How do I teach my teen to appreciate their privileges and opportunities?

By Drum Digital
11 August 2014

Teenagers are strange creatures, you often hear people say, and many teens’ moms will probably agree that during this phase of life kids present their parents with plenty of challenges. But how do you persist with instilling important values such as gratitude in your teenager?

Teenagers are strange creatures, you often hear people say, and many teens’ moms will probably agree that during this phase of life kids present their parents with plenty of challenges. Some days you can’t do or say anything that pleases a teen and it feels as if any effort from your side makes them grumpy. But how do you persist in teaching them the importance of a grateful attitude? Or how do you motivate a lazy teen to embrace the opportunities that come their way with enthusiasm.

Elise Fourie, a counselling psychologist of Pretoria, has advice for moms. “Thanks to medical advances we now know that the frontal lobes of the brain are only fully developed in the early to middle twenties,” she says, explaining that teens as a result sometimes display behaviour including insufficient control over their emotions, impulsiveness, poor motivation, poor sense of danger and low levels of empathy.

“Parents therefore have to understand that teenagers tend to be emotional, quite self-centered, ungrateful, unmotivated and lacking in ambition.”

This is why the education of your teenager is a continuation of the process started in their childhood and has to be ongoing, even when the child is already approaching their early 20s.

Here are tips  to help you in this regard

  • Talk to your teen often, in a nonpreachy way, about important issues such as showing appreciation, reciprocation, motivation and exploiting opportunities.
  • Challenge your teen with questions such as, ”Why should you be grateful?”
  • Ask for your teen’s views, listen to them and don’t criticise or run them down. Rather stimulate further thought by challenging your child to re-evaluate their opinions.
  • Encourage your teen to experiment with opportunities to develop certain skills.
  • Encourage your teen to become involved in charity, community projects and with caring for the elderly, kids in children’s homes and animals.
  • Remember: people are awoken by words but stretched by examples – yes, also your teen. So set an example of showing gratitude: always thank your teen for what they do.
  • Introduce your teen to potential role models, people you know or other well-known people in the community
  • Avoid reproaches introduced such as, "When we were young . . .”

-Suzaan Hauman

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