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How To Teach Appreciation: Don’t Give Your Teen Everything

Appreciation Is Learned

“I give you everything! Why can’t you do better?”

Parents often make the mistake of assuming that if you give your teenager everything they want then they will reward you with heartfelt appreciation, good behavior, excellent grades, and respect. Completely unrealistic. This kind of reaction requires a maturity that most teenagers do not possess. It’s not that they are spoiled brats; it’s that they really are incapable of this reaction.

You will need to teach appreciation. In order for teenagers to experience a sense of appreciation, they need to earn things. They cannot get everything they want, every time they ask. In a “Your wish is my command” world, they naturally take these things for granted because every wish is fulfilled. Their reaction makes a lot of sense. When they just get everything they want, they live with that expectation without any understanding of value or appreciation.

If you lean toward unconditionally providing everything, I would examine your own motives as a parent. Many times I have noticed that parents who can’t change their behavior were themselves deprived as children and cannot bear the idea of their children suffering like they did.

How To Teach Teen Appreciation

Some parents recognize their kids’ lack of appreciation and so they try to artificially teach appreciation by creating experiences of deprivation. I think this too is a mistake. Teens perceive this tactic in the following way: “My parents are depriving me of things that are easy for them to give me because they are angry at me. They are punishing me.” In my experience, this only breeds resentment towards the parents. Wouldn’t you be angry if you believed this?

Teenagers can learn appreciation when it is built into their normal experience. You broke something? You’ll do without it until you figure something else out. You can save for another one. This is the challenge of parenting teenagers: how to make these kinds of experiences part of their normal life. Remember, your job is not to give them a paradise-like childhood, it is to prepare them for the real world, which is anything but a fairy tale.

Miguel Brown has been working with teenagers for more than 10 years. You can find Miguel at Miami Teen Counseling or on Facebook and Twitter.

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