We all want to work with our teens to get better teenage behavior out of them. Last weekend I was reminded of something while watching my son’s soccer game. The coach is a good coach and loves soccer. However, during games he tends to get excited and starts shouting directions at the kids. “Move back! Get over there! Johnny, you’re too far forward! What are you doing?!” Some of the players got so frustrated, feeling like they weren’t doing things right by the coach, they started yelling at each other and making more mistakes.
What was happening is that the coach was only focusing on correcting things that were wrong, and not letting the kids know what things they were doing right. That creates low morale, frustration, and a lot less motivation. I see this happen a lot. Our intentions are good. We think there’s no reason to talk about things that are going right because, well, they’re going right. We just have to fix these other things.
A Better Way to Good Teenage Behavior
However, people need to know they are making progress if we want them to get better. So for kids and teenagers, if you want them to get better and work harder, you have to notice when they are doing things right and tell them. A good way to do this is to notice specific things that your child is doing well. I remember when I played baseball in little league, when the coach would tell me I could really throw the ball far or that I made good decisions as a center fielder for which base to throw to, I would be proud of the acknowledgement. I would try harder to get even better at the things I was told I did well. It also made me feel I had some skill at the game and made me want to be better all around.
If you want to see better teenage behavior for school, home, or elsewhere, start by finding something your teenager does well or reasonably well, and tell them what you see. Sometimes what you notice about your teenager’s behavior at first will be the effort they are putting in rather than the end product. This is good to comment on too. Teenagers have a tendency to pretend they are moved by compliments but they sink in. Keep telling them the good things you notice. But a word of caution, make sure the compliments are genuine. Genuine compliments do the best when influencing teenage behavior.
Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist in Grand Rapids Michigan. He provides counseling for couples, counseling for teenagers, and adults. He provides counseling for anxiety, depression, stress, college and work stress, and relationship problems. For more information, please visit the website at www.turnaboutcounseling.com.