What do you think teenagers and young adults crave the most? Shockingly, the answer is not money, fancy cars, new clothes, the latest gadgets, sex, or even freedom from parental constraints. Instead, new research shows that the thing teenagers value the most is praise! This is especially important to note for parents of teenagers who are prone to experiencing dangerously low self-esteem, such as those going through the anxiety of high school and college. With some work, parents can feed their teens’ cravings for praise to build a healthy sense of self-esteem and thereby improve their mental health and happiness.
Self-esteem is extremely important, and it should not be overlooked when it comes to teenagers and young adults. Low levels of self-esteem can increase the likelihood that teens will participate in self-destructive activities, such as smoking and using drugs. In fact, researchers found that teenage middle school girls with lower self-esteem tended to be more sexually promiscuous than those with higher levels of self-esteem, according to the MassGeneral Hospital for Children website. Low levels of self-esteem can also lead to depression and increased levels of social anxiety. Parents can prevent their teens from experiencing the ill effects of low self-esteem by accepting and respecting their children, providing them with a clear sense of what is right and wrong, and offering the occasional instant boost of self-esteem through praise.
Praise is coveted by teens and young adults simply because it makes them feel good, an article published in USA Today reported. According to a study conducted by Ohio State and Brookhaven National Laboratory, teenage students tended to favor experiences that boosted their self-esteem, such as receiving a compliment or good grade over things like earning money and partying. The students also displayed a stronger desire and enjoyment of boosts to their self-esteem than anything else. This is not surprising, since people are social; because of social networking, today’s teens are arguably more social and in touch with themselves and one another than ever before.
In addition, for children who have been raised with the expectation to work hard and achieve, receiving confirmation and recognition for hard work and achievements is essential to building their self-esteem. The feeling of personal worth is deeply tied to self-esteem and praise for teenagers, which makes it all the more essential that parents regularly recognize the accomplishments of their children.
Yet, parents should also ensure that they do not overindulge their teenagers’ cravings for praise. Those who are showered with self-esteem boosters that they did not work to achieve may become narcissistic. This could interfere with their ability to handle criticism or failure, as they are too used to being complimented and doted over. To avoid this, parents should reserve praise and recognition for when teens truly have worked hard to achieve something, even if that achievement may seem small. For example, earning a good grade on an essay is just as praiseworthy as earning a good overall grade in a class.
All in all, teenagers need and want praise in order to help them shape their self-esteem, and parents are in a great position to give it to them. When the occasion calls for it, parents should celebrate their teenagers’ accomplishments so that they can grow up feeling self-assured, fulfilled, and happy.
MassGeneral Hospital for Children:
Note: Opinions expressed in this guest post may not represent the views of Family Anatomy or its authors. Posts on Family Anatomy are for education only, and are not intended to replace professional or medical advice. If you need to talk to someone about family or mental health issues, you can get a referral from your family doctor.