Raising your children into confident teenagers is an important aspect of parenting. During their teen years, they will develop the habits that they will use in their adult lives too, including the habits of self-confidence. Not building on them actively results in adolescents and adults with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and other mental health problems. Raising confident teenagers is therefore more important than you might think. It might help them out in the long run and for the rest of their lives.
What is self-confidence?
Self confidence is a state of being, a state of feeling. It’s all about how we feel about ourselves, both on our own and in the big outside world.
Our level of self confidence affects multiple areas of our lives. It affects:
– the way we feel on a daily basis
– our socializing with other people
– how we handle peer pressure and other social challenges
– the development of our personality
– our level of happiness
Our natural sense of being confident: a lost skill
One of the best things you can gift your children is their natural sense of self-confidence. Nature gives us the skill of being confident in ourselves and the things we do, by default. It’s a survival thing: in prehistoric times an entire tribe could only exist by working together and depending on each other. If people would lack self-confidence, the group was doomed. Humankind once depended on the confidence level of the group.
Due to the way our world works, many people lost that natural skill along the way.
The challenges of being a (confident) teenager
Teenagers are challenged day in day out: peer pressure, bullying, emotions, hormonal changes, relations with others, family, …
Their level of confidence is a necessary tool to get through daily life and handle all those challenges. That’s why it’s so important to help our teenagers build those confidence skills in an early stage. As parents, it’s our job to actively help them achieve this, so they can get through puberty more easily and can grow into confident adults who can take on the world.
Raising confident teenagers: tips and tricks
Raising confident teenagers isn’t easy, due to all the hormonal changes they are going through. Our society that wants to separate children from their parents doesn’t help either and makes things even harder. Most parents are not connected with their teenagers the way nature once intended.
Luckily, parenting is a never-ending process and we can learn how to reconnect with them and raise a new generation of confident teenagers. Here are some ways to help your teenagers build their self-confidence:
1. Create a healthy foundation
A healthy foundation is the start of everything. A child that is loved, safe and connected to its parents has a strong base to grow into a confident teenager. Natural age breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, elimination communication… are just a handful of things you can do to help them start their lives in connection with you. At a later age this changes into connective play, gentle communication, learning from life in connection with you and lots of hugs and kisses so the pheromones can roam freely between you both. A healthy foundation is positive, gentle and with eye to what nature intended us to do in the first place.
2. Go slow with the whole independence idea
Unpopular opinion: teenagers don’t have to be independent yet. The entire goal of puberty is making the change from child to adult. Teenagers are stuck in between somewhere. Yes, our society forces children to be independent early in life. No, that’s not natural, nor will it ever be natural. A teenager can be stuck in between: being independent in certain areas and still depend on you or others in other areas of their lives.
Puberty is a growing process. As long as they grow into their independence during the course of these changing years, everything is going the way it should. Never forget that humans are actually group animals. We all are dependent on each other, we’re not meant to live on our own and do everything ourselves in life. Teenagers have more than enough time to learn to be independent, they don’t have to master this skill in the beginning of their teenage years.
Micromanaging your teenager only teaches them that they need you to guide them through life. Giving them freedom of choice puts them in a more independent and confident position. This can be about little things like food and whether or not to go out at night. But our personal experience shows us that Whole Life Freedom is still the best way to go. Teenagers are not little children anymore. They can make the right decisions for their own lives if they get the chance to do so. A teenager that lives his life as a free human being is more than capable to make informed and decent decisions.
4. Effort over results
Even though the mainstream school system is very result-focused, your priority should be in teaching your teenager to take the steps towards their goal. Every step made is more important than the actual result, especially at their age. Learn your child how to work and fight for what they want, the results will grow accordingly.
5. Observe and connect
The best thing you can do as a parent is to observe often. Know your teenager. Connect with them. Be an actual part of their lives. Know when things are going wrong with them and when they need guidance in becoming a confident teenager.
If you don’t know what’s going on with your teenager, you will not be able to detect any problems or know when it’s time to reach out and offer help.
6. Help them reach their goals
Building further on the last bullet points: teenagers are not wired to be completely independent yet and don’t need to do everything alone. A lot of teenagers have beautiful goals in their teenage life, but because they’re “just a teenager”, they’re left fending for themselves.
We like to take our teenagers by the hand and sit down with us. Talk about their goals and help them come up with a plan to reach that goal. Afterwards, we catch up with them often, to see how far they are on their path. To our experience, teenagers are side-tracked easily. We see teaching them to reach a goal as an important life skill and lesson, so we will actively work on this with them.
Actually reaching the goals they have set for themselves is one of the best ways to raise a confident teenager. Even if it means that you have to take them by their hand and guide them towards those goals to start with.
7. Gentle encouragement
Building further: we’re active supporters of our children. We’re part of the “my child is awesome” club amongst alternative parents and we will scream, yell and use pompons if necessary to show our children how proud we are of every little step they make.
No, this way of parenting doesn’t raise brats, it raises confident teenagers who are not afraid to take steps towards reaching their goals, because they have a beautiful safety net underneath their bums. Bullet point 4 applies here too: teenagers can be a little spoiled in love and attention without becoming entitled adults. If you’re aware of this, you can easily change your parenting ways along the road to help them adapt to adulthood.
8. Help them deal with peer pressure
Even confident teenagers are sensitive to bullying and peer pressure. We notice that the best way to deal with this is to connect with them. Sit together with them, screens on the side, and talk, talk, talk. Help them stand strong in who they are. Peer pressure is a normal thing nowadays, but only the most confident teenagers are able to see it for what it is and take from it what they need in their lives, not what is forced upon them.
9. Trigger therapy
My moto: “never run away from triggers, run towards them”. A trigger is truth that your ego can’t or doesn’t want to see/deal with. This makes any trigger a life lesson, a true and deep meaningful lesson that you have to learn. The deepest life lessons are the hardest to get through. Triggers keep us on our feet and make sure that the things you have to learn are well worth it in the end.
Not everyone reacts well to triggers. Most people tend to run away from them. We are scared from them, because they loosen up big emotions that are often too hard to handle well. Going through those big emotions is tough. It’s understandable that many people turn on their heels and run in an opposite direction.
To me, the absolute most gentle parenting thing is to guide our children towards their triggers and help them through them. This is both an important emotional tool to learn and a way to raise awesome confident teenagers. If a teenager knows how to deal with their triggers, they own the world.
10. Model confidence
I saved the hardest one for last. Both because to me, this is basically impossible, but it’s also not always the most important thing in helping your teenagers become confident adolescents. I’m the living proof that you don’t need a grain of self-confidence to raise confident teenagers. Because I don’t own any self-confidence. Yet my teenagers are nailing this part.
But of course, if you have modelling behaviour to give… show them how it’s done. It’s much easier for them to learn how to be confident, if they can mimic this from a young age.