During my time as a teen therapist, I have helped hundreds of teenagers build confidence and resilience. I have also seen that children who seemed confident throughout childhood may struggle to maintain self-assurance during their teen years. For many, adolescence is a difficult time filled with self-doubt, a questionable body image, fears, and insecurities. This article explores ideas on how you can help your teenager be more self-confident.
Parents with low self-esteem are prone to pass it onto their children regardless of positive feedback they give their children because they’re modeling low self-worth. Since their schemas are more developed, parents’ low self-esteem is also harder to correct because they’ve been listening to the wrong messages for so long. It is often noticeable in my practice that parents unknowingly affect the way children see themselves, causing low self-esteem, low self-worth, and low self-confidence.
The good news is, you can take steps to improve your own self-esteem and build your teen’s self-confidence, which will benefit your teen in several ways. Teens who have confidence are better prepared to handle peer pressure navigate challenging dating relationships, make good decisions, and recover from setbacks. Here are eight strategies that will instill life-long confidence in your teen.
Here are ways you as a parent can boost your self-esteem.
- Master a new skill. Take up a new hobby or enroll in a course.
- List your accomplishments. Think about all the things you’ve accomplished, then write them down. Remind yourself of your own journey and how you got to the present moment.
- Do something creative. This can be as simple as decorating a room, gardening, journaling, or drawing. Get those creative juices flowing.
- Get clear on your values. Reassess your values, you change, so do your values. Write them down ad set boundaries accordingly.
- Challenge your limiting beliefs. Are you too rigid in your way of thinking? Learn to listen to different perspectives, remove those blinkers and see the whole picture.
- Stand at the edge of your comfort zone, challenge yourself. Good things happen when you broaden your comfort zone.
- Help someone. An act of kindness toward a stranger is going to make you feel like you have a purpose. Try and make someone’s day without wanting credit for it.
- Heal your past. Find a therapist that can help you heal from past wounds; it is never too late to face the past and learn to see things differently.
Here are eight important factors that can help build confidence in teenagers.
1. Praise Effort Instead of Outcome
Rather than praise your teen for getting a good grade on an exam, praise them for all the studying they did. Instead of saying, “Great job scoring those five points in the game,” say, “All that practicing you’ve been doing has been paying off.” Show them that it’s important to try hard and it’s OK if they don’t succeed all the time.
Your teen can control their effort, but they can’t always control the outcome. It’s important to acknowledge their energy and effort so they don’t think they are only worthy of praise when they succeed.
2. Promote Self-Improvement
Teens who struggle to master a skill may conclude they’re complete failures. For instance, a teen who has difficulty with math may decide they’re not smart. Or a teen who fails to make the sports team may decide they’ll never be good at sports.
There is a healthy balance between self-acceptance and self-improvement. Show your teen that it’s possible to accept flaws while also striving to become better. Rather than label themselves as “stupid,” help your teen see that while they’re struggling academically, they can still strive to become better.
To promote self-improvement in your teen, help them identify their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Then engage them in goal setting and problem solving so they can work toward improving in areas where they struggle. Make sure the goals they set are attainable and within their control and then map out a plan on how they are going to achieve those goals.
3. Teach Communication Skills
Teens need to know how to speak up for themselves in an assertive manner. An assertive teen will be able to ask for help when they don’t understand schoolwork, rather than allow themselves to fall behind.
A teen who can speak up also is less likely to be treated poorly by peers. They’ll speak up for themselves when they don’t like how they’re being treated, and they’ll be able to ask for what they need in a direct way without rudeness.
To teach your teen to be assertive, begin by talking about the difference between being assertive and being aggressive. Let them know that being assertive means standing up for themselves using a strong and confident voice without being rude or yelling at other people.
Other ways to educate assertiveness skills include allowing them to make choices and reinforcing that they have rights—especially the right to say no to anything that makes them uncomfortable. Give them ample opportunities to practice their assertiveness skills at home by offering them choices and allowing them the freedom to say no to things they don’t want to do.
4. Encourage New Opportunities
Trying new activities, discovering hidden talents, and challenging themselves can help grow teens’ confidence. But many teens are afraid of failure and don’t want to embarrass themselves.
Encourage your teen to join a new club, play a musical instrument, engage in volunteer work, or find a part-time job. Mastering new skills will help them feel better about themselves. Plus, belonging to a group not only provides them with friendship opportunities but also can help them feel more secure and confident.
5. Model Confidence
Your teen will learn the most about confidence based on what you do—not what you say. If you’re guilty of making critical statements about your body or your abilities, you’ll teach your child to do the same.
Role model how to face new situations with courage and confidence and demonstrate the importance of loving yourself.
Talk to your teen about times when you’ve been brave or things you’ve done in your life to help build your confidence.
6. Build Self-Worth
If your teen only feels good when they get a certain amount of likes on social media or when they fit into certain size pants, they’ll struggle to maintain confidence when situations don’t suit their needs. Basing self-worth on superficial things, external circumstances, or other people leads to a lack of confidence in the long run.
Help your teen build a healthy and stable foundation for self-worth. Emphasise your values and teach that true self-worth is about living according to those values. Help them see that it’s more important and caring rather than thin or attractive.
7. Balance Freedom with Guidance
Micromanaging your teen’s choices will only reinforce that they can’t be trusted to make good decisions independently. It’s important to balance just the right amount of freedom with plenty of guidance.
Provide your teen with plenty of opportunities to practice the skills you’ve taught. Let them experience natural consequences and they’ll learn from their own mistakes. Over time, they’ll develop increased confidence in their ability to make healthy.
8. Help Develop Positive Self-Talk
Your teen’s inner monologue will play a major role in how they feel about themselves. If they are always thinking things like, “I’m so ugly,” or “No one likes me,” they’re bound to feel bad about themselves. Teach your teen to develop healthy self-talk.
Point out how many thoughts aren’t true and help them see how being overly harsh can be detrimental. Teach them to reframe irrational thoughts like, “I’m going to fail because I’m stupid,” with something more realistic like, “I can pass math class if I work hard.”
“When a teen has confidence, they can take calculated risks, think outside the box, and go for the things they want in life. Having confidence may even contribute to their resilience—especially if they are equipped with the notion that they will recover from even the most difficult challenges.”
To boost your teen’s self-esteem, make confidence-building a regular part of your parenting. Consistently challenge them, encourage them to try new things, and most importantly to believe in themselves even when they fail. Help them set goals and then be their biggest cheerleader focusing more on their hard work rather than the actual results. With effort and consistency, you will build confidence in your teen that will help them bounce back from even the most difficult setbacks.
If you notice that despite your efforts your teen still struggles with anxiety or is exhibiting signs of depression, talk to your GP or get in touch with me about your concerns. With proper treatment and care, we can tackle this challenge together and your teen can learn how to be more confident in the process.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit”
― E.E. Cummings