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Why Should Your Son Hear You Say You Are Proud of Him?

Teenage boys need to hear their parents' positive feedback.

The other night as we were watching TV and peppering him with ridiculous questions just to mess with him, one of our teenage sons disclosed a conflict he was having with someone else. He did not have to tell us, as he seems to be handling it well and does not appear overly bothered by it. But I pulled him aside the next morning and said, “I’m really proud of how you are handling this and that you chose to tell your dad and me about what was going on.” I doubted that my words had much of an impact on him at that moment, but I knew that it was important to tell him I was proud of him.

Julia M Cameron/Pexels
Source: Julia M Cameron/Pexels

As parents, it seems that much of the guidance we give our teenagers is directive and all or nothing. You should do this, not that. But when it comes to parenting teenage boys, it is crucial to consider the rationale behind the words you use with your son and try, when we can, to focus on the positive. While most of the time parenting teenage boys can feel like damage control, here’s why it is important to choose appropriate times to tell your teenage son that you are proud of him:

1. He is still not yet an adult, but he’s getting closer.

Although the focus on our parenting changes as our kids get older, we continue to guide our sons into adulthood (and beyond). During the teenage years, our sons may physically look like adults, but we need to remember that they are not yet adults. Sometimes we see this through their immature actions, but it is necessary for them to receive feedback. How we speak to them is important, so we should choose words carefully. Telling our teenage sons when we are proud of them will allow them to internalize the experience as they are developing an adult identity. We have the chance to make a lasting impact on their identity.

2. He needs you to focus on the positive.

When I work with parents in therapy who are having trouble with their child’s behavior, one of the first tasks I have them work on is acknowledging their child’s good behavior. If we want to enlist change from our kids, we need to focus on what they can do. Teenage boys are no exception. He needs to hear the things he is doing right. Telling your son you are proud of him shows him what you think he is doing well, making it more likely that the behavior will continue.

3. Meaningful repetition is key to getting your message across.

Parents talking to teenage boys can often feel like it's a one-way conversation. Is he listening? It can be difficult to get feedback from your teenage son, but sometimes we just have to hope he hears us. If we want to be sure he gets the message that we are proud of him, then we need to find meaningful opportunities to say so over time.

4. Parent feedback is always important.

For many of us, as our sons enter adolescence, we may take a step back in our parenting feedback. Trying to wait and pick my battles is a common occurrence in my own parenting style, as well as what I advise other parents. When it comes to what makes you proud of your teenage son, though, parent feedback is always important to maintain a connection with him and to share your own opinions with him as well. You will continue to give your son feedback throughout his life, so there is no need to stop during adolescence.

5. He needs to learn to take pride in himself.

As a parent, we attempt to raise our kids with values. Telling your son you are proud of him shows him what behaviors are important to your family, but it also helps him develop his own sense of pride and accomplishment. The hope is that he will carry this into adulthood and demonstrate pride in himself when he acts in a similar way in the future. When you tell him you are proud, it gives your son an opportunity to internalize these words and develop pride in himself.

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