8 Ways to Praise Adolescents
without Referencing Weight or Appearance
At times, parents are uncertain as to how to affirm their children without focusing on appearance or weight. Some parents may even do this without realizing they do it or how often they do it. “You look so great” and “you look so cute” seem like positive, encouraging things to say, but praising children and adolescents for their appearance versus their internal attributes sends unhealthy messages that looks/appearance/weight are what people notice, what matters most, and what people should be focusing on. If this is the case, it’s not hard to see how children and adolescents may develop negative body image, obsessive thinking about weight or appearance, and/or disordered eating patterns. When parents give praise for qualities that are unrelated to appearance, they are helping their children build a healthy identity and values system. Below are some ideas for affirming children without focusing on image or outward appearances.
Notice acts of good character
I saw you give your friend a hug when she was upset after the game; I bet that really helped her.
Affirm them for living within their values
I know honesty is important to you and I really appreciate your being honest about what happened at your friend’s house.
Appreciate their effort and/or perseverance
You worked so hard on that school project; I knew you could finish it if you really focused!
Compliment their unique strengths
I love the way you make your sister laugh with your impersonations!
Praise them for the “little things”
Thank you for doing your homework without being asked.
Affirm their process, not the outcome
I noticed how hard you’ve been studying for the ACT and I’m pleased about that!
Encourage healthy choices/good decision making
I am really proud of your decision to call me to pick you up when people started drinking at the party.
I love the colors you chose for your furniture and room – you have a great sense of style!
Once you get in the habit of praising your children in these ways, you can encourage them to affirm themselves in similar ways! Praise yourself for these things, too; and let your children hear you do it. Avoid making appearance-based comments about yourself (positive or negative)!