Here are some tips to help you build your teenager’s self-esteem:
Children and teens need to hear the message that ‘you are important and lovable just because you exist’ too. We need to let them know that they are worthy of love just for being themselves, that we are glad they were born, that they are very important to us. These messages are conveyed in so many ways in our interaction with them – being glad to see them, saying ‘I love you’, giving hugs, showing interest. Through words, through looks, tone of voice, touch etc. we let our youngsters know what they mean to us.
When you need to correct a young person’s behaviour:
- Be clear about what they’re doing wrong: “don’t”
- Explain why you don’t want the behaviour: “because”
- State what you want them to do: “instead”
Give compliments freely – without any backhanders. If you’re going to give a compliment, be genuine about it and don’t try to take it back – often without realizing it we say things like ‘You’re pretty good at basketball, for a short fella,’ or ‘That’s really good, considering you made it’ or ‘I like you, even if nobody else does’. Give straight compliments and teach your teen to accept compliments. That means you have to be able to accept compliments too! Keep things real too – a teenager can sense very quickly if you don’t believe your own compliment to them, and they can feel worse than if you never said anything.
Show interest in your teen – their life, their friends, their interests. Even if you hate their music and disapprove of their tv/computer habit, recognize that this is important to them and find a way to show an interest in it. Get them to teach you their favourite computer game so you have something you do together or find a hobby you both like. Meet their friends, make them welcome at your house. Even if it feels like you have nothing in common with your teen, create some common ground or at least make it safe and comfortable for them to talk to you about it. This gives them the message that they are worthy individuals, that they are lovable, that even when two people disagree they can still love one another. It helps them to feel more positive about themselves, and about you!
Give your teen age-appropriate responsibility. Too often, parents try to do everything for their teen, or don’t allow them to do it because ‘they won't do it properly’. And then we complain that they’re lazy and won’t do anything for us! The teenage years are the preparation for adulthood – so teens need to learn how to prepare and cook food, how to clean up after themselves, how to do the laundry etc. That doesn’t mean they have to do all of this all of the time, but these are skills that are learned and improved upon with practice. They give the message that ‘you are capable’, one of the building bricks of self-esteem. They also learn that they are an important part of the family and that they have something worthwhile to contribute to the home. Feeling useful and needed is a very powerful way to feel good about yourself.