Everyone has a constant inner monologue running 24/7. You talk to yourself more than anyone else. And what you say in your mind shapes your self-esteem, which literally impacts everything in your life. That’s why it’s vital to boost your child’s self-esteem while they are young in order to provide an even brighter future.
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem can be broken down into 2 words: self and esteem. Translation: How do you esteem yourself? Or more simply, how do you judge, regard, feel about, perceive, love or value yourself? This includes personal introspection about your character, qualities, talents, social skills, and body.
Why is self-esteem important?
Self-esteem, whether positive or negative, plays a role in nearly everything that your teen does! It’s a protective factor of mental health, social behavior, and a shield against negative influences.
Imagine your teen to be a ship. Their self-esteem is it the rudder that navigates them through the elements and challenges of life. A sturdy rudder will withstand the storm and sail the boat safely to shore, while a poor rudder may keep the ship stuck in the midst of a the pouring rain and crashing waves.
- relate better to their parents
- have healthier friendships
- are happier about their accomplishments
- deal better with failures, disappointments, or health issues/diseases
- are more likely to seek help from friends or family
- set and reach reasonable goals
- and are likely to perform better academically.
What are the negative impacts of poor self-esteem? Teens who have low self-esteem:
- are more likely to experience a mental disorder or social problems, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, violence, or other high risk behaviors (According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), low self-esteem is a key component in the diagnostic criteria of major depressive disorders, manic and hypomanic episodes, dysthymic disorders, dissociative disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and in personality disorders, such as borderline, narcissistic and avoidant behavior.)
- are less likely to be happy
- have a more difficult time adjusting
- struggle with their identity
- may feel a lack of self-worth from their parents
- battle with the discrepancies between their ideal self and their actually self
- compare to others, and often find others more competent, which leads to a self-defeating attitude
- lack self-appreciation
- tend to become aggressive or violent
- may drop out of school due to social difficulties
- are more likely to drink alcohol or abuse drugs
- are less likely to restrain from sexual behavior, or to use condoms during sexual activity, therefore are more likely to contract HIV/AIDS or an STD.
Although self-esteem may be the cause of each item on this list, it’s important to note that the individual items may also be a consequence of the behavior. For example, a teen may think poorly of himself, which causes depressive feelings. But he could also be experiencing depression which therefore decreases his self-esteem.
How can you boost your teen’s self-esteem?
Whether you realize it or not, parents have a monumental impact on their children’s self-esteem. First, make sure that you view yourself highly so you can effectively model self-image to your little ones. (Remember, kids are always watching Mom and Dad! Even the way you grab your car keys or sling your feet up on the couch.) Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to give you the perspective of what your kids see:
- How do you accept a compliment?
- How do you resolve conflict within and outside of your family?
- How do you interact with strangers?
- How often, if ever, do you make comments about your body, wardrobe, or food?
- How frequently do you discuss your family heritage, legacy, traditions, or ancestors?
Psychologist Kevin Leman encourages parents to never stop teaching their kids the ABCs. In this case, he means that you can cultivate your teen’s self-esteem through Acceptance, Belonging, and Competence.
Acceptance. Most teens want to branch off into their own identity with their personal choice of clothes, music, friends, and activities. Instead of turning up your nose at the loud music or odd fashion statements, support your kid. Accept them for who they are. What happens if you don’t? Usually teens retreat to their room, put on their headphones, or bow their head with full attention on their ipad or video game.
Continue developing your parent-teen relationship by asking questions, listening and caring for your teens interests. Especially if you have a teenage daughter. The #1 desire of teen girls is for their parents to communicate better with them.
Belonging. As an adult, you can probably recall a time when you felt left out or disconnected. Statistics show that 7 out of 10 teen girls already struggle with not being good enough or measuring up to the standards. Don’t let your teenager feel that way!
Create a community as a family so your kids can feel a deep sense of belonging in their own home. What’s the point of belonging? If your teen fits in a home, they are more likely to understand expectations and resist peer pressure.
Try inviting your children to make family decisions. Ask for their opinions. Participate in activities together, like going to local events, taking family trips, or just having a dinner together at the table.
Competence. Competence looks like your teen experience life in the driver’s seat. Sometimes they will make mistakes and other times they will soar with success. There is a tendency for parents to provide every possible necessity for their child, which only translates into an entitled teen who likely has low-self-esteem.
I know, it’s hard. That’s your baby and he isn’t ready for the world! You want to provide for your teen and allow them room to breathe and enjoy their youthful years. But wouldn’t you rather train him to handle the world with you by his side, rather than to face it alone when he moves out one day?
Be like the eagles. The Mom eagle waits until her baby is 80% of it’s full-grown size. Then she pushes it out of the nest. She watches her baby fall, and then swoops in to catch him before he hits the ground. And Mom keeps pushing and catching until the baby can finally fly by himself.
A baby eagle trusts his mom to teach and protect him, which forms his ability to fly and builds his confidence. But that also means there has to be a bit of pushing. Like eagles, kids mature and develop healthy levels of self-esteem by facing the challenges of life head first.
I don’t recommend pushing your kid off a cliff to see if he can fly, but physical activity is a great way to improve self-esteem in teens. Plus it offers an instant, short-term positive boost. Enrolling your teen on a sports team is also a self-esteem booster.
Compliment your teenager’s strengths.
Encourage their efforts instead of only their perfection or high-level performance.
Accept your teen’s music or fashion preferences.
Turn mistakes (which will inevitably happen at some point) into a learning experience.
Allow your kids a role in your family decisions.
Stand to the side and let them take the driver’s seat for a little while.
Give your child a hug and say, “I love you” often...and actually mean it.