Parenting Teenagers

How to get my teenager to show appreciation

empowering your teenager Jan 21, 2023

I recently heard a frustrated mother sharing a story about the lack of gratitude and appreciation one of her teenagers displayed during the holiday season. She explained that her son wanted a new I-Phone for Christmas but she felt that she couldn’t get one for him without getting phones for her other two teenagers as well. Financially, this just wasn’t possible and when she shared this with her son he screamed “I hate you”, stomped off to his room and slammed the door.  As she shared this story I sensed a combination of frustration, disappointment and despair.   Her question … How do I get my son to appreciate what I do? 


When something like this happens it is easy to question whether you really have what it takes to be an effective parent. Does anything you do or say really make a difference?  I want to assure you that what you do does matter and you do have what it takes.  You are a caring, committed parent that loves their children. One of the ways that I know that is because you are reading this article. Would you be doing this if you didn’t care … I don’t think so. The issue is that sometimes you just don’t know what to do.


Here are three suggestions for you.


Start with a shift in mindset. When you are overwhelmed with frustration, anger, disappointment or despair you are not in a position to influence your teenager.   For an ungrateful teenager, like the one in the story above, I like to encourage the parents I work with to view the circumstance as part of their journey as a parent and part of their teenager’s journey towards adulthood.  One of the beliefs that leads to a love based mindset is that life happens FOR you not TO you. From this perspective the conflict over the I-phone is seen as a gift. An opportunity to not only teach the value of gratitude and appreciation but an opportunity to deepen the relationship between this mother and her son. 


The next time something like this happens to you, regain your composure by focusing on forgiveness and compassion. Then ask yourself…


How is this situation a gift? 


Next, I would remind you that when your teenager is overwhelmed with frustration, anger, or disappointment they are in no position to be influenced or empowered.  Sound familiar?  So after you have regained your composure and made the shift to a loving perspective, your next task is to provide a safe place for your teenager to regain their composure. The best approach is to acknowledge and validate their feelings. In a situation like the one above it would be easy for the mother to tell her son that he shouldn’t get angry when he doesn’t get what he wants. The problem with saying this is that the underlying message is that he is wrong for feeling the way he does and that his feelings don’t matter. Have you ever had your feelings dismissed? It feels like you are being dismissed… doesn’t it?  On the other hand, when you acknowledge and validate your teenager’s feelings they will feel heard. It communicates that they are important.  What if the mother from our story said with compassion “Not being able to get a new phone for Christmas is really frustrating… isn’t it?”


I have seen a complete turn around in a teenager’s appreciation for their parents when these first two steps are done with intention.   Think of it this way.  Your teenager is much more likely to appreciate you and all that you do when they FEEL seen for who they are and loved unconditionally.   Keep in mind that it is not what you think they should feel… it is what they actually feel. 


Here is a twist for my third suggestion. The mother in our story can give the gift of resourcefulness. I would recommend that she turn the problem back over to her son and use empowerment coaching skills to support him as he develops a plan to get the phone he wants.  Remember life happens FOR you not TO you. This circumstance presents the opportunity for her son to learn valuable life lessons. This approach will lead to an appreciation of the mother as a person rather than the appreciation of the “thing” the mother wrapped and put under the Christmas tree. 


 From this perspective which is the more valuable gift… an I-phone or resourcefulness? 


 A change in perspective… changes everything,

Your Family Enrichment Coach,

Jim White








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