By Patrice Burrell, Crosswalk.com
As a public school educator at the elementary level for the past sixteen years, I am ever aware of the power of praise as a positive effect on students. Young children seem to crave acceptance and assurance from the adults in their life. They also thrive from receiving positive reinforcement through verbal affirmations. However, the need to hear this praise does not diminish as our children grow older. In fact, I would venture to say they need it even more as teenagers.
Take a moment to reflect upon your adolescent years growing up. Remember all of those awkward moments during that time, all of the growing pains? Let's be honest, given the choice, none of us would want to relive that time in our lives again. Now, compound that with all of the complications that make life even more difficult in the year 2022. Compared to when we were growing up, it quickly becomes easy to understand why our teenagers need to hear words of love, encouragement, healing, assurance, and support. They need to hear these kinds of words now more than ever before. And most importantly, they need to hear those words of praise and affirmation from us as their parents.
The Bible instructs us, and particularly in the book of Proverbs, repeatedly about the importance of speaking the right words:
Proverbs 12:18 (NIV): "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
Proverbs 18:21 (NLT): "The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences."
Proverbs 25:11 (NKJV): "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."
There is power in the words we release over our children as parents. We are their spiritual covering. They look to us for protection and reassurance. Even though they outgrow the elementary years and sometimes begin to act as if they do not need, want or value our role in their life, the reality is they need our voice speaking life to them at every stage. When the weight of the world is on their shoulders, they will always seek solace in the affirmation we provide them through our presence and our words.
What a wonderful privilege and tremendous responsibility we have to steward our words well. We must use them to edify our children and never to bring them down. We want to speak words that will build them up, reminding them of their identity in Christ Jesus. As "elementary" as some of these phrases may seem, our teenagers need to hear us speak them authentically and often. No matter how tough their exterior may come off or what walls they may erect, these words can still pierce through and touch their hearts in the moments they need to hear it most.
7 Reminders Your Teen Needs to Hear:
1. I'm Proud of You
Being proud of our children is a great joy for all parents. When they perform well, we want to acknowledge their hard work by telling them how proud we are. However, being and saying we are proud is not only reserved for when they have obtained success with something. They need to hear those words simply because of who they are and whose they are. We choose to look for the good to celebrate in our teenagers because even on their worst day, they still deserve to hear us reminding them of who they are above how they perform. We can be proud of them because they are a beautiful reflection of God's glory on earth. That is what we must highlight with our words, over and over again.
2. You Are Beautiful (female)/You Are Handsome (male)
Teenagers are inundated with ungodly ideas and suggestions from culture about their self-image. They often feel pressured by other peers who challenge them to conform to popular fads concerning beauty. Exploring something new regarding their appearance with the notion they will be more attractive can be very luring and deceptive. On top of all of the outside influences, puberty's hormonal impact causes their bodies to reflect visible signs of change. Is it any wonder they can feel self-conscious about how they look and struggle with feelings of low self-esteem about their body image?
Our teens need to hear us compliment their appearance regularly. This is not especially true just for girls, but equally true for boys as well. We want them to have a healthy self-image, constantly reminding them they are created in the image of their Creator. We want to affirm how He meticulously fashioned them to look and that they are a masterpiece of beauty to behold. Tell them they look good and give them a boost in their self-esteem.
3. You Are Destined for Greatness
As our teenagers get older, they begin to wonder, question, or even doubt their purpose in life. Many of them start to bring shape to their future college and career plans during their teenage years. They need our words to remind them that God has a specific plan for their lives. They need to see the bigger picture, connecting their life on earth with eternal value and Kingdom significance. Our teenagers must come to recognize the greatness God has invested in them. We must tell them frequently how great they are and that the greatness of God resides within. This declaration will give them the confidence to believe they can accomplish all of the great things God has destined them to achieve.
4. I Believe In You
We are our children's biggest advocates and cheerleaders. It is our job to encourage their creativity and dreams. They do not have to be the best or brightest in their pursuit in order for us to believe in them. Our teenagers need our unwavering support, championing them to keep pressing on, especially when things get hard. Those times when they are discouraged, or battling feelings of defeat are perfect opportunities for us to firmly let them know, "I believe in you." Follow it up with an, "Oh, yes you can," or "You've got this!" Letting them know of our confidence in them will infuse our teenagers with stronger confidence in themselves.
5. This Too Shall Pass
When our teens are going through a dilemma with their friends, a difficult time at school, or any other disappointment they are faced with, it can disrupt harmony in their world. They may even feel as if it is the worst possible thing that could ever happen. In those moments, we can quickly conclude how insignificant the situation is in the grand scheme of life. Since we have lived longer, we know things are not as detrimental as they may think they are. But to our teens, their feelings are very real, and they may wonder, "Will this ever end?"
It is vitally important we speak the right words to them at their lowest, most vulnerable point. Overwhelm can set in, causing them to lose sight. Teenagers can forget that their unfortunate and unpleasant experiences are actually only temporary. Saying to them, "This too shall pass," gives a sense of hope. It serves as a reminder that things will not always be as they are. It further challenges them to shift their perspective instead of fixating on the present circumstances. No matter how grim and gloomy their situation may seem, we can help them frame it correctly. Let's emphasize that their problems won't last forever, and a change will come.
6. God Made You Special
During adolescence, teenagers tend to amplify comparisons between themselves and other peers. In these critical moments, we want to remind our children how unique God has created them to be. Our teenagers may not be good at everything or get it all right - none of us are or do. They are still unique and a treasure from God. They have callings, passions, gifts, talents, and abilities that must be nurtured.
We want to magnify the things they are good at, the things they do well. Whatever we praise will most likely be repeated and flourish. It is also wise that we teach our teenagers how to value the uniqueness of others. Helping them appreciate what makes another person unique and encouraging them to celebrate other peers communicates there is no reason to be intimidated by someone else. We can reassure them that no other person can beat them at being them because God made them one-of-a-kind, and they are special.
7. I Love You
These three words never get old. We cannot say them enough, and our teenage children can never hear them too much. So simple, yet saying "I love you" brings security to our teens. It offers them comfort that touches their soul. Let us keep on telling them how much we love them and match our words with our behaviors. While reminding them of our love, we should not forget to remind them of God's love for them too. It is His love motivating us to speak all the right words they need to hear, at just the right time.
Patrice Burrell is an author, life coach, and worship leader who loves practicing the presence of God through a lifestyle anchored in spiritual disciplines. Championing women to live authentically and pursue God passionately, she is called to lead others to the grace of God, rooted in the truth of Scripture. As a Bible teacher and preacher, she exhorts women to remember their true identity is defined in Christ, not culture. When not serving at her local church with the small groups and singles' ministries, Patrice enjoys visiting local Orlando attractions, going to the beach, and finding unique ways to explore her writing creativity. You can connect with Patrice on her blog,Warrior Woman Blog, on social media in her Facebook community,Warrior Women, and @patriceburrellministries on Facebook and Instagram. You can also check out her debut book, Warrior Slay, a devotional book on the power of worship and prayer. https://linktr.ee/