7 Proven Ways to Help Boost Teen Self-esteem


Published by Dr. Charles Gemmi

A Board Certified Orthodontist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics, Dr. Charles Gemmi has been a practicing orthodontist with Orthodontics Limited since 2000 and is a member of the teaching staff at Einstein Medical Center. Orthodontics Limited is a Diamond+ Provider of Invisalign in Philadelphia and Hatboro, PA.

Teenagers are faced with a number of difficulties and trials that can lower their self-esteem. Comments from friends and bullies about their intelligence, looks, and personality can be devastating. When coupled with media influence, pressure from teachers and parents, and their own expectations, a teen may find himself or herself bombarded with negative messages that leave them feeling inadequate, unloved, and unacceptable.

If your teen is struggling with these feelings, there are many things you can do to help them feel that they are loved and accepted. Here are seven proven ways to help boost teen self-esteem.

1. Praise your child liberally.

Some people today are under the misconception that today’s generation is being given too much praise and recognition, for doing too little. While it is possible to spoil your child with praise, giving specific, warranted, and generous praise to your son and daughter is likely not going to turn them into a monster, especially if you can tell that they are struggling with their self-esteem. It is possible that your son or daughter has friends and other influences that only provide your child with negativity. Being a source of praise, to show them that they are great, can help to counteract those negative influences. Make this praise as specific as possible, noting what both accomplishments (when they succeed) and efforts (when they do not succeed).

2. Provide them with responsibility that they are capable of handling.

As a young person, I had a friend who was the oldest of seven. She often missed out on opportunities to spend time with her friends because she was babysitting her six siblings while her parents went out and did something. She was constantly overwhelmed with the responsibility of being almost a second mother to her brothers and sisters, at the young age of twelve, and it often made her feel like a failure. If she had been given a responsibility that she could have excelled at and was able to recognize that she excelled at, it would have built her self-confidence up, instead of demolishing it. Find a task that your teen is more than capable of handling and make it his responsibility. He’ll gain confidence from routinely succeeding at a task that is entirely his own.

3. Help him find something he loves to do and is good at.

Having personal talents can do a lot for a teenager’s self-esteem. When he has something that he both loves to do and is good at (or is more than willing to work at in order to get good), he will get a boost of confidence every time he does it and every time he breaks through and succeeds. As with most talents, he doesn’t have to be great when he starts out, but give him the encouragement he needs to stick with it and he’ll eventually find that as he works at it and succeeds, he’ll love that talent even more. Don’t shy away from some of the “stranger” talents, either. If he’s really good at video games or computer programming or even just talking to people, find ways to help him engage with and succeed at those things.

4. Take his or her side.

Feeling that your parents are on your side is extremely important when your child is involved in a conflict—and there will be conflicts. No teenager passes through this time in her life without getting into fights with friends and teammates. Even if your child was ultimately in the wrong, it is important for a child who needs a boost of self-esteem to know that her parents support her and will be in her corner, even if being in her corner means helping her find a way to make amends for something she has done wrong.

5. Find ways to provide constructive criticism.

The keyword here is “constructive.” Criticism will only cut your teen down. Being constructive is something else entirely. If she fails a math test, don’t say, “Maybe if you hadn’t spent your study session texting with Marcy, you would have actually learned something.” This is pure criticism and doesn’t help anyone. Instead, saying something like, “How about, before your next math test, we set up a time to study together?” This shows that you are involved and gives you an opportunity to create an environment where she will learn.

6. Ask for his opinion.

Nothing can make a teenager feel more valued than actually valuing what they have to say. If you are trying to make a decision as a family, make sure that he feels like he has the ability to give his opinion and that that opinion will be seriously considered, even if it is not ultimately the right option for the entire family. If you treat your teenager like what he does and say matter, he is more likely to understand that those actions and words really do matter, which is ideal for a teen boost self-esteem, and for helping him make better decisions.

7. Watch what you say and how you say it.

Especially for the parents of girls, worrying constantly and especially out loud about how you look, what you are wearing, and what you’ve eaten can be extremely detrimental. She will already hear that she is too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, etc. from her friends and from the media. Don’t be another source of negativity about body image in her life.

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