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Family Checkup

Question 2: Encouragement

Do you encourage positive behavior habits in your teenager on a daily basis?

Encouragement is key to building confidence and a strong sense of self. Consistent encouragement helps youth feel good about themselves and gives them confidence to: try new activities, develop new friendships, explore their creativity, and tackle difficult tasks. It also helps parents promote cooperation and reduce conflict.

Underachievement in School and Daily Encouragement

  • Negative example: Dad reacts to failure
  • Positive example: Dad builds on success


Encouragement promotes a strong sense of self because it sends three main messages to your child:

Examples of Encouraging Words

  • "I know that wasn’t easy."
  • "You did such an awesome job."
  • "Keep on trying."
  • "You are very good at that."
  • "You are learning a lot."
  • "I like the way you did that."
  • "I can tell you’ve been practicing."
  • "It’s great to see you working so hard."
  • "I’m so proud of you."

You can do it! Youth believe they can do things if parents:

  • help them break a problem down into smaller parts
  • remind them of their strengths and past successes
  • encourage them by sharing how they have dealt with challenges

You have good ideas! Youth believe they have good ideas if parents:

  • ask them to share their opinions and feelings
  • listen to what they have to say
  • ask them for input concerning family plans and events
  • ask them for ideas to solve family problems

You are important! Youth know they are important if parents:

  • remember what they have told them
  • make time for them each day
  • attend school functions and extracurricular activities
  • let them know that they are thinking about them when they can’t be with them
  • display things they have made and recognitions they receive from school or the community

Practices That are Discouraging

  • Being sarcastic or negative about a child’s ability to be successful
  • Comparing a child to brothers and sisters
  • Taking over when a child’s progress is slow
  • Reminding a child of past failures

Practice Skills

Video: Praise for Positive Behavior


When giving praise for cooperation:

  • Make it simple: “Thank you.”
  • Do it right away.
  • Be specific about what you like.
  • Never miss an opportunity to encourage behavior or acts you would like to see repeated.

Video: Reviewing Behavior Change Plans


When reviewing behavior change plans:

  • Check each step of the plan.
  • Praise positive behaviors.
  • Give incentives immediately.
  • Remember to review the plan with your child every day.

This page was last updated August 2015

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SAMHSA’s Knowledge Network

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SAMHSA’s Knowledge Network is a comprehensive online resource of behavioral health training, technical assistance, and workforce development for the health care community.

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