We parents sometimes forget how tough life is for teens. I’ve seen my teen daughter struggle with feeling insecure about her looks, what people think of her and with wanting to fit in and be accepted. Of course, growing up in the era of social media doesn’t make things any easier since now even small mistakes can be recorded and broadcast for everyone to see.
To further compound things, society reinforces the message that girls shouldn’t air their voices or opinions. Girls are taught to keep their thoughts to themselves and avoid confrontations if they want to be liked. Those who choose to voice their opinions risk being labeled “difficult”.
However, good parents strive to counter such destructive messages. They strive to raise strong, self-confident daughters who aren’t afraid of being themselves or speaking out when the need arises.
That is what I want for my daughter. I wanted her to be confident and comfortable in who she is, in spite of constant outside voices clamoring for her to conform and be someone else. I helped her build her self-confidence by:
Giving her bigger responsibilities.
Teens get a huge self-confidence boost by feeling capable in their world. Doing everything for my daughter wouldn’t cut it because it would deny her a chance to develop new skills and exercise her independence. It would also imply that I had no faith in her ability to do things on her own.
Keeping this in mind, I decided to start giving her bigger responsibilities around the home. I let her order takeout for the whole family, do her own laundry, book her own dentist and other medical appointments, shop for groceries on her own, among other tasks. Giving her the chance to do such things made her feel confident in her abilities and happy to be contributing to the family.
Helping her be more assertive.
As I said earlier, girls are taught from a young age to be “nice” and avoid confrontation. This comes at a heavy price as they gradually learn to suppress their feelings and to constantly put others before themselves. If this is done long enough, teen girls risk giving over their power to others and becoming doormats.
To avoid this fate, I encouraged my daughter to be more assertive in communicating or expressing her feelings, thoughts, and opinions on different things. For instance, after watching a movie or series, I’d ask her what she thought about it. We also started having weekly family meetings and I would seek her opinion on how things can be improved around the home.
While it was hard sometimes to have her disagree with something I said, I gave her space to speak up as long as she wasn’t disrespectful or aggressive about it.
Getting her to have a more balanced self-image.
Like most teen girls, my daughter wanted to be liked and this made her go to great lengths trying to please everyone. It also meant that she would be hard on herself whenever she made mistakes.
Obviously, putting such pressure on herself wasn’t healthy. To help her get a more balanced view I encouraged her to seek out both her strengths and weaknesses. For instance, I’d ask her what she did or didn’t like about her performance in a game, test or some other activity so she’d get used to seeing both sides of a situation.
Additionally, I had to change how I handled mistakes, both hers and mine. Instead of cursing and saying things like “I can’t believe I messed up” or “That was stupid of me”, I started reframing mistakes as opportunities for improvement by saying “I’ll try again tomorrow” or “Well, you win some, lose some”. Eventually, my daughter picked up on it and became more forgiving of her own shortcomings.
Giving her a chance to develop her own coping skills.
Whenever my daughter came home from school with a despondent look on her face, I knew that things hadn’t gone that well. Either she’d had an argument with her friends or something about school was getting her down. My first instinct was to try and fix everything for her- she was my little girl after all but I realized that would prevent her from developing the coping skills she needed to handle stress, disagreements and other unpleasant situations she’d no doubt find herself in.
Instead, I gave her space to vent while I listened and affirmed her feelings. When she was done, I asked her what she wanted to do about the situation, then helped her narrow down her options. There are times I didn’t agree with her choices and times when her attempts to rectify situations have been unsuccessful. However, the important thing is that she’s learning positive coping skills.
Finally, I came to the realization that the best way for my daughter to learn to be confident is through seeing the same in others. I modeled this by expressing my needs respectfully to other people, politely voicing my disagreements when necessary and letting her see me making time to take care of myself.
Although helping my teen daughter boost her self-confidence has been a journey, it’s totally worth it watching her grow and blossom into a woman who isn’t afraid to reach her potential.