Building Confidence in Your Teen

by ModernMom Staff

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The most awkward time for you child is when they stop being a kid but aren't quite an adult.  Their bodies are changing, and their hormones are going nuts.  Some handle it gracefully, but most freak out.  

And it doesn't help that the role models they are presented with in the media are airbrushed into oblivion and have press agents to make sure they're saying the right things for their image.  The reality your teen faces is filled with so much fake-ness, it's hard for them to look at themselves and recognize that what is real is normal and perfect.  

Your job as a parent is to make this transitional time easier for them.  While that sounds like less fun that paratrooping into Antarctica in your skivvies, relax.  There are plenty of things you can do to help your teen and enjoy parenting!

Set Reasonable Rules

You remember how dumb your parents' rules seemed when you were thirteen years-old?  "Don't stay out past nine.  Call whenever you change locations.  No boys in your bedroom."  Well, now that you're a proud mommy to a teenager, those rules suddenly make sense.  Your teens are supposed to grow up independent but, how are you supposed to protect them if they aren't by your side?!  

Now is the perfect time to sit down with your teen and a pad of paper.  Write out the rules and discuss them.  Make amendments.  Set consequences.  When it's all written out, your teen has something to refer to in case they forget.  But the main positive is that there are boundaries set for them when they are out alone, learning to be independent.  This gives your teen a foothold in an otherwise confusing situation.  And you don't run the risk of being "unfair" because they were part of the decision making.

Be Free with Compliments and Careful with Criticism 

Having excess body hair and zits is hard enough without a mom constantly telling a kid to shave and put some cream on that thing.  What's even harder is looking past the flaws and seeing their beauty (guys, too).  To help your teen feel better about him or herself, constantly remind them how amazing they are. Point out what they are doing right, or what they are doing almost right.  

Teens are tough enough on themselves, and they are most likely to give up trying if someone is constantly criticizing them.  Motivate your teen to try by easing them into a critique with an overview of what they did well.  This is a great way to build rapport with anyone, especially your teen, because people are more open to amending their ways when they are given positive reinforcement and encouragement - even when they haven't done something exactly right.

Encourage Them to Share Their Opinions 

There are fewer frustrating aspects of parenting than hearing, "I don't know."  Unfortunately for tweens and teens that lack confidence, they don't feel their opinions matter.  Focus on their importance.  When the family is going out to dinner, really let the kids decide.  Often, parents overrule their children's desires with a curt, "No" because they already have predetermined plans.  What this teaches kids, though, is that when they make a decision, no one will listen to them or care that they expressed an opinion.  In the end, you're left with an indecisive person who is not going to grow any more decisive with age.  Instead, occasionally let your teen make decisions for the family and praise them for their choice (even if you're not excited about eating at Hometown Buffet... again).

Support Their Interests 

Someday, your teenager is going to realize that they looked silly with half their hair colored snot green, but hopefully, they will also look back and remember that their mom helped them pick out the dye and told them it brought out the color of their eyes.  Hair color aside, your teen will also show interest in sports, music, and activities.  Most of the time, you're probably going to cock your head and go, "Huh..."  

You don't have to get it, you just have to support it.  We're not recommending that you jump on a skateboard right next to your son, but we are recommending that you compliment his athleticism.  Showing that you care about what they're doing opens up lines of communication.  At dinner, when you ask what they did all day, knowing you won't disapprove that he was at the skate park perfecting his half-pipe flips, he might open up and share some enthusiasm with you instead of answering, "Nothing."

Obviously as a parent, you have to know the difference between healthy and unhealthy activities for your kids.  The goal, though, is to encourage your teen to talk to you about things so he or she recognizes how much you value them for who they are.  A lack of confidence usually springs from the idea that no one cares about how they feel or think.  Show your teen how important he or she is to you, and you'll find that not only are you communicating more, but your teen is far more confident.  

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