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Teaching Values to Teens: 8 Ways to Build Character in Your Teens


Staff member
Dec 14, 2023
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parent and teen discussing an important topic - teaching values
Do you wonder if your teen is maturing and developing well?

As a parent, you love your children unconditionally. But they don’t always display the values and character traits you wish they would.

If you’re frustrated by your teenagers’ bad attitude, irresponsible behavior, impatience, or lack of motivation

… it’s a common situation that parents find themselves in.

You can still help your teens to grow into caring, courageous, and confident adults who contribute to society.

One of the best ways to ensure this is to teach your teens the right values.

Values help teens make better decisions, focus on positive goals, and take responsibility for their actions. They act as an internal compass to guide your teens’ choices and behavior.

How do values do all of this? By boosting intrinsic motivation.

This type of motivation can transform your teens’ approach to school, work, friendships, and family life.

For example, teens who value self-discipline and knowledge will study because it’s meaningful to work hard and learn new things. They won’t study just to get an A or avoid punishment.

To give your teens the best chance at finding fulfillment and success, follow these tips to help them develop the right values.

(And if your teen lacks motivation, make sure to download the e-book below.)

Tip #1: Model the values you want your teen to have​

This tip might seem obvious. But your actions and words greatly influence your teenagers’ behavior, attitude, and beliefs.

How you respond to a stressful event or approach an argument influences how your teens will react when they face a similar situation.

For example, it’s important to stay calm when explaining to your teens why you felt frustrated that they didn’t finish their chores.

By talking calmly to your teens – instead of shouting – you’re demonstrating that respect is a value that matters to you.

Other examples of how to model certain values for your teens include:

  • Self-discipline: Having a morning routine, always being punctual, eating healthily, exercising regularly.
  • Generosity: Giving to those in need, helping neighbors, doing favors without expecting anything in return.
  • Excellence: Putting aside distractions and focusing on the task at hand, doing small things (like making your bed) well, going the extra mile to serve and help others
  • Integrity: Owning up to mistakes, not blaming others, not lying even if it affects you negatively, not cutting corners.

Tip #2: Be aware of teachable moments​

teachable moments
Teachable moments are opportunities to help your teens learn valuable lessons.

Most teachable moments occur when your teens have made a mistake.

Keep an eye out for these moments because you can use them to show your teens how to live out their values in practical ways.

A teachable moment is not the time to give a lecture. Your teens probably already know that they’ve messed up.

As a parent, you can help your teens to identify habits and behaviors that go against their values.

For example, if your teen is frustrated with himself for not doing well on an exam, you can listen to him as he shares his feelings. Refrain from criticizing or lecturing him.

Understand what values matter to him. Help him to see if there is a gap between his actual habits and his ideal habits, based on the kind of person he wants to become.

Discuss with him ways that he can ensure that his future behavior will be aligned with his values.

When you recognize these teachable moments, you can use them to help your teens become more resilient, confident, and persistent.

Tip #3: Regularly discuss values at home​

Talk about your values and the values you admire in others.

While you can’t force teens to share your values, you can help them to think about what values matter most to them.

How do they want to be treated, and how do they treat others? How do they decide what to do in tough situations?

Periodically share with them what’s most important to you and why. This will highlight the role of values in living a purposeful and fulfilling life.

Here are a few approaches you can try:

  • Ask your teens about their values. You could bring up the topic over dinner or when your teens seem relaxed. Ask them about what kind of person they want to become.
  • Ask your teens about how they view the role of values in family, society, etc. Take the time to understand their opinions and perspectives.
  • Discuss the values demonstrated in various shows, videos, games, etc. Don’t cast judgment on your teens’ hobbies or preferences. Instead, have an open conversation with them about the values demonstrated in various shows, videos, games, etc. and whether those values have an influence on them.

Tip #4: Volunteer together with your teen​

teaching values - recycling
Getting out into the community and volunteering with your teens is a way to put values into practice.

Your teens will learn about compassion, gratitude, and being of service to others.

In addition, volunteering can improve health, boost confidence, and provide your teens with an opportunity to learn new skills.

The right volunteering opportunity will also connect your teens with others who share similar values.

What’s more, doing volunteer work with your teens allows you to spend quality time together.

Of course, you can’t force your teens to volunteer if they really don’t want to. But hopefully, they’ll at least see the joy and meaning you find in volunteering.

Here are some volunteering opportunities you could explore with your teenagers:

  • Helping out at an animal shelter
  • Distributing food at a food bank
  • Volunteering at a library
  • Tutoring underprivileged children
  • Cleaning up parks and playgrounds

Tip #5: Support your teen during tough times​

Adolescence is full of challenges. Here are some statistics to illustrate the issues teens face:

  • 19% of students have experienced bullying at school
  • 14.9% of teens have experienced cyberbullying
  • 12.8% of youths aged 12 to 17 have experienced major depressive episodes

As a parent, it’s important not to write your teens’ issues off as “childish” or “just a phase.” To find healthy ways to handle and overcome these issues, your teens will need your support.

When you go through challenging times yourself, share with your teenagers what you’re learning and how you’re growing as a person.

Resilience helps teens recover from setbacks and failures in life. It also enables teens to counteract stress and develop confidence in their abilities.

Tip #6: Recognize when your teen demonstrates good values​

mother and daughter time
When your teens demonstrate good values, acknowledge their growth.

If your teens volunteer at an animal shelter over the weekend, drive them there if you can and ask them about the experience when they get home.

If your teens spend a few hours picking up litter at a park, drop by with drinks and snacks for them.

Your teens will realize that showing kindness and serving others are intrinsically meaningful.

And when you praise your teens for displaying good values, make sure to focus on praising the process rather than the outcome.

Tip #7: Look out for who is influencing your teen​

You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn

Do you know who your teens hang out with? Do their friends display good values and behavior?

Here are some ways to reduce the likelihood that your teens will give in to negative influences:

  • Have honest and open conversations with your teens. Share your thoughts and concerns with your teenagers, while making it clear that you know you can’t completely control who they hang out with.
  • Refraining from saying bad things about your teens’ friends. Even if you dislike your teens’ friends, don’t criticize them harshly because your teens probably won’t take it well.
  • Help your teens to see situations as they are. For example, if you’ve noticed that your daughter’s friend frequently insults her, talk to her about setting healthy boundaries.
  • Get to know your teens’ friends and their families. Invite your teens’ friends to spend time at your house, and have their families come over for a meal too.

Tip #8: Share your experiences (without lecturing!)​

mother and daughter time
Do you remember the challenges you faced as a teen? Throughout your life, what experiences helped you develop your core values?

Share such experiences with your teens.

Tell your teenagers about the values that are closest to your heart. Describe how you’ve been trying to live out those values in practical ways.

And show your teens how this journey of embodying those values has made your life richer and more fulfilling.


Values are the bedrock of your teenagers’ development.

The values they embrace will determine their choices and habits.

By instilling the right values in your teens, they’ll naturally become confident and responsible teens who lead purposeful lives!

(Don’t forget to download your e-book below, if you haven’t already done so.)
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