7 WAYS TO BUILD YOUR TEEN'S SELF-ESTEEM
By Cheryl Butler, Mighty Mommy
September 17, 2012
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Today’s teenagers are confronted with a variety of tough issues, including their physical appearance, who they choose as friends, how they behave in public, how well they perform in sports and school, and much more.
As a parent, you want to help your child be as successful as possible, especially when it comes to their self-image and self-worth. Most importantly, perhaps, is that you want your child to grow into a confident and responsible adult, thriving in all areas of life. But that isn’t always easy. Many teens struggle to be accepted, both by the outside world and by themselves. Parents can play a very important role in helping to build their teen’s sense of self. Here are 7 ways to help foster these traits in your teenager:
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TIP #1: SET BOUNDARIES AND EXPECT THEM TO FOLLOW RULES
Just like younger children, teenagers need boundaries. So establish firm rules and expectations that fit your family’s lifestyle and values. For example, if you’re a single parent and need your teen to help start dinner before he heads out with his friends for the evening, explain clearly to him why this is important. Make it understood that you expect this to be done regularly and outline consequence that will follow if it isn’t. Clear rules communicate the value that you have for your child, and when your children know they are valued, this is the first building block of self-esteem.
TIP #2: BE GENEROUS WITH PRAISE
Too often we focus on what our kids haven’t done or haven’t done right. Tune in to the positive things your teen has accomplished and offer specific praise. If your daughter has a talent for assembling things that are difficult for most of us, tell her how much you admire that ability and how it helps make your life easier around the house.
When praising, include compliments for their efforts as well. If your son has been having difficulty landing an after-school job, let him know you are pleased with how hard he’s been trying and that you know eventually his efforts will pay off. Be sincere with your praise. If you slather it on too thick, many teens will feel you’re paying them lip service and you’ll defeat the whole purpose of pumping them up. Be generous, but don’t lay it on for every single good thing they do.
TIP #3: ENCOURAGE DECISION-MAKING AND OPINIONS
Teenagers have no shortage of opinions. So ask your teen for his ideas and try including them in some of the everyday family decisions. Thinking of turning the garage into a new family room? Ask your son what he thinks about that or does he have any other ideas about how you can gain more living space in your existing home? 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. You might be surprised at some of their great ideas!
TIP #4: STAY CONNECTED WITH ALL FORMS OF COMMUNICATION
Teenagers like to be self-sufficient and want us to believe that they have everything under control—but that doesn’t mean that as parents we needn’t keep the lines of communication open and flowing. So when you ask questions, try to formulate them so that they require more than a yes or no answer. For instance, instead of asking how math is going, ask what they are currently studying in geometry.
Texting is a great way to stay connected throughout the day. If your teen has a big game after school, send a quick message “I hope you and the team have a great game today. I look forward to hearing all about it tonight.” I started a communication tool I refer to as “Love Mom” journals for each of my kids when they started middle school. Each of my older children has a notebook that they keep in their bedrooms. This is a “safe place” for them to mention anything that might be on their mind. They have expressed simple things such as what kind of sneakers they would like to get to something more personal such as being embarrassed that they have dandruff. We go back and forth exchanging quick comments in the book and it truly only takes a few minutes each week.
TIP #5: BE SUPPORTIVE DURING A CONFLICT
If your child is in the middle of a conflict at either school or with a friend or team member, listen to his side of the story and don’t be judgmental, even if you think he is at fault. Be supportive by saying something like “I can understand why you think you’re a better choice for class president, and I’m sorry that you feel you have to point out Mary’s shortcomings rather than concentrate on what makes you the better candidate.”
A conflict may seem silly and trivial to us, but to a hormonal teenager, it could be a major source of contention in their lives. Get in the habit of supporting your child through the good and the bad and you will be laying a strong foundation for open communication when bigger challenges come around. Most importantly, when things are going well, continually remind your teen that you are always willing to listen and help in any way you can. Knowing they have a parent to lean on who loves and accepts them can greatly help build their self-confidence over time.
TIP #6: CRITICIZE CONSTRUCTIVELY
No one likes to be told they didn’t do something right, particularly if it is done in anger. Choose how you criticize your impressionable teen wisely. If your daughter fails her algebra test, don’t say something sarcastic like “Well, if you had studied for this test instead of texting your friends all night long, this never would’ve happened.”
Instead, use a concerned tone and say, “It looks like you had some trouble with that math test. How about if we set up a quiet time to study this week before the next test?” And try never to criticize in front of others; that never helps in this kind of situation.
TIP #7: ENCOURAGE THEIR INDIVIDUAL TALENTS
Most of us have dreams for our kids even before they are born, but just because all the women in the family have gone to nursing school doesn’t mean your daughter will want to as well. If your teen has an obvious interest or talent, despite the fact that it isn’t something near and dear to your heart, learn more about why she is passionate about it and encourage her every step of the way. If your child knows you are behind her, she is apt to be much more successful and will feel confident and more secure in her decisions.
These 7 tools can help you build your child's self-esteem and encourage them to take more necessary risks so as they mature, they develop into confident, well-adjusted adults.
13 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR DAUGHTER'S SELF-ESTEEM
HOW TO HELP GIRLS BUILD CONFIDENCE BASED ON WHAT THEY CAN DO, NOT WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE
In a culture saturated with digitally altered images of impossibly thin women, raising girls with high self-esteem can be daunting indeed. But as parents, you have great influence—both by what you say and what you do. Here's some advice from experts Catherine Steiner-Adair, EdD, a clinical psychologist, school consultant and creator of the "Full of Ourselves," a social-emotional program for girls, Anea Bogue, MA, author (9 Ways We Are Screwing Up Our Girls and How We Can Stop), and the creator of REALgirl, an empowerment program for girls, and Mary Rooney, PhD, a clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute.
1. Model body acceptance. Moms have a huge impact on their daughters' body image. Don't ask, "Do these jeans make me look fat?" or obsess out loud about food or put your appearance down. Avoid what Dr. Steiner-Adair calls the "morality of orality"—talking about food and yourself as "good" or "bad." As in: I was bad today: I had pizza. So I'm not going to have dessert.
2. Make your daughter media literate. "Watch TV with her and talk about what you see," says Dr. Steiner-Adair. "Help her develop a critical eye through which to decode and filter media messages."
3. Don't raise her as a "pleaser." Encourage her to stand up for what she needs and wants. "Create opportunities for her to use her voice," Bogue advises. "Ask 'What do you want?' Let her make a choice and then honor that choice."
4. Start team sports early. Research shows girls who play on teams have higher self-esteem. "There's a very common correlation, in my experience," says Bogue, "between girls who play team sports and girls who suffer less with low self-esteem because they are looking to other girls for their value, and within, as opposed to looking to boys for validation."
5. Moms, don't borrow your daughter's clothes. "You want to let her have her own style, her own look," says Dr. Steiner-Adair. "Especially, and this is a really hard thing, if you have a mom who by society's standards is prettier or thinner than her daughter."
6. Direct your praise away from appearance. "I think that we need to make a very conscious effort to balance our compliments about a girl's appearance with compliments about who she is and what she DOES in the world," says Bogue. "Challenge yourself to match every compliment you give about your daughter's appearance with at least two compliments about something non-appearance based, and do the same for other girls who cross your path—your daughter's friends, nieces, etc."
7. Help her build skills that are independent of appearance. "Get her involved in activities that build a sense of confidence, rather than focusing on looking good and acquiring things," Dr. Rooney suggests. "Sports, theater, music, art. Anything really that can help girls express themselves through words or creativity or activity rather than through their appearance or what they're carrying around."
8. Speak up about your daughter's school curriculum. Does it include a female perspective? "Imagine if you were putting together a family history," Bogue says, "and you only asked the men about their memories, about their perspective. Think about all of the information that would be lost."
9. Praise your daughter for her efforts rather than her performance. "Focus less on the outcome and more on efforts and the development of new skills," says Dr. Rooney. Mastery is what builds confidence, and learning to tolerate failure fosters resilience.
10. Be careful about what magazines you have in the house. "Research suggests," says Steiner-Adair, "that after 15 minutes of looking at a fashion magazine, mood shifts from curiosity and enthusiasm to comparing yourself and putting yourself down."
11. Don't trash talk other women. "And don't let the boys and men in your household do it either," adds Dr. Steiner-Adair. "Don't let kids tease each other around food or looks. Do not let that go down in your house. It's really harmful."
12. Dads: Don't treat your daughter like a damsel in distress. "When fathers treat girls as though they are these fragile, helpless, little beings, " Bogue says, "the message is, 'Your role is to look good so a man will sweep in and save you.' Instead, give her the opportunity and the tools—to change her own tire, to use her voice and speak up for herself, to play sports, to be able to brush herself off and get back up. I think it's a good measure to say, 'If I would do it with my son, I should be prepared to do it with my daughter.'"
13. Make sure she knows you love her no matter what. She needs to know that you'll love her "no matter how her appearance might change or how she dresses or how she might perform at something," says Dr. Rooney. "Because even though kids are so reliant on their peers for feedback when they're in their teens, what her parents think of her matters just as much as it ever did."
Also read:Raising Girls With Healthy Self-Esteem: How to help our daughters develop confidence and a positive body image
Published: September 25, 2012