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Parent series: appreciation skills– “I see you”

Dr. Zurita Ona’s recently published book discusses parenting skills that they may be especially helpful for parents of teens who seem to have an emotional switch that turns to the max in response to small triggers. One of the core skills emphasizes appreciation of your teen; appreciating not only desired behaviors, but also appreciating teens’ willingness to to come into contact with these strong emotions, rather than withdrawing, avoiding or engaging in impulsive behavior. These skills are not only useful for parents of these highly sensitive teens, but also for all parents.

Learning to show appreciation can strengthen your relationship with your teen

Appreciation allows you to see the value in the experiences and actions of others. In interactions with your teen, appreciation can help you to see them as a whole person and not just for their problematic behaviors. Praising your teen is a way of appreciating appropriate behaviors that you see and enhancing your relationship.

John Gottman and Nan Silver (1999) found that successful relationships have a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative interactions; therefore, it is important to find opportunities for positive interactions with your teen. Praising your teen is a great opportunity for positive interactions and to model a healthy relationship. We like to refer to these moments as “Catching Your Teen Doing Good”

Successful relationships have a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative interactions Click To Tweet

Parents sometimes get stuck on thoughts like:

  • If I praise my teen too much….
    • I’ll spoil him!
    • They will only do things because they expect something in return
    • They don’t need to be appreciated for things they know they should do

Teens can be sensitive to negative feedback, even if it is constructive criticism. By providing positive feedback to balance the negative your teen will learn behaviors that will be noticed and appreciated. This will allow them to develop a sense of how to interact in healthy ways in a relationships that include both positive and negative interactions. Without these positive interactions your teen may feel unsupported, alone, and even abandoned.

It’s important to really “see” your child and what is happening for them.

Appreciating and praising your teen does not just relate to moments when they do their chores, follow your rules, or help around the house without asking. It also means noticing and appreciating when they are experiencing difficult and intense emotions (ex: cancelled plans, losing a big game, or being rejected). When your teen is present with their pain, but not obsessing over it, you can appreciate their efforts to experience these painful emotions by recognizing and validating their struggle. Describing their emotions allows them to see that you notice the hard time they are going through.

In your interactions with you teen will you choose to:
• Be influenced by unappreciative judgments, rules, and stories about your teen
or
• Implement a new parenting skill in the service of enhancing the relationship with your teen

Let’s NAP: Notice, Appreciate, and Praise Verbally

3 steps to appreciation skills:
• Notice
• Appreciate
• Praise verbally immediately

Notice: Describe a specific behavior

Appreciate: Acknowledge the value of this behavior

Praise: Give specific positive feedback in that moment
• “I like that you…,”
• “I enjoy it when you…,”
• “I appreciate that you…,”
• “It makes me smile that you…”

When praising, it is important that you are genuine and not making a blanket statement, such as, “Thank you for doing your chores” or “That was great.” Your teen needs to know exactly what it is you appreciate about their behavior.

Example for appreciating “Catching your teen doing good”:
Notice: You see your teen picking up the dog’s poop in the yard
Appreciate: You can now walk in the yard without getting poop on your shoes
Praise: “I really appreciate you picking up after Spot. It makes me happy to be able to walk without outside without worrying about ruining my shoes.”

Example for appreciating your teen’s struggles:
Notice: You see your teen tearing up after their favorite celebrity couple broke up
Appreciate: Their expression of sadness is a healthy expression of sadness rather than becoming irritated and lashing out at their younger sibling
Praise: “Oh no! Anna and Chris broke up, I can see that this makes you upset and sad. They were such a fun couple.”