Teenage is quite a unique period in terms of human developmental trajectory. Being neither a child nor an adult – teenage is no easy piece of cake as is portrayed so realistically by Rabinder Nath Tagore in one of his iconic stories. Though the situation today might have become a little easier and more comfortable for a wanna-be teenager thanks to our child-centric education system and steadily rising awareness, it wasn’t always like this. Sample this popular quote on teenage
“Teenage is a time of great storm and strife, strain and stress.”
That remains the popular perception, though, despite the fact that later research has proven otherwise. Research does say that teenage is a time of a little emotional, social and academic turmoil, but most teenagers manage to navigate it relatively comfortably without facing any major hurdles on the way. Of course, crystallizing a personal self-identity is a major developmental task at this stage, which Eric Ericson has duly emphasized. The successful formation of a personal identity is major psychological milestone, which paves the way for a responsible, successful adult life. The unfortunate ones, who are unable to forge a clear personal identity at this time, may have to struggle with role confusion in a prolonged manner in later life.
Many teenagers commonly face many other impediments on their way to a successful transition to adulthood. Among them, poor self-confidence ranks quite high on the list. In simple parlance, self-confidence is the belief that you’ll succeed, which is related to one’s self-esteem and resilience.
Self-confidence helps us make safe, well-informed decisions and avoid unsafe situations.
Self-confidence is linked with one’s
- Self–esteem, i.e. feeling good and worthwhile about oneself
- Resilience i.e. ability to bounce back from difficulties and failures and cope with tough situations
- Self-compassion i.e. showing kindness towards yourself when events don’t work out the way you had hoped or planned.
If children feel okay about themselves and are aware that they can cope with tough situations, they will have more self-confidence to try out new things and tackle tough situations. In a way, it’s a positive cycle, which perpetuates itself to benefit the child.
Importance of building self-confidence for teenagers
Self-esteem comprises the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs we have of ourselves. Changing these opinions can’t happen overnight but there are steps you can take to help your teen break out of a negative thought pattern. Once you implement these interventions, seeing results takes time.
Having self-confidence helps a teenager feel that they can make safe, well-informed decisions and avoid potentially harmful situations. A confident teenager is assertive, positive, engaged, enthusiastic and persistent in efforts.
On the contrary, diffident teenagers shy away from joining activities, are more likely to hold themselves back in class, and are more likely to yield to peer pressure. A diffident teenager might expect to fail at new things or might not try as hard when things get tough.
As a case in point, a confident teenager, who faces problems with friends, may feel upset for a while. But they realize they can bounce back from the low mood to focus on the positive aspects of life, like other friends and family. On the other hand, a teenager with poor confidence may feel more upset or self-blame for their problems. It could affect their self-esteem and make them feel they aren’t worth being friends with.
Low self-confidence comes from specific life experiences and how we react to them. Most often, low self-confidence is a result of exposure to:
- Bullying in school, playfield or otherwise
- Some chronic medical conditions
- Feelings of loneliness
- Parental criticism or neglect
- Negative friends
- Abuse or trauma
- Disruptive life events (e.g. divorce, shifting)
- Mood disorders (e.g. depression)
The Root Cause
Experts in parent child relationship counselling suggest that at the very heart of poor self-confidence lies the “inner” criticism and feelings of inadequacy.
- A good start to address this challenge will be helping your teenager identify and challenge this “inner” critic. Help them realize that these negative thoughts are based on judgments and do not reflect the reality. Also, try to guide them to turn such negative thoughts into positive self-affirmations.
- Teach them how to make positive self-statements and encourage them to make constructive talk a habit. Try to measure up to the same standard as a positive role model.
- While talking to them, stay clear of personal attacks and ridicule. Don’t generalize a one-off happening like “Put the trash bin out” become “You lazy! You always forget to do your chores.”
- Celebrate what they do well.
- Focus on the efforts made instead of looking for perfection.
- Re-look at mistakes as learning opportunities.
- Pinpoint triggers that lead to low self-confidence.
- Become adventurous and try new things.
- Own up decisions and opinions.
- Support them by being generous with praise for things well done in specific situations like cleaning their room, getting an A+ on a class test.) Use it to celebrate good choices and hard work.
Decision Making and Self-Esteem
- For budding youth, self confidence counselling is a must. Learning effective decision-making is crucial to a teen’s success, yet it remains a neglected domain, which requires practice. So, try to locate decision-making opportunities and help your teen by guiding them in the process. Teach them how to develop clarity over a given issue and tell them how to brainstorm possible solutions, pick one and evaluate its outcomes.
- Don’t judge them or belittle their choices. And also don’t make decisions for them. Teach them to become empowered by taking their own decision and owning up their consequences and make them feel adequate and capable.
- Let go of the parental reins and allow them to explore the possibilities. Mistakes are, no doubt, inevitable in this learning process but that’s life!
- Don’t get so serious to leave no room for laughter in life. Often, despite all our good intentions, we mess up the things. Taking such challenges in one’s stride and laugh over them builds resiliency.
Tips and Techniques for Developing Self-Confidence
Here are my proven 15 practical tips to help your teen become a strong, confident adult with a healthy dose of self-esteem.
Room for Failure
The frequent mistakes and setbacks a teenager experiences can crush their delicate self- confidence. Your intervention in such situations is a must. So instead of criticizing or panicking over a failure, take a deep breath and talk to your teen with questions like:
- How did things get off the track?
- What had influenced you to take this decision?
- What did you learn from it?
- What are your plans to move forward in a positive direction?
Use activities to tell them about accepting mistakes and using the failures to advantage. When failures are seen as learning experiences, obstacles become easier to cross.
Process and Outcome
Going overboard by gushing over your teen’s achievements is the easier part. But sadly, these achievements get tied to their sense of self-esteem and self-confidence, making them feel they’re worthwhile only for their achievements and aren’t worthwhile if they fall short.
A much healthier approach would be to congratulate your teen’s accomplishments by emphasizing the hard work, effort, and perseverance they have put in. A focus on the things that made them reach this point will help them connect their efforts and the result.
Remember, healthy and effective praise can build resilience, confidence, and self-direction among teenagers
Make them understand that your love for them is NOT dependent on their grades, performance, friends, college, or their choices or behavior. By tying love to performance, we miss the essence of unconditional love, which has to be given freely sans any limits.
This, of course, never implies that you and your teen can’t commit mistakes, experience bad days, or have arguments. Rather, it’s just a reminder of the overall message your teen should receive: “I love you no matter what and I’ll love you through ups and downs in life.”
As a life coach, I keep on getting many such cases wherein a teenager’s elf-confidence is crushed due to some unintentional comments made by parents or significant others. I remember Kanak Tulika, a doctor, had approached me some time back with complaints of poor self-confidence. Though she was a competent doctor and enjoyed a good reputation for her medical knowledge and skills, a certain something always kept her anxious and bogged down. During counseling, she revealed that once while she was in her teens, her mother had remarked that howsoever hard she might try to groom herself with make-up, it wasn’t going to change her looks. Though most probably, the remark was not made in a serious tone, it stuck to her mind forever and that’s what had brought her to me. Of course, with some counseling and therapy, she was back in her original form- alive, confident and springing with assertiveness.
It should be amply clear that parents need to be extremely mindful of what they say, imply or indicate while interacting with their teenagers to avoid doing things that might leave permanent emotional scars on a teen’s mind, which could become a handicap for life.
Many teenagers are often caught in a “fixed mindset” about their identity or capabilities and are unsure how to move forward. Bring a growth mindset into your family conversations. Talk about the inherent, untapped capabilities of our brain and mention to them the areas in which you’ve seen your teenager grow.
Pepper your interactions with these messages, drill into them that their abilities are not fixed, inborn, and inflexible, that there is always room for growth and improvement. Ask them to challenge their limiting self-beliefs and see the results for themselves to convince them of the utility of a growth mindset.
Let your teen navigate through the ups and downs of life and the overwhelming emotions to let them learn they are normal. Building self-confidence often means taking bold stands and taking decisions that impact peer groups or social standing.
Remind your teenagers they aren’t a “bad person” simply because they quit a toxic friendship or chose an activity over a boyfriend/girlfriend. Achieving growth and maturity are difficult, but it doesn’t mean your teen is doing something wrong.
Making confident, clear, and persuasive communication isn’t really easy for everyone. Many teens don’t grasp the differences between assertive, passive, and aggressive communication. Talk to them how such nuances like the voice tone, body language and nonverbal cues can make or mar a conversation.
Encourage your teen to practice in front of a mirror to appreciate such nuances of communication. Standing tall and speaking clearly can improve how they feel, especially if they feel shy of entering a difficult situation.
Teenage brings tremendous brain growth, but it also highlights teen struggles – physical, academic, social and emotional. These struggles can create negative self-worth. So, when you pinpoint an area of concern, encourage them to look at it as an opportunity for growth, learning and inculcating their interests and abilities.
Try to look for ways to build on things your teen is passionate about and explore situations to let them practice new skills.
Many people mistakenly believe that they have to be self-confident before they tackle a difficult thing.
A remarkable thing coming from extensive research is that you don’t always need confidence for a growth mindset
Your teenagers can try something they’re not good at, even if they don’t feel confident initially. By sticking to something wholeheartedly, they develop a growth mindset and self-confidence along the way.
A growth mindset necessitates kindness and patience with ourselves. Contrary to popular messages in social media and peer group influences, your teen doesn’t have to have an outside opinion to prove their worth.
So, if you find your teen stuck in a negative or fixed mindset, encourage them to develop self-compassion.
Ask them to use mindfulness activities, positive mantras, and affirmations regularly. While they are struggling, encourage them to self-talk using the same words and the tone they would use if a close friend were in such a situation.
Make a safe space for your teen to work through tough situations. Give a free atmosphere to talk freely about challenges, peer issues, “unfair” teachers and overwhelming homework. And explore ways how they can manage these situations with self-confidence, address others respectfully and maintain their self-worth.
For teens who struggle with communication, use the safety of your home to try Role Play to practice a variety of responses, tones of voice, volume, and nonverbal cues.
Diversity in Activities
The teens involved in many activities, sports, volunteering, and educational activities have a higher sense of self-esteem and self-confidence. Notably, they aren’t crushed by a setback in an as other things feed their self-confidence. When a teenager engages in activities helping others, they earn a sense of purpose and meaning.
Watching your child struggle to learn or manage the consequences of an impulsive decision isn’t easy. It’s normal for a parent to try sharing their wisdom to smoothen their path. However, it has to be understood that learning to tackle challenges, brainstorm and solve problems can build your teen’s confidence.
Therefore, rather than spoon-feed them, engage them in the process and become a cheerleader, rather than a director. Listen as they explore where things went off the track and support your teen’s plan to move ahead.
Ask for Advice
We parents face challenges and failures in our daily lives, which we can use to show them we are humans and that we need help too! Make it a point to discuss your challenges with your kids and let them see you made mistakes.
Discuss the situation with them. Ask them how they would approach your problem. It will not only create a connection, but will also show them that you aren’t perfect and that you are learning, too.
Keep your relationship with them strong and build their self-worth by resisting the urge to turn everything into a “lecture”. Instead, focus on what they have to say. While at it, avoid making assumptions, judgments, or jumping to the offense.
Practice empathy by putting yourself in your child’s shoes and relating to them emotionally, realizing that responding with logic or reasoning may push them away. You don’t have to agree with your teen’s viewpoint to become empathetic. Focus on improving your listening skills rather than having the last word.
Your teenagers watch and observe how you manage challenging situations and how you feel about yourself. Watch the conversations you have while your teens are around – be careful not to put others down, criticize yourself and make your happiness dependent on others or circumstances.
Make an honest assessment of your self-esteem and confidence and embrace a growth mindset! Look for areas you want to improve, find things that will build self-confidence and start!
You can’t compel a teenager to embrace a growth mindset, practice positive affirmations, or try challenging activities, but you can foster an enabling environment that nourishes such behaviors. With your support, they can build self-confidence which matches the images they often share on social media.
Counselling for Teenagers
If your teenager’s confidence plunges suddenly or if low confidence stops them from trying out new things, the first thing to do is: talk to them to help you find out what’s happening. If it is something beyond your ken, try to get help from a teacher, school counsellor or psychologist.
As parents, we want our teens to feel confident. But those involved in youth self confidence counselling say that the reality is – teenage years are full of change as teenagers’ brains undergo a “reorganization” that can leave them and their parents overwhelmed, exhausted, and confused. As teenagers search for their place in the world, many of them struggle through situations that challenge their self-beliefs they’ve held for years.
Experts in parent child relationship counselling often advise parents to nurture a strong relationship with their teenagers to make them confident while they are trying to meet the challenges of adolescence. Counselling for teenagers involves building a strong bond by forging open communication and a constant connect with them.
Look for the practical and positive things your teenager can do to build skills and thereby achieve goals and experience success. Giving your child a clear strategy to improve their chances of success is a great way to do this e.g. Rahul, if you want to be part of the hockey team, make sure to listen to the coach and practice as per their advice.
Opportunities for new things
Trying out many different things helps one discover the one/s they’re good at and what they really enjoy. Your teenager also learn with time that most people excel at certain things and not so well at others, which is okay.
Encourage them to keep trying
If your teenager fails at doing something, help them understand the fact that everyone makes mistakes. You need to encourage your child to be kind to themselves if they are unhappy with their performance in a game. They could tell themselves ‘That didn’t go well but I’ll keep trying to better myself’.
Be a model of confidence
You could become a role model of confidence for your teenager by telling them about what you’re going to do to succeed in a task. For instance, you might discuss with them how you often felt nervous about making a presentation at your workplace but succeeded with practice over time. You could tell your teenager how you’re practicing it at home to be well prepared and confident on the day.
Encourage their self-confidence
You could also help your teenager by telling them acting confident can help them develop confidence. Teach them to make eye contact with others, smile and dress in a way that makes them good, and think good about their body posture. You can also teach them to do what they love, avoid threatening situations and try to avoid focus on what they can’t do.
A socially anxious teenager might need some guidance from you. If such teenagers take interest in others’ activities and join in conversations, it can help them build confidence.
Praise their efforts
Those involved in counselling for teenagers suggest that should a test, interview, contest or game not work out the way they hoped, try to praise your teenager for the effort they had put in rather than the result. You could also guide them with some ideas about the difference they could make the next time to achieve success.