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Helping teens increase self confidence

Getting through the teen years without a few emotional scars is tough, but those scars don’t have to become permanent wounds. Learn how you can help your teen increase her self confidence and provide her with the tools to become a high-functioning adult.

Mother and tween daughter

Raise the standard of excellence.

Today’s teens grew up in a world where self-esteem was a constant buzzword and adults practically fell over themselves to deliver praise to every child, regardless of performance. While self-esteem is important, children who are constantly praised without regard for standards of excellence may be set up for confusion and disappointment later in life. Dr. Tim Elmore, a millennial generation expert, founder of Growing Leaders and author of Generation Y: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, speaks to this phenomenon:

“Millennials have been constantly validated throughout their lives. Teens today often have a false sense of mastery during their adolescent and teenage years that sets them up for anxiety and depression in their adult life. The solution to raising genuinely confident and high-functioning teens is to be both responsive — by displaying love, acceptance and belief — while simultaneously being demanding, raising standards and expecting kids to meet them. Raising children in this style allows them to build their own self esteem by taking on challenges and succeeding.”

Set a good example.

Teens place enormous value on the influence of parents and other key adults in their lives. To develop confidence in your kids, you must model it in your own day-to-day life. Dr. Kim Davis, a board-certified psychiatrist and medical director at Timberline Knolls, a treatment center for women and girls suffering from eating disorders, trauma and addiction, states, “The best way to instill confidence in teens is to have it yourself. We cannot give away something that we do not have. As parents and authority figures, we need to take an honest look at how confident we are. If we are lacking there, we need to address it to be able to impart it to our children.”

Betty Hoeffner, co-founder of multiple anti-bullying websites such as and Hey furthers this position: “I’ve heard from teens that it’s hard for them to feel good about themselves when their parents constantly obsess about their wrinkles and weight, especially when the parent is in great condition. It sends a message that the parents don’t feel ‘good enough,’ and that message fosters an energy that makes the teen feel ‘not good enough.’ It’s contagious!”

Give them wings.

Teens are at a key stage in life. They must be able to try new things and to experience the highs of success and the lows of failure. Parents need to grow accustomed to giving their teens the freedom to test their abilities. This may mean allowing your child to go to an overnight camp despite the fact that he doesn’t know anyone, or it may mean allowing your child to take up a new hobby such as rock climbing or playing in a jazz band. Dr. Lisa Greenberg, a licensed psychologist, agrees. “Teens gain confidence by being allowed, and encouraged, to try new things, even things which seem largely unrelated to much of their lives,” she says. “Getting out there and doing it (whatever it is), even in the face of initial failure, is the way to build confidence.”

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