Tuesday 21 November 2017

How often are you praising your teenager?

Parenting advice on the topic of encouraging your teenager. Are you praising them enough?
Fab backpack from Millets, as shown in my Hard to Buy for Mans Christmas gift guide but modelled by JJ

A couple of weeks ago on my parenting teens course we were exploring the topic of getting your teenager to cooperate and there were some interesting stories of teens being sullen and not wanting to participate in family life. I think those of us with a teenage child have experienced this desire by the teen to just be let alone in their own little world, whatever that may be - gaming, reading, shopping or relaxing with friends.

The course leaders encouraged us to think about praise and instead of keep pulling our teens up for the things they weren't doing or the negative behaviours they were showing, to actually turn things on their head and to start encouraging them more. I think many of us worked to a system of motivation by praise when our kids were toddlers or preschoolers. I recall early parenting courses telling me to encourage the behaviour I did want to see, instead of picking up on the poor behaviour that I wanted to discourage.

It makes sense really as teenagers are very much like their toddler counterparts. Their brains are developing at an amazing rate but things are changing for them and they don't retain all the information they have learnt over the first 13-17 years of their life. The new neuro pathways are all being laid down ready for their adult life and their brain is being pruned, to just retain the information they use regularly. This is why we go back to seeing outbursts or tantrums when they are stressed or can't process the situation.

We were encouraged to think of the last time we received praise and how it made us feel. We all agreed it was a good feeling and it gives you a bit of a boost. Most of us said we don't receive enough praise for our liking, as certainly being a Mum can be pretty thankless. They then asked how much we were praising our teens and this gave me a lot of food for thought. How often am I praising JJ?

I know for sure I thank him for the jobs he does, like the recycling or getting his room clean. I also thank him and compliment him when he cooks for us as I know I like the same, but how often do I praise him for this behaviour or attitude? Not a lot is the answer.

So I headed home from the course to have a chat with him to see what he thinks. At first I asked him how he feels about praise and then if his teachers praise him, and also if his Dad and I do? He basically told me that he has no interest in me praising him, if I keep saying well done he’ll think it's nothing special and that actually he should be doing good work at school, being nice to his sisters and being helpful at home as they are just the standard things in life that any kid should do.

I was interested to hear that he thought I'd sound patronising if I praised him too often and he was more interested in us just being able to get along and have a good laugh together. And I suppose that is the thing, he isn't a model child (is there such a thing?) he can push it, be a bit rude or evasive but generally he is quite obedient and very respectful to me and I think that all comes from the fact we have a good relationship. We truly laugh together; he makes me belly laugh like no-one else does. We just act stupid, sometimes our humour is a bit close to the mark but we know when to rein it in.
"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing" 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)
I had a chat with my husband about praise and he was of the same opinion as JJ, that too much isn't necessary. What he pointed out though was that encouragement was probably the really important thing. Whilst a person doesn't always want to hear well done, you did good or thank you they do need positive affirmation and encouragement in whatever form that takes. When I say goodbye to JJ in the morning and wish him a good day, I'm putting a positive spin on his day. When he returns home and I ask how his day was, I'm really saying I'm here for you, talk to me if you want to.

By being there for our children and making ourselves available at a time that suits them we tell them they're worth it and frankly what could stand them in better stead in life than that?

Why not pin this post for later?

Parenting advice on the topic of encouraging your teenager. Are you praising them enough?

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