Young teens with low self-confidence can be lonely, awkward with others, sensitive to criticism, and less likely to join activities and form friendships.
Confidence means knowing you are a worthwhile person. Kids learn to be confident by how they are treated in their families: if they are encouraged to speak up and to do things, they come to discover that they are capable. Kids at this age commonly feel gawky and awkward about their physical skills and emotions. They may be afraid to play basketball because they are afraid they can’t make the basket, or not write for the school paper because they fear they aren’t a good writer. Confidence is key to self-esteem, both personal confidence (“I can do this”) and social confidence (“Others like being with me”).
According to the U.S. Department of Education, youth often feel inadequate as they are trying to adapt to their changing bodies and relationships withfriends and family. Young teens with low self-confidence can be lonely, awkward with others, sensitive to criticism, and less likely to join activities and form friendships. This isolates them further and slows their ability to develop a better self-image. Saddled with low self-confidence, when they do make friends, they are more vulnerable to peer pressure. Adolescents who lack confidence may hold back in class or do the opposite—act out to gain attention. At worst, a lack of confidence usually leads to self-destructive behavior and habits—smoking or drug or alcohol use, sexual behavior, or even self-injury.
Every time your child does something that makes him feel good about himself, make a big deal about it. Say, “That is so terrific! I am so glad you could do that!” Do this even over small things and be very specific. If your daughter combs her hair perfectly every morning, say, “I am so proud that you take such good care of yourself every morning and that I never have to remind you.” If your son puts the top back confidenceon the chocolate milk, say, “You’re so good about being responsible in putting the cap back on the chocolate milk.”
Be very complimentary and supportive. Express care by saying, “I’m glad to see you,” “I love you so much,” “I’m glad you are my child,” or “You can do anything if you want to.” If your child is giving a speech at school, have her practice in front of you and point out all the things she is doing right instead of what is not up to par. That approach of emphasizing the positive builds confidence.