Positive Affirmations Are Helpful to Teens

Value affirmations, also known as self-affirmations, are positive assessments of one’s abilities, traits, and personality qualities. Value affirmations can increase self-esteem, self-worth, and fulfillment of one’s needs. When an individual recognizes their own worth and has a strong sense of identity and autonomy, they are more willing to help others meet their needs. This relationship between self-worth and prosocial behaviors has been examined in the past, but until now, few studies have looked at the effect of value affirmations on prosocial attitudes in adolescents. Sander Thomaes of the Department of Psychology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands recently conducted a study that sought to determine if subtle value affirmations could have a short-term and long-term positive effect on adolescents’ prosocial behaviors and attitudes during the crucial years of identity formation.

The participants were required to write down things that they felt were positive attributes about themselves. They were instructed to identify traits or skills they had and briefly write about them. Six weeks later, the teens were again required to acknowledge their positive traits during a booster exercise. Three months after the first writing exercise, the researchers noticed that the participants who practiced the subtle value affirmations were more inclined to exhibit prosocial behaviors than the participants in the control group. The effect was most noticeable among teens who had exhibited antisocial behaviors prior to the exercise. Thomaes believes that the results occurred for several reasons. First, teens with a strong sense of identity are not subject to the stress and pressure of trying to assimilate to others. Also, the students participated in the exercise as they transitioned into secondary school. This critical time in relationship formation was positively, rather than negatively, influenced by the feelings of love and fulfillment gained from the writing exercise. Thomaes added, “In summary, the practical value of the present research is that it identified value affirmations as a promising intervention technique, and illustrated the possibility of helping students to adopt a more prosocial orientation by allowing them to reflect on their personal values—by providing them a stronger sense of who they are.”

Thomaes, S., Bushman, B. J., De Castro, B. O., Reijntjes, A. Arousing “Gentle Passions” in Young Adolescents: Sustained Experimental Effects of Value Affirmations on Prosocial Feelings and Behaviors. Developmental Psychology 48.1 (2012): 103-10. Print.

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  • Landon

    January 20th, 2012 at 5:22 AM

    There is a fine line you have to draw when you are always telling kids positive things. Yes, I think that it is good to let them know that you love them regardless of what mistakes that they make and that to you there is nothing bad that you see in them, But on the other hand you have to do it in a way that it does not go to their head, that they get all full of themselves because you have been teeling them all their lives how perfect they are.

  • dan

    January 20th, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    look,a person who has high self-esteem and is enjoying being who he is is not really vulnerable to treating others in a bad or negative way.if someone is confident of himself then he will not need an excuse to get rid of his frustration with himself,does he?

  • chase h

    January 20th, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    My mom and dad were always so down on me, so negative, it felt like I could never do anything that was going to be right in their eyes, or that anything was going to ever be good enough to satisfy them.
    I swore that I would never do that to my own kids, because I did not want them to have those same feelings of inadequacy that I had as a child so I have done everything raising my kids than the way they raised me. And you know what? I have some pretty good kids. They have high self esteem but they also know their limitations and that is what I think good parenting is all about. Show them their strengths, help them excel, and also be there to help them accept that they can’t be perfect at everything, nor do they have to be just to win your love. Tell them and show them every day that you as a parent are going to love them no matter what, because that’s your job.

  • allen

    January 20th, 2012 at 11:37 PM

    theres jus this sense of accomplishment you have when you are satisfied with urself.its an amazing feeling and really an help a person behave a lot better.

  • jameson parks

    January 21st, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    Isn’t it nice when anyone says anything nice to you or about you, regardless of your age?

  • Isabel

    January 22nd, 2012 at 12:00 AM

    Although positive affirmation is a great thing at any stage in life, it assumes even greater importance for teens because a lot of life-shaping decisions are made at that stage and their choices can really decide how things turn out for them in the future.

  • Mariah

    January 22nd, 2012 at 7:11 AM

    Everyone wants someone to think something good about them- teenagers are no different. They are evry impressionable and they wan to know that someone is thinking something good about them, that maybe they are not the loser that someone else told them that they were. Nobody ever has anything really good to say about teens these days, mianly because there are so many of them doing crazy stuff that that is what we focus on. Not the ones who actually are making a difference and who are doing thigs that should be rewarded. So go ahead and say something positive- it’s not going to kill you to be nice.

  • Joel mills

    January 23rd, 2012 at 5:24 AM

    I work with teens, and basically what most of the are searching for is a painless way to learn about who they are and the path that they need to take to get them to where they want to be. Some are problems but most are not. We have to take this role model thing more seriously, because like it or not these are kids that are looking up to us for guidance and direction.

  • Wiley

    January 23rd, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    Your parents, friends and well-wishers may only tell you so much. What is required for real progress is you resolving to make things happen. No amount of external involvement will help unless you affirm yourself!

  • xanadu

    January 23rd, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    sure wish (hope?) that there were a lot of classroom educators reading this one and taking it to heart

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