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(Inside: Encouragement for teens is needed. A simple, yet powerful way to encourage your teen is to text them inspirational and motivational memes. Download free memes today and help your teen thrive.)
“Can I talk to you?” my eleventh-grade student pulled me aside before the bell.
Independent. Strong. This young man boasted athleticism and confidence. Yet, tears filled his eyes as he explained, “You know I’ve been working hard to get my grade up in your class, so I wanted to tell you…I just might not be myself today… I had a big fight with my mom…”
Do you know what my student wanted from me in the moment?
Encouragement. A few simple uplifting words.
In my twenty-plus years of working with teens, one aspect of raising older kids continually surprises me: no matter who the teen is…
- full of attitude
- put together and polished
- and no matter their ethnicity, gender, personality, social-economic background…and forever, etc.
All teenagers crave encouragement. Like the rhythm of intaking oxygen, teens need a continual intake of kind words.
Why encouragement is so important for teens
Teens have more pressure than ever. Maintaining grades, figuring out who they are, navigating social skills, and then adding to that the underdeveloped frontal cortex and the beast of social media and you have some stressed-out kids. That’s why teens need parents to recognize that the adolescent years hold unique pressures and they need parents to say, “I believe in you” in a thousand ways from a billion different angles.
Moms need encouragement too! Here’s some for you: Best Podcasts Every Mom Needs to Hear
The science behind why healthy encouragement for teens works
Science proves that healthy encouragement can make a life-long, empowering impact. Psychologist Carol Dweck conducted a study that caught the world of education’s attention. Fifth graders were given medium-level math problems to solve. They were praised in one of two ways:
- For their ability (“Well done – you’re so smart!”)
- For their work ethic (“Great job – you tried so hard!”)
Then, the students were given progressively harder math problems.
Do you know which group thrived?
You guessed it…those who were praised for working hard. The ones praised for their ability were scared to make a mistake because it made them feel like they weren’t clever or smart. Yet, the ones who were praised for working hard knew that whether they conquered the hard math problems or not, they were still doing a great job. As a result, that group was more successful.
We see evidence of Dweck’s study in our daily lives:
- We gravitate towards the positive, encouraging friend.
- We notice the soccer coach who cheered her team on for making a decision and going after the ball (over perfection), so her “just average” athletes won the championship. (True story: my son’s team)
- We move forward with confidence when our bosses encourage us to “go for it” and “learn from the mistakes that will inevitably come in the journey.” (And this boss gets better outcomes as a result!)
As adults, we better thrive in life when we’re in a nourishing, encouraging environment – it’s the same for teens.
Related article: How to get your tween/teenage son to open up to you
What encouragement for teens is NOT…
However, telling your teen they are amazing-amazing-amazing for hanging up their towel one- time last month is not what I mean. (Because you know you want to take them to the doctor to get their arms checked.) Or being all chill when you found out your kids and their friends binge drank in your home. (In that case, please, be the opposite of chill. Overact. Holler like the zombie apocalypse has arrived. Don’t even be sorry.)
Teens need structure, stability, and healthy expectations.
Plus, there’s evidence that insincere praise over non-praiseworthy things is unhealthy for our kids. Parental guidance is an important part of a kid’s development; I mean – after all – sometimes it needs to be us who tells our kids they’re embarrassing themselves. (Everyone else is all Minnesota Nice.)
But mixing that loving truth-telling with encouragement in Dr. Gottman’s 5:1 magic healthy relationship ratio is a powerful way to raise kids. (Five positive interactions for every negative one.)
What encouragement for teens IS…
So, how do you give healthy encouragement to kids? You think about the healthy person you want your child to be and you praise for the qualities that shape their character.
We use healthy encouragement in parenting by making the meat of our encouragement look like this:
- Pointing out all that our kids are doing right. (Because we want them to thrive in the daily grind.)
- Noticing how hard they work. (Because we want them to be hard workers.)
- Continuously telling them they have value and worth and are beloved human beings. (Because we want them to know unconditional love.)
- Recognizing their gifts and talents. (You want them to find a way their uniqueness contributes to this world.)
- Validating them for being kind. (Because we want to raise kind human beings.)
- Cheering them on. (Everyone needs a cheerleader!)
- And so on…
(It should be noted: This doesn’t mean you never tell your child they’re pretty or awesome just because. Of course, when your three boys emerge in their suits ready for Christmas Eve, every boy-mom swoons – as they should!)
A simple and effective way to encourage your teen
Every momma out there wants our healthy encouragement to sink in. So, let’s meet our kids where they’re at…and let’s be honest – our kids are at (on) their phones. A simple way to encourage your kids is to text them self-affirming memes.
But add an individualized touch to it. Meaning, if your kid wants to try out for the speech team and they are shaking like leaf, text this meme with specific reasons why you think they’ll do well. (“You’ve practiced, you know your speech – just do you!”)
Or if your kid is struggling with friendships, remind them, “You are loved! By your family, your friends – even when you don’t feel loved, remember you ARE LOVED!”)
Grab your FREE GIFT!
Because my goal at Empowered Moms and Kids is to research powerful ways to parent, and then give you ways to support that goal, I have a gift for you to help us all in encouraging our kids. You can download 15 colorful memes. Send your beloved kid a few texts over the next week and watch them walk a little taller in a few short days. I guarantee they will love it. (If only secretly, because they can’t always let you know you’re appreciated.)
I don’t know if my student’s mom sent her son a sweet text reminding him that even in the conflict, he is loved beyond measure, but I bet she did. Because mommas are awesome like that. (And that includes YOU!)
Join this community of moms raising tweens and teens
You just dropped your kid off at practice, picked up another, and are trying to decide what to make for dinner. Your days are filled with work, parenting, and waiting for password reset emails.
You are parenting tweens and teens.
It’s a fantastic life phase, but also challenging in unique ways. In it all, you’d love a little encouragement to help you laugh, grow in faith, see parenting hacks, get ideas to connect with your kid, and celebrate the awesome momma you are.
I got you, friend. Sign up for Empowered Moms and Kids monthly emails and get encouragement in your inbox geared for someone exactly in your life chapter. It’s totally free and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Plus, you’ll get instant access to all the great resources in the freebie library. Join our community here or below.
Read more in the raising tweens and teens series
My oldest son started high school last week, and I’m still in a coma because of it. Even though I’ve taught high school for over two decades, I’m confused as to how I’m actually old enough to be a parent of a high schooler.
Teaching high schoolers has always been a passion of mine, but now parenting them is as well. I could research, write, and talk about this topic until eternity. I hope you are encouraged by some of my articles.
Parenting Tweens and Teens Series
COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR TWEEN/TEEN
How to Get Your Teen/Teen to Their “Aha Moment”
How to Get Your Tween/Teenage Son to Open Up to You
Parenting is Hard: This One Thought Can Help You Better Thrive
7 Reasons Why Raising Tweens & Teens is the Best
Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.