criticism. If you need to ask your teen to clean their room—just ask. Don’t add in the whole cycle of “Why are you so messy? Why can’t you just keep your room clean? This is ridiculous.”
Encouragement is just as much what you *don’t* say as what you do.
3. Give a Gift
Proverbs 18:16 says, “Your gift will make room for you.”
Now there are many interpretations and applications for this verse, but it is also appropriate here.
A gift given at the right time can convey many messages to your teen. It says, “I was thinking about you today.” It also says, “You’re special and worth a gift even when it isn’t a holiday.”
A gift for your teen doesn’t have to be anything large or expensive. For a teen boy, it can be a new hoodie or a gift card to his favorite lunch spot. For a teen girl, the top she was looking at or a new nail color she mentioned.
It’s amazing how much a teen will light up (that teeny tiny crack of a smile they try to hide from you) when you think to get them a gift. It can be just enough encouragement to wipe away the insecurities or hurts they’re facing that week.
4. Make Family Dinner a Priority
This is a biggie!
Research shows that families who sit down to dinner 3-5 times per week have children who get better grades, have higher self-esteem, and are less likely to use drugs, alcohol, smoke or be sexually active. Kids and teens who eat with their families also have lower rates of depression and suicide.
All that from sitting at the same table!
You’re all going to eat anyway. Why not give your teens a big self-confidence boost by eating together at the table at least 3 nights per week.
Again, you’re not gauging the effectiveness on the initial response. They may sit silently and refuse to engage in conversation. But keep at it! Don’t pepper them with questions. Instead, start a conversation about something fun or interesting and see where it leads.
5. Pray With Your Teen
Nothing tops the power of prayer.
First Samuel 30:6 tells us that when David was going through a great trial, he “encouraged himself in the Lord.” It takes a great deal of spiritual maturity to reach the place of encouraging oneself during great trials. Until your teen reaches that place, you can come alongside him or her and model how to do this.
It is so important that we, as parents, pray for our teens regularly. But something special happens when you pray *with* your teen. It doesn’t have to be long, and it should likely be in private. It can be as simple as this:
- Thank God for your teen and how special they are to you and how special their contribution is to the world
- Ask God to protect them and open new doors of opportunity for them
- Thank God that when we seek Him and put Him first, He gives us the desires of our hearts
That’s it! It can be whatever you feel led to pray, but this is a place to start.
It’s important that you first ask your teen if you can pray with him or her. If the request isn’t received at first, don’t fight it and don’t fret! Come back another time and ask again.
These are just five ways you can encourage your teen this week. But there are so many others to try. Just be sure whatever you do is from the heart and isn’t forced. No matter what the response, keep loving your teen, keep reaching, keep praying. They need you far more than they’ll ever admit.