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Talking With Teens About Positive Values

One of the most important things teenagers do is to form the values they will live by. For parents, this process can be both rewarding and scary. On the one hand, we see young people expressing their honesty, compassion, and other positive values that we would hope to pass on to them. On the other hand, they often also do things that don’t reflect our values—or even that contradict our deeply held values. Other influences in their lives—peers, media, other adults—can influence them to adopt values and perspectives that we may not share. We may feel like it’s out of our hands.

But it’s not. Even though it’s critical that young people develop their own personal values, parents continue to shape and influence their children’s values throughout the teenage years and into adulthood. The goal and challenge for parents is to help teens “make their own” the kinds of values that help them make positive choices throughout their lives. Moving from external control (such as doing what your parent says you should do) to self-regulation (doing what you believe in doing) is a central task of growing up, particularly during the teenage years.

Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on October 17, 2016