“I’m so proud of you”

You are probably thinking, “what, that is a positive and encouraging statement.” It is said with the best of intention. I often find myself wanting to say it because it feels encouraging. But it isn’t and here’s why:

  1. Who’s taking credit?

The word pride implies in oneself. When you say “I’m so proud of you” your teen may feel as though you are making their achievement about your feelings. Of course this may not be true for all teens. Some of your teens may feel praised by this. Which takes me to my next point…

  1. Proud is a form of external praise

Again, you must be thinking…”why is that a bad thing?” External praise can set a standard. When say you are proud of your teen for an achievement you have set the standard to reach for your praise. In order to keep seeking your praise and approval teens will begin to feel they need to be perfect, that they cannot fail.

  1. The opposite of Pride is Disappointment

What are we really trying to do when we say with the best of intentions and innocently to our teens “I’m so proud of you”? Praise our children? No. We are probably trying to encourage them or instill a sense of success in their own achievements.

However, what do our teens hear? An external judgement, a verdict of our success or failure rate. If we can succeed and create pride in our parents, we can also fail and create disappointment. Again, this is a tremendous amount of pressure to be perfect. An impossible goal. I don’t know about you, but I have never met anyone perfect.

I try to avoid “well done” or “good job” as well for the same reasons. Here are some alternatives to saying “I’m so proud of you:”

  • “Wow! That’s so impressive”
  • I’m so happy for you
  • You must be so happy
  • You must be so pleased
  • I’m so pleased for you
  • “You look really pleased with your effort”
  • “Congratulations”

If your teen is struggling with self-esteem or other overwhelming emotions, click here to learn how we can help.


“You can’t think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking”-Bill Wilson

Anxiety can be debilitating. Fear and anxiety can cause significant life problems and leave us left out of some of life’s most rewarding experiences.

Anxiety often looks like:

  • That inner critic consistently telling you you’re not enough
  • That thought that races through your mind over and over
  • That ache in your stomach that doesn’t go away
  • That shakiness of your hands and legs
  • That avoidance of situations you are uncomfortable in (even when you want to go)
  • That voice that tells you something bad will happen
  • That urge to run away, hide, or stay in bed
  • That constant fear of what will happen next and attempt to control the future

Anxiety can be overwhelming to say the least. The difficult part of dealing with it is the natural response to anxiety is to avoid. If you wait until you feel like dealing it is pretty much a non-starter.

So what do you do then? In we DBT we teach a skill called Opposite Action to help teens handle challenging feelings without making them worse.

How to Use Opposite Action With Anxiety:

Step One

Think about what you are worried about

You can start small. Don’t have to overwhelm yourself. Stop avoiding your fears all together. Think about what you are worried about. Think about approaching the situation and how you would do that.

 Step Two

Stop Avoiding

Avoidance of your fears only makes them bigger. Feelings aren’t facts. Our feelings exist for reason, they communicate to others, motivate action, let us know what is happening in our environment. However, sometimes our feelings get it wrong and miscommunicate to us. This is anxiety. It tells us there is something to be afraid of when there isn’t.

So stop avoiding and begin to face your anxiety. This will be hard and uncomfortable. Do it anyway and do it often. Practice. Practice. Practice.

Step Three

Now that you have begun to face your fears. Do something every day that faces your fears. Here are some examples of opposite action for anxiety:

  • If you have social anxiety and withdrawal, then actively reach out to friends
  • If you have a fear of failure then try mindfully doing something without judgement (drawing, journaling, etc)
  • If you are anxious about going to school then keep going everyday

Opposite Action is a VERY hard and can feel overwhelming and stuck without the support of a professional and others who are going through it. When done right it DOES WORK.

If you or your teen need help learning to manage your anxiety so you can feel calm and at peace, I would be happy to help. You can reach me here to schedule your consultation to discuss best next steps!


Working with teens I hear a lot of comparing and high expectations they put on themselves. One common things I hear from them is “other people don’t seem to be bothered by this” or “I should be able to handle this.” So why is it that some people seem to be able to handle stress and disappointment without missing a beat and others seem to be overwhelmed?

The answer is resiliency. When teens are resilient, they cope better during and after difficult situations. They ‘bounce back’ when things go wrong. Your teen needs resilience to navigate life’s challenge. All teens can build resilience.

Here are so are some things you can do to help your teen become more resilient:

  1. Spend quality time with your teen

We live in a world that is constantly busy with work and other distractions. Make planned time each week to spend with your time without distractions to listen to them.

  1. Foster your teen to be independent and learn to stand alone.

Let your teen become responsible for waking up, making lunch, etc. Let them suffer their own consequences if they don’t. Let them be responsible for their own homework. Help them without taking over. When they are in the real world you won’t play an active role it is important they start practicing now

  1. Allow your teen to make mistakes, or even FAIL, without trying to fix the situation or take away their pain.

Sounds crazy, I know. The hardest thing for a parent to do is see their child in pain. However, learning to fail and feel distress is an important skill. Failure is an inevitable part of life. We are all imperfect. If your teen forgets an assignment, don’t bring it to them. It will be better for them to learn the responsibility AND to learn that they are okay, they survived, their worth didn’t change. Experiencing mistakes and failure can actually increase self-esteem!

  1. Praise the effort your teen puts into school/sports/etc not the result.

Let your teen know how happy you are that they are studying so hard and practicing rather than the grade they got. This puts the focus on them and what they are doing. When we praise the grade we send the message that the grade is more important. For example, you can say “You have been so responsible studying for your test. I am happy to see all your hard work.”

  1. Nourish your teens interests outside of school.

More and more I hear of teens wanting to quit outside activities so they have more time to study. Academic pressures can become overwhelming. While goals to do well in school can be healthy they should not overshadow the rest of your life. Interests in sports, dance, music, art, scouts, etc help to foster independence, socialization, and more.

  1. Encourage your teen to communicate their needs directly.

Self-advocacy is a skill that can be gained through practice. Help your teen learn how to talk to teachers, administrators or even you. When they need help encourage them to talk to the person directly first. If you must meet with a teacher, include your teen in the conversation. You won’t be able to do this for them later in life.

  1. Know how to argue

Families that work well know how to argue. Family is where we learn how to resolve conflict. Reality is conflict happens. If we grow up in a home that is chaotic teens don’t learn to manage feelings. Children learn to resolve differences of opinions and disappointment is from watching their parents. Teach your teens that it is okay to disagree and how to disagree.

Your teen will inevitably be face challenges and have to learn to cope with them by themselves. Let your teen have a go at sorting out their problems and fighting their own battles before you step in. Fumbles and failures are part of the process.

If your teen is having difficulty coping with challenges or feeling independent there is hope. I’d love to connect and discuss the next best steps in helping your teen find happiness. Click here to schedule your parent screening.