Building Confidence in Teens

Confidence or self-esteem is how your child feels about himself and his abilities. These feelings develop as your child interacts with you and others. A child with a healthy self-esteem values himself as a person, trusts his feeling and abilities, and is able to work toward his goals. Confident people rationally believe they are capable of doing things well and therefore aren’t afraid to do those things or even try new things. These are the building blocks necessary to ensure a successful adulthood, which is the goal that we as parents are trying to achieve.

Adolescence is a time of searching for your identity, and it is riddled with self-doubt, so it is often difficult to tell if you child is confident or not.  Although they will not display all of these indicators all of the time, there are some characteristics of confident teens that you can use to determine if your teenager is confident. Confident teens often look people in the eye when speaking and often have a ready smile. They tend to share ideas with their class or club. They often act independently and assume responsibility for their actions. They typically have good hygiene habits. Confident teens frequently have a plan for the future – they may not know what they want to do, but they’ll be interested in continuing their education. They usually avoid the bad behaviors of their peers with a simple ‘no’ when they need to. Confident teens don’t beat themselves up over a mistake. They look for ways to fix their mistakes and will change how they handle a situation the next time around. They typically are not afraid to try new things. A teen is showing their confidence when they are willing to help those around them.

There are ways for parents to build a teen’s healthy self-esteem. Following is a list of ideas for developing your child’s confidence level.

Setting and Obtaining Goals

Teens who learn to plan out and obtain goals contribute to their healthy self-esteem not only when the goal is accomplished, but also during the path to the goal. Setting and obtaining goals is not something your child will just know how to do, but rather must be taught. Explain this process to your teen. Goals must be realistic, which means that your child has a reasonably good chance of accomplishing it if they put in time and effort.  Remind teens to break down their goals into smaller steps so that they are not overwhelmed and know how to achieve their desire. Help your child create a plan with a timeline to complete the tasks for his goal. However, remind him or her to be flexible as things change and obstacles come up or if it takes longer than expected. Being realistic is a key ingredient. Help them think of a reward for when they do accomplish their goal.

Mistakes Are Good

Allow your teen to fail and do not jump in to fix their problems for them. Making mistakes is part of every learning process. Encourage them by praising their efforts and offering an alternative they can try. If they need you to help talk the problem through, ask open ended questions so that they come to their own conclusions. You can role play different scenarios if it helps your teen find their answer – but allow them to find the answer that is right for them.

Give Choices

Confidence helps teens make decisions, and making decisions helps build confidence!  Instead of moving forward with every aspect of family life, which is easiest for parents to do, give your teen choices. Offer two choices for dinner or for a family outing and ask which they prefer. By letting teens make decisions as often as possible, you will be building their confidence.

If the choice is a major decision, take the time to talk about it. Give them some pros and cons and then let them own the decision. Consider giving your teen a say when setting rules and limits. If you give your teenager the opportunity to help with what the rules are they are more likely to comply with them. You may have to compromise on a few things. That is ok, because after a time period if the rule is not working, it can be changed.


Expectations are the behavior you expect from your teenager. If your expectations are too high or too low, it will affect your teen’s self-esteem, so reassess your expectations often. Expectations and communication are closely tied, so clear messages of your expectations – even the simple ones – will avoid frustration and conflict. For example, if you ask your teenager to mow the lawn, you might expect he would do it right away. However, he might think it’s ok to mow the lawn after he finishes his computer game. Be clear, reasonable and fair. Perhaps you can offer a deadline for when you expect the lawn to be completed.

Model Behavior

You must be trustworthy and model the behavior you want to establish confidence in your child. Be there when your teen needs you. Provide a safe home environment and firm, but fair, discipline. Model a positive outlook by handling your own everyday decisions with confidence and a “can-do” attitude. Never use criticism or sarcastic remarks with your teen, since those cutting words tear down confidence quickly.

Spend Time

Spend time with your child doing something they like to do. This is always a good time to sit back and marvel at what a wonderful person they are becoming. Become their biggest fan by getting involved in their interests and praising them for their accomplishments. And encourage your teen to try new things by being available to talk them through their concerns and get them to where they need to go. All of these actions must be done without complaining if you truly want to reap the reward of a confident child.

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