5) TELL ME WHY YOU THINK THAT WAY.
Don’t discount the brainpower of another person, particularly an adolescent. Their ideas and opinions are highly experience-driven and when they are engaged in a conversation, they often reveal parts of themselves not previously known. Many adults end discussions with some form of the phrase “you don’t know because you’re just a teenager”. Not only does this horribly undermine both the teen and the parent (who is ultimately responsible for teaching the teen these skills, not telling them when they don’t know something) but it is untrue. Teenagers often DO know. They just know differently than you or I may.
4) I UNDERSTAND THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO YOU.
For teenagers, all things are a big deal. This is precisely what an underdeveloped pre-frontal lobe does: heightens one’s sense of urgency and importance. Teenagers lack perspective. At the same time, their sense of what is valuable is very different than yours. It’s supposed to be. As long as it’s innocuous, let an adolescent have things which are important to them.
3) YOU WORK REALLY HARD.
Validate them. It doesn’t have to be “you work hard at everything”. But find something they do work hard in and point it out. If I have a student who is particularly committed to a sport, say basketball, I might say “you work really hard at basketball. I challenge you to put that same effort into … reading, homework, class, conversations, studying”— whatever suits your situation best. Kids do work hard. Just being a kid takes hard work. Trust me.
2) TELL ME HOW I CAN HELP.
Teenagers wish they had more support and help. Frankly, who doesn’t? But for teens, the stakes are higher now than they have ever been (please remember this all parents who parallel your own life scenarios on a regular basis to illustrate how your teen should be just as perseverant as you once were) and the anxiety is equally high, as well. At the same time, asking a teen how you can help is a great way to get them to think critically, communicate effectively, and demonstrate leadership skills. So, if nothing else, you’re boosting soft skills.
1) I’M PROUD OF YOU.
Because you are. Be proud of every teenager making any semblance of an effort. It only takes one person’s voice to change the entire outlook of an adolescent’s future. They’re more resilient than they are given credit for and this means even if they’ve experienced a string of bad luck, teens can turn that around if they feel like they’re not alone. If an adolescent has someone they want to impress and work hard for, they can do almost anything. In fact, go ahead and tell them that, too. It can never hurt: You can do anything.