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Face Magazine of Acadiana

Helping My Child Become More Confident

Feb 05, 2016 11:32AM ● By Ren Campbell
Young teens often feel inadequate. They have new bodies and developing minds and their relationships with friends and family members are in flux. They understand for the first time that they aren’t good at everything. The changes in their lives may take place more rapidly than their ability to adjust to them.

Poor self esteem often peaks in early adolescence, improving during the middle and late teen years as identities gain strength and focus. At any age, however, a lack of confidence can be a serious problem. Young teens with poor self esteem can be lonely, awkward with others and sensitive to criticism with what they see as their shortcomings. Young teens with low confidence are less likely to join in activities and form friendships. This isolates them further and slows their ability to develop a better self image. When they do make friends, they are more vulnerable to negative peer pressure.

Some young adolescents who lack confidence hold back in class. Others act out to gain attention. At its worst, a lack of confidence is often linked with self-destructive behavior and habits—smoking or drug and alcohol use, for example.

Girls often experience deeper self doubts than do boys (although there are many exceptions). This can be for many reasons. Society sends girls the message that it is important for them to get along with others and to be very, very thin and pretty. Life can be just as hard, however, for a boy who thinks he has to meet society’s expectations that boys have to be good at sports and other physical activities.

Girls mature physically about two years earlier than do boys. This requires girls to deal with self image issues, popularity and sexuality before they are emotionally mature enough to do so.

Girls may receive confusing messages about the importance of achievement. Although girls are told that achievement is important, some also fear that they won’t be liked, especially by boys, if they come across as too smart or too capable.

As adults, most people have confidence. This confidence comes about through years of experiencing success, but also through years of exploring strengths and weaknesses and choosing to focus on different parts of their lives. Most of us would be unhappy if we had to do only those things that we are not good at. As adults, we tend to find our areas of strength and—to the extent we can—to pursue these areas more than others. For an adolescent, however, it is difficult to downplay the areas in which they are less confident.

Parents should use good judgment when trying to push a particular activity on their child. Most children will resist efforts to get them to do things that they don’t enjoy. Pushing children to participate in activities (such as soccer or the debate team) that they haven’t chosen for themselves can lead to frustration. Try to balance your child’s experiences between activities that they are already good at doing with new activities that they may not naturally excel in. Parents can also help their child build confidence and responsibility by assigning them household duties at which they can succeed.

The ability of adolescents to trust in themselves comes from receiving unconditional love that helps them to feel safe and to develop the ability to solve their own problems. Your child, like all children, will encounter situations that require them to lean on you and others. But always relying on you to bail them out of tough situations can stunt their emotional growth.

All adolescents will experience rough spots with their confidence level as they mature and in most situations this will pass with adequate time and support. However, if your young adolescent suffers from a severe lack of confidence over a long period, they may benefit from seeing a counselor or other professional.

Praise and encourage

Praise and encouragement (when sincere) is meaningful to adolescents when it comes from those they love and count on most—their parents and other important adults in their lives. Praising your child will help them gain confidence.

Help your child develop confidence

Praise and encourage their efforts.
Provide opportunities for your child to succeed.
Help young teens feel safe and trust in themselves.
Talk about anxieties that are related to school violence and global terrorism.
Create a calm environment in your home through your own behavior.
Listen to what your child has to say.
Have patience.