Help your teenager build positive self-esteem

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The development of a positive self-concept or healthy self-esteem is extremely important to the happiness and success of children and teenagers. Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves, and our behaviour clearly reflects those feelings.

For children, self-esteem often comes from knowing that they are loved and that they belong to a family that values them. It also comes from being praised and encouraged for the things that are important to them, and from feeling confident about the future. Below are some practical steps and strategies that you, as the parent, can try in an effort to help your child develop positive self-esteem.

Tips and tools that build self esteem

More than anyone else, parents can promote their child’s self-esteem. Most parents do it without even realizing that their words and actions have a great impact on how their child or teenager feels about themselves. There are various strategies you can consciously use to build your child’s self-esteem.

  • When you feel good about your child and the things they do, mention it to him or her. Children remember positive statements we say to them
  • Be generous with praise in situations where your child is doing a good job or displaying a talent. Also, use praise to point out positive character traits.
  • Teach your child to practice making positive self-statements - what we think determines how we feel and how we feel determines how we behave.
  • Teach your child about decision-making and to recognise when they have made a good decision.
  • Spend quality time with your child. Listen to them, and help them learn new things and achieve goals.

Things to avoid

It’s important to be aware of things that your child might do that aren’t a positive display of confidence of self-esteem. Some things to look out for are:

  • If your child does something you don’t like, it’s better to tell them what she could do instead of using negative language or name-calling.
  • Control your temper and don’t yell at your child, especially not in public. They will feel embarrassed and ashamed.
  • Avoid criticism that takes the form of ridicule or shame.
  • Threatening to leave your child if they don’t do what you want, or saying things that imply that life would be better without them, might harm a child’s self-esteem.
  • Ignoring children, treating them like a nuisance, or not taking an interest in them.
  • Negative comparisons with other children, especially brothers and sisters. It’s better if you can recognise each child’s successes and achievements.

Page last review by ReachOut Parents Clinical Advisory Group on