Hi! I’m Wendy, and I’ve survived homeschooling teens! I have two adult homeschool graduates and am currently homeschooling my youngest child–my 17-year-old daughter. I’d like to talk with you today about 10 ways to show our teens we like them.
Whether they admit it or not, our teens probably know that we love them, but do they know that we like them? There’s a big difference! Most teens feel like we “owe” it to them to love them since they’re our children. However, I’ve found that many of them don’t feel like we (parents in general) like them all that much. The truth is that sometimes they’re not very likable! As I was bringing up my teens (who are now adults), I realized it made a huge difference for them to know that I liked them just because of who they are!
Years ago, before my son graduated from our homeschool, he asked me: “Mom, why don’t you like me just like I am? Why do you want me to be someone I’m not?!”
I was shocked. I had no idea that he thought I didn’t like him! Of course I always wanted him to do his best, to work hard, to be diligent and kind and well-mannered and helpful and… As I went down this list in my mind, it began to dawn on my why he had that idea. In my efforts to bring out the best in him, I’d made him feel like he wasn’t living up to my standards. I’d made him feel like he should be somebody else. I’d made him feel like I didn’t like him.
Teens often struggle with liking themselves, so it’s important for them to feel like we like them! I don’t mean to say that we should never correct them or give constructive criticism. We don’t need to give them the idea that they’re perfect. We can all stand to improve in some areas, to learn more, to be kinder and more helpful to others, and so on. But we do need to show them we like them even though they aren’t perfect.
So the question is: how we can accomplish this? What can we do or say to help our teens (and younger children too) know that we really do like them just as they are? Here are some ideas to get you started!
- Point out the good in your teen as often as possible. Try to notice when your teen does things well. If he takes out the trash without being told, or remembers to get his school work done without being reminded, be sure to notice and tell him how much you appreciate it. Whatever he or she does well, point it out. Even if you have to search hard to find something at first, keep at it! (NOTE: Be sure you don’t brag on your child for something he or she really didn’t do very well. This needs to be sincere. Otherwise, your teen will know that you really didn’t mean it, and he/she won’t respect you or believe you.)
- Avoid pointing out your teen’s past mistakes. We’ve all made mistakes and done things we’re not very proud of, and nobody enjoys it when others point out our failures. Try not to bring up past mistakes and failures because it will most likely cause your teen to shut down and stop trying to please you. Nobody wants to strive to reach a goal that can’t be attained. If your teen feels like he or she can’t please you, he/she will just stop trying.
- Tell your teen that you like him/her. Most of us regularly tell our children that we love them, but do we tell them that we like them? It’s something we should all get in a habit of doing. In fact, after not doing this with my older two children, I now make a special effort to do it with my youngest. I regularly say, “Hey, Kid! I really like you!” Now, every time she hears me say, “Hey, Kid!” she says, “I know, Mom! You really like me!”
- Ask your teen’s opinions and ideas about things. As our children get older, we need to treat them more and more like the adults we want them to grow up to be. Try to take opportunities to ask your teen’s opinion about things like family vacations, things you see on the news, clothing choices, homeschool curriculum, and even finances when it’s appropriate. This shows our teens that we truly do respect their opinions and see them as valuable human beings with something to offer the family and the world. It’s a great confidence booster!
- Try not to compare your teen to others. This can be a hard one! I’m an identical twin, so I grew up being compared to my sister often. Very often. It’s so easy for us to compare our children to each other, yet it’s something that rarely does anything other than cause resentment and anger. It’s something I’ve had to learn not to do with my own children because it just seems natural to me to be compared and to compare others. Resist the urge!
- Spend time with your teen. You may be thinking that it’s nearly impossible to get things done now and that you don’t need one more thing added to your to-do list. I understand! But this one doesn’t have to be hard to accomplish. I sometimes ask my teen to help me cook dinner so we can chat while we work together. Or I’ll ask one of my teens to help me fold clothes or go grocery shopping with me. And for younger teens who can’t drive yet, it can be fun to chat as you drive him or her somewhere. In fact, teens often open up better while you’re driving because they don’t have to look you right in the eye as you’re talking.
- Compliment your teen in front of others. Take the opportunity to compliment your teen in front of his/her dad or grandparents or someone else. (Just be very sure you’re not saying something that will embarrass him or her–especially in front of friends!) You might say this directly to the other person so that your teen can hear you rather than saying this directly to your teen. Let him or her “overhear” you saying good things about him/her.
- Make sure your teen knows that he or she can talk to you about anything as long as it’s done in a respectful way. We’re trying to teach our teens to become successful adults, right? So that means they need to learn to disagree with us or come to us with differences of opinion in a respectful way. I don’t mind if my teen disagrees with me as long as the conversation is polite and respectful. We don’t want our teens to be afraid to tell us when they disagree with us for fear that we’ll be angry or refuse to listen or, even worse, that they’ll get in trouble for disagreeing with us!
- Listen to your teen’s hopes and dreams and take them seriously. This lets them know that we really do care and want the best for them. It can be hard when our teens are making plans that we know just aren’t going to work out, but teens often have to learn things the hard way. If we listen to them and support them, they’ll know that we’re there for them no matter what happens and that we’ll be their biggest cheerleaders as they make new plans and try again.
- Learn your teen’s love language and speak it as often as possible. If you haven’t read it already, you might want to consider getting the book The Five Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively by Gary D. Chapman. This is a great book that will help you understand what your child’s love language is. In other words, it will help you to know what makes your teen feel loved (and liked!) so you can do more of it!
Our teens probably feel like it’s required that we as parents love them, but we want them to know that we like them too! In fact, it’s probably a good idea to read back over this list now and then to remind ourselves of the things we can be doing (or doing better) to be sure our teens know that we like them, love them, and are thankful for them. I hope these ideas help you or that they help spark some ideas of your own for showing your teens how much you like them!
What about you? Do you have any other ideas for ways to show your teens that you like them just as they are? Please share them with us!