How can you increase confidence in your tween or teen?
This is a question that’s on the brain of many parents.
Even kids who were outgoing and happy as young children can suddenly become quiet, shy, and self-deprecating when they hit those challenging teen years.
Carl E Pickhardt Ph.D., explains that the “two most common self-confidence drops I see during adolescence are at the beginning, in Early Adolescence (9-13) when separating from childhood, and at the end, in Trial Independence (18-23) when leaving home to operate more on one’s own terms. In both cases, the young person must get used to functioning on a significantly expanded playing field of life experience than she or he encountered before.”
It’s no secret that confidence is a key factor that impacts a kid’s future success in life.
- impacts the way you act in public
- reflects the way you conduct yourself
- impacts your personality, and
- directly affects your overall happiness
So the question is, what can parents do to increase their kids’ confidence when they hit those challenging years between the ages of 9-13 (and beyond)?
The authoritative style of parenting is loving, warm and connected and yet still has rules and regulations and consequences.
And just like younger kids, tweens and teens need rules and boundaries, as these communicate the value you have for your child (regardless of age).
As Dr. Jess Shatkin explains, “Lay out your expectations… [Use] positive reinforcement, [give] effective command, selective ignoring, using reward programs, scheduling of kids’ lives so we know what’s going on, they know what’s going on. Know where they’re at most the time. And finally, you know, we have to set down limits, consequences and punishments.”
Being a permissive parent and letting your kids do whatever they want may sound like a great idea to your teen, but the reality is that you’ll be sending the message that you really don’t care what they do.
Setting clear boundaries, laying out clear rules, and having clear structure in your home will go a long way toward boosting your teen’s confidence. They’ll know what their role is in the house and what to expect from your relationship.
Praise Their Efforts
Be generous (but not overly generous) with handing out praise. But make sure you’re praising the effort and not just the end result.
For example, if you praise the A that they received on a test, you’re sending the message that it’s the end result that matters. If you praise the effort, regardless of the result, they’ll become less fixated on that end result… which in turn will make them more willing to try new things.
I love the story of Spanx founder Sara Blakely, whose dad used to praise her and her brother for their failures. He would celebrate them because it meant they were trying new things, regardless of what the outcome was.
Encourage Decision Making
Let’s be real, teens are NEVER short on opinions.
Rather than dismissing or ignoring them, start validating their opinions by asking them to contribute their own thoughts and ideas for your everyday lives.
Ask your teen (or tween) for their input and take their ideas seriously.
Teenagers want to be treated like grown-ups, so give them opportunities to join you in the adult world whenever possible. Take the time to hear their questions or concerns just like you would your partner.
Encourage Their Individual Talents & Strengths
Many of us have been guilty of having dreams for our kids’ future careers… possibly even before they were born.
My mom was a teacher. My sister is a teacher. My parents wanted me to be a teacher.
I know my entrepreneurial spirit still gives my parents anxiety.
But we have to encourage our kids to be who they are and pursue their dreams and ambitions.
If your teen has an obvious talent or interest, despite the fact that it isn’t something near and dear to your own heart, learn more about why he or she has that passion and encourage him or her every step of the way.
If your child knows he or she has your support, he or she will be much more successful and will feel more confident and secure in his or her decisions.
As Sean Grover points out, they need to have something to give them a boost of confidence.
“They feel really, really good about how they’re a great artist or they’re a great musician or their really own something that makes them unique that really gives them a boost of confidence.”
I love the story of Steven Spielberg.
He hadn’t yet been diagnosed with dyslexia and was struggling in school. Rather than harp on him over his grades when he was clearly trying, his mother encouraged his love of making videos. She would drive him and his brother out into the desert where he could make videos blowing things up.
And, of course, we all know how the story ends. He became “Spielberg.”
Imagine how the story would have ended if his mom had stood between him and his passions? Had ridden him hard over his struggles in school?
Let’s be honest, teens LOVE to think that they have it all handled and are self-sufficient.
And they may be very good at doing just that.
However, it’s important to stay connected and in communication for when they DO need your help and support.
This may mean making a habit of sitting by their bed every night and discussing the day or staying in communication via text throughout the day.
The key is to be consistent and nonjudgmental.
Even problems that they’re going through that seem small or silly can be a big deal to a hormonal teen. So take them seriously and be the ear they need.
Final Thoughts on How To Increase Confidence in Your Tweens & Teens
The teen years are a time of major change for kids. You no longer feel or look like a child, but you aren’t an adult yet either (even though you may want to be treated as such). Tweens are starting to go through changes physically and older teens are facing the reality that they’re about to enter the real world and be asked to make major decisions about their future.
All this change can result in a major hit to a teenager’s confidence.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to counter this:
- Be Authoritative
- Praise Their Efforts
- Encourage Decision Making
- Encourage Their Individual Talents & Strengths
- Stay Connected
What do you think? Are there other things parents can be doing to increase their teen’s or tween’s self-esteem? Let us know in the comments below!