I’ve been thinking a lot about self-confidence lately. Specifically in my own kids. Is every mother out there in this same quandary? Even with adult kids?? I realize I have written about this very topic here for years. I am still thinking about it. How does that “skill” of self-confidence develop? Yes, I do believe it can be categorized as a skill. Because when you have it, you can do a lot of things, right? You believe in yourself. You have the added capacity to help others believe in themselves too. It’s not just confidence in ourselves or our kids we’re looking for, because that can actually have negative effects too. We don’t want to run around being narcissists, right? I’m talking about the self-confidence that grows from a positive self-image. When we look at ourselves in a positive light, we can actually change the trajectory of things. So of course, we want our kids to have this too! Let’s talk about three ways to help teenagers build a positive self-image. Because when you’re a teenager, especially in this world filled to the brim with comparison, sometimes having a positive self-image is hard to come by.

building a positive self-image in teenagers

Nature vs. Nurture

Where I believe self confidence can come from a giant mix of nature AND nurture, I believe having a positive self-image is more largely affected by nurturing. Fight back on this with me if you disagree, I’d love to hear the feedback. Here are some ways to help kindle and nurture a positive self-image in our kids.

Three ways to help teenagers build a positive self-image

“See” your teenagers

If we “see” our kids in a positive light and let them know it, they will start to see themselves the same way. I love the quote in Greggory Boyle’s podcast I shared a while ago: “when we feel cherished, we can cherish others.” This leads to a whole chain reaction of love and growth. We all need to know that we matter. And that we are seen.

This starts, of course, with US as the parents. If we are spewing off our own negative self-talk, we teach our kids to do the same. But if we are forgiving of ourselves, we are giving not only ourselves, but our kids, a great gift. We can practice by saying stuff like this:

  • “I didn’t do that well today, but I know I can do better tomorrow.”
  • “I know I can do that!”
  • “Can you try that again because it doesn’t work for me when you speak disrespectfully.”

Oh the practice of “try that again” is is a magical phrase. We need to respect ourselves enough to require respect from our kids.

I love these little ways to show our teenagers that we “see” them:

  • Practice the “Welcoming Response.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this practice is pure magic. Sure, you have to kind of hone in on which “welcoming response” your kids would like. Some kids may be mortified with the exuberance level I’m at when I’m welcoming Lucy home from school these days. HA! But even if it’s a small gesture, when you light up when your child enters a room it is powerful.
  • Take some time every now and again to write the first initial of what your teenagers are good at on their fingertips. Take time to do all ten of them, but even one or two will do in a pinch of time. This is what I call “fingertip talents” I’ve talked about quite often. And yep, it works even for teenagers.

Stop worrying so much about those teenagers

On our podcast recording last night (yep, we’re back at it again!), Saydi shared that she’s giving up worrying for lent. You’ll have to listen to the episode for more details because there’s a lot to say. But what I want to share today is that when Saydi told her girls she was going to stop worrying, at first they were disappointed. I mean, doesn’t “worry” equal love?

But when we worry endlessly about our kids it can make them feel that they aren’t capable.

Think of the difference how a teenager feels if we do scenario 1 vs. scenario 2 in this example:

Our teenager is trying to figure out how to heal a broken friendship they are dying to mend.

  • Scenario 1: We sit and tell them all the ways they could fix things or we make them feel like they should have done things differently in the first place. This happens even without words so often!!
  • Scenario 2: We tell them we know they can fix this relationship if they put their mind to it. We have confidence in their friendship skills and show them all kinds of love as they try to work things out.

In scenario 2 we are empowering our kids. We are helping them realize they have the tools to do this without us swooping in. Sure, sometimes they need extra encouragement, but if we get in and try to fix things, we are hindering a positive self-image.

Stop doing things for your teenagers

We live in a society of helicopter parents and I think it’s getting worse rather than better. I know this because sometimes I’m one of them. It’s just so much easier to do things for our kids sometimes. To offer suggestions and to take over when our teenagers are perfectly capable.

One of my kids texted me the other day for help with something. She was asking me to tell her what she should say to someone she was working with. I responded right back with my thoughts.

How much more powerful would that interaction have been if I had just said, “oh you’ll figure that out!” and let her wrestle with her own thoughts. I actually texted her back later in the day and told her as much.

We want our kids to have self-confidence, not mom-confidence.

It is just so easy to jump in and help. We want to feel needed and appreciated. But we need to trust our kids to forge their own way. Even if we want to swoop in and save them when we think they should be doing it differently.

Sure, we are always parents. And kids need parents. Even when they’re adults. I sure as can be still need mine!

But if we want our teenagers to develop a positive self-image we need to expect more from them and in turn, they will expect more for themselves.

And they’ll come out of it all just glowing.

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