We want to raise teens to be competent and confident. We also hope they develop deep and meaningful relationships with their family and friends. In addition to these important goals, parents can help their children build character, the type that allows them to grow to their full potential and achieve the kind of resilience that will support them throughout life. You can think of character as doing the right thing — even when no one is watching. A key avenue for doing this successfully is nurturing teenagers to show appreciation for others.
Every family shows appreciation in different ways. Some parents may acknowledge their child’s positive behavior out loud. Another family may prefer a physical approach – hugging, kissing, cuddling, or patting their child on the back. Regardless of how we show appreciation, when we do, our children learn to appreciate their family and community more. In addition, we know children’s relationships with parents are reflected in their friendships. The more mothers show support to their children, the more support these children show their friends.
This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Children who are recognized and appreciated — for studying hard or preparing dinner, for example — will likely repeat more of these behaviors. And if they get appreciation, they’re more likely to be appreciative. This is because a heightened sense of connection to others contributes to having additional caring relationships.
All parents have the necessary tools to teach this essential lesson to their children. There’s nothing you need to buy. All you have to do is be mindful. Focus on how you show your child appreciation. Pay attention to ways you demonstrate how much you care about them.
5 Easy Ways to Teach Appreciation
Need a little guidance? Here are five no-cost opportunities for teaching children to appreciate others.
1) Recognize acts of kindness
Catch teens when they’re being kind, generous, and thoughtful. Tell them how pleased you are with their behavior. It’s not uncommon for parents to praise children for getting an A on a test or scoring a goal. But all too often children get recognition solely when they produce. Try to increase the amount of kudos you offer for the efforts they put into being a good person.
2) Focus on positive ways people treat each other
Teens benefit when families discuss selfless behaviors, the kind that usually go unnoticed. For example, make it a habit to acknowledge the co-worker who visits her mother every day or the grandson who takes meals to his grandmother. Make a conscious decision to change what you talk about most – especially if topics tend toward the negative, gossipy or unproductive.
3) Choose words and actions carefully
Children pay close attention to how adults treat each other. Young people always watch grown ups for social cues regarding how they should behave. When we disagree with our partners, we’re in the best position to demonstrate how to voice opinions respectfully. Our ability to listen, to offer kindness even in the heat of the moment, shows children how to appreciate others and their points of view.
4) Treat strangers well
Children learn to value qualities like compassion when they see parents acting compassionately. No words we say to children will ever be as influential as our own behavior. Our acts of caring and understanding are silent and powerful teachers. Teens and tweens observe us and remember.
5) Value love and kindness over material goods
Never worry about spoiling children with love and kindness. Love doesn’t spoil children, it only makes them sweeter. But love and kindness don’t require buying children every last video game or piece of clothing or material item they request. Remind them to be grateful for what they do have, instead of worrying about what they don’t. It’s OK to have teens save enough money for special items they long to own. The upside of delaying adolescents from getting whatever they want is that they’ll be that much more appreciative when they do get them.
When we notice and appreciate our children, they are more likely to notice and appreciate others. This doesn’t mean showering them with empty praise. Make sure you acknowledge legitimate acts, both big and small, that deserve your admiration and gratitude. This will have a ripple effect. Your children will benefit now and their actions may positively inspire others in the future.