The truth is that children and teens learn by watching and hearing what we say and do. When we model confidence and high self-esteem, we teach them. When we model good work ethics and acceptance of others, we show teens how they should behave and help them develop confidence.
Steer Clear of Comparisons and Shaming Others
When you surf the web with your kids, watch what you say. When using a search engine, beware of letting slip negative comments about the photos on the search engine results page (SERP). About 68% of online experiences start on a search engine. Avoid comparing one individual to another and making comments that could be seen as shaming. You can make compliments while teaching manners, shopping, or searching for information online.
Talk About Body Acceptance
You can also teach body acceptance while teaching self-improvement. Focus on proper hygiene and health in and of themselves. Teach that you should wash your face and brush your teeth daily as a part of essential healthy hygiene. This practice helps teens with common problems such as acne without making them focus on their looks. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 50 million people in the U.S. have acne, with approximately 85% being teenagers.
Teaching them to cleanse their face in the morning and at night helps alleviate this problem. Similarly, healthy eating should be the focus of every household from the start. Rather than focusing on dieting or weight loss, model the behavior of eating right for health. Talk about how healthy choices throughout life improve health, such as how eating lots of leafy green vegetables contributes to lower cholesterol and good heart health. This habit applies to clothing, too. If you need an opinion on an outfit, place it in the context of the social situation. For example, "I have dinner with my company's assistant director and her spouse. What do you think of this outfit?" This is much more helpful than asking if a certain article of clothing contributes to making you look big, short, etc.
Encourage Positive Language
While you lead by example, provide them with appropriate language to encourage positivity. This applies to numerous parts of your children's lives. Use positive language when it comes to school, money, eating and health habits, clothes and fashion, and other aspects of your kids' lives. For middle and high schoolers, it can be seen as "cool" to not care about school or extracurriculars. Encourage your kids to become involved in activities that make them happy instead. Use positive language at home, and have your kids use positive language when they talk about poor experiences. This way, you can work through situations together in the best way possible.
While you teach your kids by modeling good behavior, also promote self-love by focusing on the good about them. When teens need braces, for example, tie them to better health, not looks. 99.7% of adults believe a healthy smile is socially important. Rather than making this about beauty, make it about health. Discuss how proper alignment of their teeth and jaw reduces problems, such as migraines or jaw pain as adults. Talk about how it makes it easier to brush and floss so they reduce their risk of cavities. Compliment their good qualities beyond good looks, too. Make sure that you compliment your kids' skills, brains, and values at least twice as often as you do their looks. Kids need to hear that they are valued for more than being pretty.
Compliment Your Teen's Brain and Efforts
Compliment children based on the effort expended to accomplish something, not innate talent. This encourages a good work ethic. For example, when your teen aces an exam, say, "You studied so hard for that test, and it paid off. Congratulations on your A." Compliment their work effort to earn the grade or money for a car. Model the same type of behavior by showing them early on that work leads to success. When they see you behave lazily, they will do that, too. When they hear you compliment native talent, they will think that's all a person needs. When you re-frame and lead by example, they learn.
You can help your teens develop self-confidence and improve their self-esteem. Why wait until they become teenagers, though? Begin practicing these habits while parenting small children and watch your children blossom into confident, caring teens capable of self-care and accomplishment.
Devin is a writer and an avid reader. When she isn't lost in a book or writing, she's busy in the kitchen trying to perfect her slow cooker recipes. You can find her poetry published in The Adirondack Review and Cartridge Lit.