In a society where Photoshop and perfection is glamorized, it can be difficult to raise a teen that feels confident in themselves. Most teenagers feel confused, insecure, and self-conscious about everything that they do or say. They constantly scrutinize themselves about being good enough, and are subjected to pressure from others' judgement at school, work, on the field, and the like. As a parent though, you have a great influence on their ability to practice self-love.
What you teach your teenager now about self-confidence is something they can carry with them for a lifetime. These are skills that they will need to become successful in areas like their careers or relationships. Here are several ways that you can help build up your child’s self-esteem and teach them good habits for tomorrow.
Be a good role model for body acceptance.
Parents can make a big impact on their child’s body image. A mother’s view of her own body will trickle down to her daughter, for example, when she asks questions like “Do these jeans make me look fat?” Before you make comments about your own weight or food intake, ask yourself if you would want your teen asking themselves the same questions. Furthermore, food should be talked about in a positive manner. You shouldn’t call any foods “good” or “bad”, but instead speak to its nourishment power.
Focus less on their college application.
This is a worry that most parents have that can really end up hurting their child’s sense of self in the long run. There are so many different paths that your child can take after high school, and while you want them to be the most successful that they can be that shouldn’t come at the cost of their own happiness. What makes your child feel motivated and alive? Where do they naturally find deep interests? Help them develop and peruse those passions, regardless of whether or not it will help them be the next star doctor at Harvard. Don’t push your child to be someone they are not or they will come to resent you for it.
Encourage growing their strengths.
You should teach your teenager that they should focus more on strengths, and not worry so much about their weaknesses. Never compare your teenager to their peers, friends, siblings and cousins but instead praise them for the skills they do have. Teach your child that it's great that everyone has different strengths, and that comparison will only create rivalry. Your teenager should feel that they are only at competition with themselves to be the best version of themselves they can be. If your child knows that you are behind them and support them, they are more apt to be much successful and will feel confident.
Find balance between freedom and guidance.
Micromanaging your teen’s choices will only reinforce to them that she 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 them. Let them experience natural consequences so that they can learn from their own mistakes. Over time, they'll develop increased confidence in their ability to make healthy choices.
Teens want to be treated like grown-ups, so give them some opportunities to join you in the adult world when at all possible, and take the time to hear them out when they do have suggestions or concerns that involve the family or your home. Encourage them to share their opinions with you and to help make decisions as a family.
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 are bound to feel terrible and generate low self-esteem. Teach your child how to develop healthy self-talk, which negates those negative, intrusive thoughts. Make a point to talk about how those anxiety-ridden thoughts are not true, and help them see how being overly hard on oneself can be detrimental. Reframing those thoughts into something positive is much easier than your teen might realize. For example, instead of irrational thoughts such as "I am going to fail this class because I am not smart" encourage them to say "While this class is hard, I know that if I put in hard work I can do my best to get a good grade."
Praise your teen’s efforts instead of the outcome.
We all can be too hard on ourselves at times. Despite the hard work we put in, sometimes we are simply bound to fail. This can hurt our self-confidence, but it's important to teach your teen that it is perfectly normal. For example, rather than praise your teen for getting a good grade on an exam, praise her for all the studying did. Instead of saying, "Great job getting 5 points in the game," say, "All that practicing you've been doing has been paying off." Teach them that it's about the effort and the journey, rather than the outcome. This way when they do inevitably fail at a task, they know they can get back up and try again. It's normal not to succeed all the time.
Raising a confident teen in today’s society might seem impossible, but with a little effort you can help your child develop the healthy skills needed to practice self-love. Parents that have positive self-esteem are great role models for anxiety-filled teens, so make sure to start with your own self-worth first. Your teen will pick up on how you treat yourself and learn the correct way they need to treat themselves as well.