8 Essential Strategies for Raising a Confident Teen

Help your teen build healthy self-confidence.

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Kids who seemed confident throughout childhood may struggle to maintain self-assurance during the teen years. For many, adolescence is a time filled with self-doubt, a questionable body image, and insecurity. 

The good news is, you can take steps to help your teen build self-esteem, which will benefit your teen in a number of ways. Teens who have confidence are better prepared to handle peer pressure, navigate challenging dating relationships, make good decisions, and recover from setbacks. Here are eight strategies that will instill life-long confidence in your teen.

Promote Self-Improvement

Teens who struggle to master a skill may conclude they're complete failures. For instance, a teen who has difficulty with math may decide they're not smart. Or a teen who fails to make the soccer team may decide they'll never be good at sports.

There is a healthy balance between self-acceptance and self-improvement. Show your teen that it’s possible to accept flaws while also striving to become better. Rather than label themselves as “stupid,” help your teen see that while they're struggling academically, they can still strive to become better.

To promote self-improvement in your teen, help them identify their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Then engage them in goal setting and problem solving so they can work toward improving in areas where they struggle. Make sure the goals they set are attainable and within their control and then map out a plan on how they are going to achieve those goals.

Praise Effort Instead of Outcome

Rather than praise your teen for getting a good grade on an exam, praise them for all the studying they did. Instead of saying, "Great job scoring those five points in the game," say, "All that practicing you've been doing has been paying off." Show them that it's important to try hard and it's OK if they don't succeed all the time.

Your teen can control their effort but they can't always control the outcome. It's important to acknowledge their energy and effort so they don't think they are only worthy of praise when they succeed.

Teach Assertiveness Skills 

Teens need to know how to speak up for themselves in an appropriate manner. An assertive teen will be able to ask for help when they don’t understand school work, rather than allow themselves to fall behind.

A teen who can speak up also is less likely to be treated poorly by peers. They'll speak up for themselves when they don't like how they're being treated, and they'll be able to ask for what they need in a direct manner.

To teach your teen to be assertive, begin by talking about the difference between being assertive and being aggressive. Let them know that being assertive means standing up for themselves using a strong and confident voice without being rude or yelling at other people.

Other ways to impart assertiveness skills include allowing them to make choices and reinforcing that they have rights—especially the right to say no to anything that makes them uncomfortable. Give them ample opportunities to practice their assertiveness skills at home by offering them choices and allowing them the freedom to say no to things they don't want to do.

Encourage New Opportunities

Trying new activities, discovering hidden talents, and challenging themselves can help grow teens’ confidence. But many teens are afraid of failure and don’t want to embarrass themselves. 

Encourage your teen to join a new club, play a musical instrument, engage in volunteer work, or find a part-time job. Mastering new skills will help them feel better about themselves. Plus, belonging to a group not only provides them with friendship opportunities, but it also can help them feel more secure and confident.

Model Confidence

Your teen will learn the most about confidence based on what you do—not what you say. If you’re guilty of making critical statements about your body or your abilities, you’ll teach your child to do the same. 

Role model how to face new situations with courage and confidence and demonstrate the importance of loving yourself. Talk to your teen about times when you've been brave or things you've done in your life to help build your confidence. 

Build Self-Worth

If your teen only feels good when they get a certain amount of likes on social media or when they fit into a certain size pants, they'll struggle to maintain confidence when situations don't suit their needs. Basing self-worth on superficial things, external circumstances, or other people leads to a lack of confidence in the long run.

Help your teen build a healthy and stable foundation for self-worth. Emphasize your values and teach that true self-worth is about living according to those values. Help them see that it’s more important to be kind and caring rather than thin or attractive.

Balance Freedom with Guidance

Micromanaging your teen’s choices will only reinforce that they can’t be trusted to make good decisions independently. It’s important to balance just the right amount of freedom with plenty of guidance.

Provide your teen with plenty of opportunities to practice the skills you’ve taught. Let them experience natural consequences and they'll learn from their own mistakes. Over time, they'll develop increased confidence in their ability to make healthy choices.

Help Develop Positive Self-Talk

Your teen’s inner monologue will play a major role in how they feel about themselves. If they are always thinking things like, “I’m so ugly,” or “No one likes me,” they're bound to feel bad about themselves. Teach your teen to develop healthy self-talk.

Point out how many thoughts aren’t true and help them see how being overly harsh can be detrimental. Teach them to reframe irrational thoughts like, “I’m going to fail because I’m stupid,” with something more realistic like, “I can pass math class if I work hard.” 

A Word From Verywell

When a teen has confidence, they have the ability to take risks, think outside the box, and go for the things they want in life. Having confidence may even contribute to their resilience—especially if they are equipped with the notion that they will recover from even the most difficult challenges.

To boost your teen's self-esteem, make confidence-building a regular part of your parenting. Consistently challenge them, encourage them to try new things, and most importantly to believe in themselves even when they fail. Help them set goals and then be their biggest cheerleader focusing more on their hard work rather than the actual results. With effort and consistency, you will build a confidence in your teen that will help them weather even the most difficult setbacks.

If you notice that in spite of your efforts your teen still struggles with anxiety or is exhibiting signs of depression, talk to your doctor about your concerns. It's possible that their low self-esteem is the result of a mental health issue. With proper treatment and care, they can tackle this challenge and learn how to be more confident in the process.

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