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Build Positive Self-image In Your Teen

Build Positive Self-image in Your Teen

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The Magic Of Encouragement Using Meaningful Acknowledgments

Caretakers of youth use the power of their spoken words to reveal their unconditional positive regard for a young person’s accomplishments—Leading young people to embrace and recognize their self-worth as a unique individual! Think about this: Can any human being see himself or herself as valuable and worthy of unconditional love, support, and respect if their personal accomplishments are not celebrated? No, they cannot.  A positive self-image is built on the messages we hear about who we are, and how we are doing in the world.

Encouragement = Meaningful Acknowledgements

To provide encouragement using meaningful acknowledgment (recognition), is to identify specific qualities about the young person’s work or efforts.

Why Meaningful Acknowledgements

Meaningful acknowledgements deliver the message to young people that the adult is really paying attention to their individual contributions to a product, task, or situation.  Consequently, young people feel valued for the qualities they bring to a situation—feeling valued plants within youth confidence.


  • Notice the difference between meaningful acknowledgments and empty praise.
  • The magic is in the specifics – identify the quality that makes it different, unique, special–The “why” behind your acknowledgement makes the acknowledgment meaningful!

Strategy #1

Notice the difference between meaningful acknowledgments and empty praise.

The magic is in the specifics.

  • Acknowledgment without identifying the quality recognized for giving the acknowledgment is simply: EMPTY PRAISE!
  • Refrain from the following “praise” words because they lack authenticity: great, wonderful, special, outstanding, good job, pretty, beautiful, gorgeous.
    • Better to say:
      • “You were able to ask for help, I know sometimes that is difficult”

The phrase, “able to ask” provides the purpose (reason) for your acknowledgement – this makes your acknowledgement meaningful.

    • Acknowledge their creativity, choices, efforts, individuality, uniqueness, and decision making strategies.

Resist Using Empty Praise

Some parents use empty praise to bolster their youth’s confidence.  But eventually, youth catch on to this trick and words become meaningless.

Empty Praise:

    • “You look pretty or you look handsome”
    • “You are so smart”


  • “You are the best piano player in the world”


  • “You did such a good job”

Give the real reason for the statement.

Why Encouragement is Magical

Alfred Adler and Rudolph Dreikurs (a student of Adler, were psychologists who did extensive work on youth, learning, and behavior.  Throughout the years, their work continues to receive overwhelming support for the influence of encouragement.

Young people persist and learn when they are encouraged.  “Encouragement gives youth a sense that they have a place in society and, in turn, secures their investment in themselves and the group (Adler).”  According to Adler, youth act in connected and cooperative ways when they are encouraged- Encouragement helps children feel capable and appreciated. When youth are discouraged, they act in unhealthy ways e.g., giving up, social withdrawal, or competing.

Young people need caretakers who respect them and support them through encouragement, and by valuing and supporting their social interests to promote hopeful and optimistic feelings.  Youth who observe and receive encouragement, learn to express and ACCEPT encouragement.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines persistence as the quality that allows someone to continue doing something or trying to do something even though others oppose it, or it is difficult.  University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Angela Duckworth discusses persistence and grit as being a larger indicator of success than IQ.  According to Duckworth, having passion for something provides us with the grit we need to persist. Grit adds the component of passion as a motivating factor to persistence. We all experience setbacks.  The way we reach our goals is through persistence despite our mistakes or challenges.

A young person’s  persistence at learning a skill despite previous failures or challenges, has everything to do with caretakes’ encouragement.  Some caretakers, encourage youth to persist and find their way, others discourage youth by degrading, teasing, and making negative, hurtful comments.  Caretakers who encourage struggling youth give them permission to fail, struggle, and start over.

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