You would think that building confidence in tweens & teens is easy. Think again! I have been a parent for 18 years. While that is a long time, it does not by any means make me an expert on parenting. I can only speak from my own personal experiences raising three kids from infant to teens. There are some things that you learn right away when it comes to raising children; like the fact that they are all different. As my neighbor so nicely puts it, the outcome is different even though you use the same recipe. The key is knowing how each child needs to be parented because what you do for one, may not work for the next, or the next.
I decided early on that I was not going to be a “helicopter” parent because I wanted them to learn and experience things on their own. I wanted them to use their own brain to figure things out. Of course, I helped the kids when I needed to, but I never ever did things for them just because I didn’t want to see them struggle. I wanted them to develop and use their own problem-solving skills. And, they did 99% of the time. I never did homework for them; I let them make their own mistakes and I did let them get their problems wrong. To me, that’s the only way they learn; by making mistakes.
In order to have a self-confident tween or teen, you have to start building up their confidence from the very beginning.
Here are 5 things that I did with each of my children to help build upon their self-confidence and instill a level of age-appropriate independence.
5 Tips for Building Confidence in Tweens & Teens
- No hovering. What does that mean? Do not follow them around out of fear. Give them their space. You don’t always have to be all “up in their business”. You’ll learn that as they get older, their “space” is very valuable to them. Just as you need your own space, they need theirs too. While it’s great to know what’s going on in their life, as they get older, you’ll want to make sure they can and do make responsible decisions based off of their own values and not that of their peers. It’s ok to let them make their own mistakes. They will learn and they will grow from them as a result.
- Give them time & an opportunity to work it out on their own. They need to learn how to problem solve. For example, if they are working on a puzzle and struggling with fitting a piece into the puzzle, you don’t want to go over and help them right away. Let them try to piece things together the best way that they can, even if they struggle. Problem-solving skills will go a long way when they are older. They will need to be able to identify the problem, come up with a solution and know the pros and cons of that solution. Sometimes that solution may not be the best but they will learn and grow as a result.
- Allow them to experiment with their clothing or haircuts to help distinguish their own sense of self. As kids start to get older and develop their own personality, they will want their own sense of style. Don’t try to fight it. It’s a losing battle and one that will frustrate the crap out of you. Go with it. You will be building their confidence and self-expression by letting them pick out their own clothes; even if it’s a short-sleeved yellow and orange flowered shirt with green and red plaid pj pants and black knee high boots. Your child may just be the next big designer with fashions being displayed at NYFW. Go with it!
- Tell them you are proud of them. No matter what. Every child wants to make their parents proud. Recognize that and verbalize how proud you are of them. Even if it’s just closing a cabinet door on their own! Yes, my son who is 15 has a habit of leaving every cabinet open when he goes into the kitchen, and every day I call him back to close them. The one time I caught him closing it on his own and told him right then and there how proud I was of him. He had a smile on his face so big that he knew he did a good thing. #ProudMomMoment & #ItsTheLittleThings
- Listen without judgment. The last thing people like is being judged. You don’t like it, neither do your kids, so don’t do it. Listen to their problems with an open heart and open mind. Sometimes they just want to talk and don’t necessarily want you to come in and solve their problems. You are free to offer advice as long as that is all it is. Don’t tell them how to handle a situation or how to feel. Let them own their feelings, good, bad or indifferent. The last thing you want is for them to get on the defensive and close up, and never to speak to you again. Keep the lines of communication open and they will always come to you.
Sure, I have made plenty of mistakes as a parent, I’ll be the first to admit that, but by using those five basic tools in my parenting tool belt, I have minimized them. I am very proud of the parent I have become and have a great relationship with all three of my very different children. I learned how to speak their individual language early on and I built my relationships around that.