Teen Self-Esteem: A Challenge For Parents

Teen Self-Esteem: A Challenge For Parents

Last update: 13 July, 2016

Adolescence is the stage in which the protagonists are trying to position themselves in the world and figure out who the hell they are. In this sense, self-esteem plays an important role, since riding on their backs will be the need to face the different challenges of this stage, which otherwise are not few or unimportant.

On the other hand, although they insist on leaving the protection offered by their parents and role models, they will continue to rely on them and in turn they will continue to condition part of their vision of the world and themselves. Thus, by  putting ourselves in our parents’ shoes, we understand how difficult it can be to play their role during this stage of their child’s adolescence.

That “having to be there without being there” or “have to be there but do it in the shadows,” like when they are small and take their first steps. We release them, but we follow them stealthily from behind so they think they have to do it but this time without our direct help. So, although they are often not welcome, parents are still responsible for their children during adolescence, both for their actions and their education or self-esteem.

All parents want to see how their children achieve success. However, many forget that beyond the results, teens have to overcome significant challenges, such as those related to their self-image and self-esteem. Thus, the reality is that many young people have trouble being accepted, both by others and themselves. Parents can play a fundamental role in building their teen’s sense of self-esteem.

The importance of self-esteem in adolescence

Self-esteem in adolescents affects their lives and their decisions, their relationships and their academic performance. In this sense, it is important to note that low self-esteem can lead teens to risky behavior which include drug use, violence, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, etc. Not to mention how vulnerable they are to the recruitment of extremist groups.

face of a young girl

We cannot forget that adolescent self-esteem is the foundation for their future as adults. Life is difficult enough when we have a positive self-image.

Tips for raising the self-esteem of a teenager

Although not an easy task, parents should use all of the means at their disposal to promote the self-esteem of their teenage children. Here we can see some ways to do so.

Set limits and expectations

Teenagers also need boundaries, but appropriate for their age. Limits are fundamental and in adolescence they are crucial if we want our children to grow up safe and responsible. Therefore, it is important to establish rules and expectations that fit what teens want, so as to contribute to their growth and not put a cap on it.

In adolescence, new situations appear which you must leave alone without trying to control. Outings with friends, the use of mobile devices, the discovery of sexuality, among other issues, must be addressed through dialogue, arguments and agreements that the two sides can both stand behind. Here is where the parents’ ability to negotiate and establish rules come in, which stems from accepting the teen without forcing them to abandon their autonomy.

Communication with adolescents must be fluid and open, which favors a flexible relationship. Without being authoritarian, parents can exercise the authority they deserve. The rules must remain clear and should communicate specific values.

Be generous with praise

In our quest to get our children to give the best of themselves and overcome obstacles, too often we focus on what they have not done well or how they can improve. However, while teenagers need to set goals, it is also important that they know when they are doing well and have succeeded, even though there might still be a long way to go.

It is also important for teens to receive specific praise when they practice skills that they have decided to develop or when they stand out for something different. Although the tastes and aspirations of children are not the same as those of their parents, we must respect and recognize their value. We cannot forget that, although maturity does not yet allow us to grant them full independence, in the end it is their lives that are in our hands.

But we must not shower them with praise and forget everything else. Praise, when displayed properly, can function as a trigger for motivation, but too much can have negative consequences. Especially if these accolades are continually accompanied by materials, extrinsic to the task in which we want to recognize the performance.

Encourage the formation of their own opinions

Teens love to give their opinions. This makes them feel older and allows them to stand out. It also allows them to do one of the things they like to do: argue. This is normal and necessary.

father with his son in the fields

However, there are many circumstances in which adolescents, without having their own guidelines to form their opinions, use the opinions of others and are guided by any false belief that screams out to them the most or that is spread around the most. They just simply adopt this view.

Parents should encourage the their teens to develop their opinions, without imposing their own or anyone else’s. This will offer a broad view of the world and provide a wide range of experiences that allow them to think freely.

Encourage decision making

Teens also have to learn to make their own decisions, to be responsible for them and to decide according to criteria based on their personal values. Parents do the right thing in allowing their teenage children to decide for themselves and choose according to their own tastes and aspirations, provided they do not get carried away. Returning to the example of a child learning to walk: we let him head anywhere, as long as there are no nearby obstacles in his path that could endanger his life.

But that’s not the issue. Parents should help their children draw a coherent plan with their decisions and act according to the decision made. It is also good to allow them to bear the consequences of their actions and their own decisions. This can be done by offering support to solve their problems, but without holding their hands or doing the work for them.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.