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Building Your Teen's Self-Esteem Plus Ways to Motivate Them

By Dave Lyke, MA, MDiv, LCPC

Parental encouragement is one key to building an adolescent’s self-esteem and their subsequent internal motivation. Encouragement from parents is a process of describing the assets and strengths of a teen’s efforts in a non-judgmental manner. Encouragement is grounded in the belief that your teen has the ability to deal effectively with the challenges of becoming a responsible participant of his/her family and community. Some of the crucial elements in this process are how, when, where, and why you encourage your child. For many parents it is difficult to modify their parenting style from that of parenting a child to parenting a teen. It becomes increasingly crucial for parents to define for their teens an expanding world of limited choices and to have them face the natural consequences of their own choices. Teens must feel they are being empowered to make responsible decisions on their own.

Here are some suggestions to help parents and teachers in working with children. Whether these suggested remarks will, in fact, be encouraging will depend on the attributes of the adults using them.

“You do a good job of...”

“You have improved in...”

“We like (enjoy) you, but we don’t like what you do.”

“You can help me (us, the others, etc.) by...”

“Let’s try it together.”

“So you made a mistake, now, what can you learn from your mistake?”

“You would like us to think you can’t do it, but we think you can.”

“Keep trying, don’t give up.”

“I’m sure you can straighten this out, but if you need any help, you know where to find me.”

“I can understand how you feel (not sympathy but empathy) but I’m sure you’ll be able to handle it.”

“Parents’ encouragement of their teens provides greater opportunity for the future generation to hope and live more fully.”