Appreciation is a word we use to describe our recognition of someone else’s value or worth. We all need to feel valuable to the people we know and the world we live in, but teens, who naturally struggle with insecurities about their developing identities, feel this need even more keenly than other people do. Finding this sense–that they have traits and talents other people appreciate–makes them feel good, acceptable, loved and defined.
Parents, especially should do everything they can to help their adolescents feel valuable and valued. Otherwise, teen will turn to peers, media, or relationships outside the family for a sense of what makes them valuable–the answer they’re likely to get can be summed up in one word: sex.
So think about it: What will you tell your child to make him or her feel valued? If the answer seems elusive, then rephrase it this way: What are the traits I really love about my child. You must be able to answer this question more for your kids than for yourself.
Before you answer, however, let me offer one caveat: When I say “traits,” I don’t mean academic, sports, or artistic accomplishment. At issue isn’t what they’ve done, it’s who they are.
We’ve all seen sports parents who show up at every game cheering their child’s victories but completely losing their composure–and sometimes their temper–over their child’s failures. When teenagers see our enthusiasm swell only when they excel at something, they think their performance increases their love for them. Then–and this hurts–they become stuck performing, studying, or producing to earn more expressions of love from us. Is that what we want for our children? Or do we want them to know that they are fundamentally, at the very core of who they are, lovable and valuable to us?
If you praise your son’s great soccer abilities, also praise his patience. If your daughter is as compassionate and perceptive as she is bright, give her as much credit for the former qualities as for the latter. Recognize courage, persistence, wisdom, gratefulness, self-control, compassion, kindness, faithfulness, joy, and goodness in your children. They deserve it.