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Self-esteem is a quality that allows us to feel good about ourselves. It is elementary to notice when you may not be feeling good about yourself. But, it is easy to miss the signs of low self-esteem in adolescents

Do you know that when teens are not feeling good, they may not interact with people, be overly critical of themselves, lack confidence, doubt themselves, feel they are not as good as their peers, and think of the times when they failed rather than when they did things well?

On the other hand, a teen with high self-esteem feels liked, confident, and accepted. They usually think about themselves, believe in themselves, and feel life will turn out well. 

As a parent, you want the best for your child. This is why you should be alert about signs of low self-esteem in your teens. We hate to say this, but when low self-esteem is not corrected early on, it can overshadow your child's entire life.

The long-term effects of low self-esteem 

Healthy self-esteem is a prerequisite for your child to have a prosperous, happy life. If teens lack this vital quality, they may lack confidence in relating to others, making it difficult to establish positive relationships. They will not be able to thrive in social environments, including the workplace. 

They will be bullied in school and college, and possibly at work.

This will affect their career prospects. 

Coming to relationships, they will not be able to hold their own with their families and partners. 

Other ways in which self-esteem matters to teens are:

  1. It gives them the confidence to try new things. 
  2. They feel proud of their capabilities. 
  3. They cope with mistakes well. This helps them try again, helping them do well in academics, jobs, and marriages.
  4. They do not let others treat them poorly.
  5. They leave abusive situations.
  6. They stand up for themselves.
  7. They are more goal-oriented.
  8. They make friends quickly.
  9. They actively learn new skills. 
  10. They feel understood and accepted.
  11. They accept themselves for who they are. 

Leading causes of low self-esteem in teenagers

Disapproving parents

Yes, it's true. Your behavior towards your teen is first on this list. 

Withholding love from your child and pointing to their faults, especially in front of others, can dent their self-esteem for life. You are not only taking your love and approval away from them but removing the only sense of security they know by doing so. 

This can cause your teen to start second-guessing their decisions and feel insecure. They also start feeling that they have done something wrong all the time and try to overcompensate by pleasing people, avoiding conflict, and withdrawing emotionally. 

If such a form of behavior continues, their low self-esteem gets reinforced.

Using fear and punishment to teach 

We may think that physical punishment can do good to a child. But we are way off the mark here. Research proves that fear can generate low self-esteem in a child at any age. 

Fear in the classroom can do the same. When a teacher hits children, they may develop extremely low self-esteem, and this, as you know, sticks for life.

Shaming children for not getting good grades so they perform well can lead to poor self-esteem. You are reinforcing in their psyche that they are not good enough on their own. They learn that they are good enough if they get good grades at school. Linking their self-esteem to their performance, hence, is a big no-no. 


Bullying by peers, parents, teachers, and other authority figures can harm healthy self-esteem. Research on teens has shown that bullied kids are more prone to committing suicide. 

Childhood trauma, like physical or sexual abuse, is another notable cause of low self-esteem in kids. 

Low self-esteem is linked to mental health issues like depression, anhedonia, or lack of enjoyment. Your teen may thus go through life not believing in themselves, comparing themselves negatively to others, and feeling inadequate.

How do you improve self-esteem?

It is a long, lonely journey to overcome low self-esteem. And here is how you can help your teen in doing so:

  • The causes of low self-esteem are most likely to be rooted in teenage and early childhood. This means there is no one perfect age to begin recovering from low self-esteem. But the journey to healing from low self-esteem can start when it starts.
  • As a parent, if you notice your teen withdrawing from others, acting scared or subdued, you should try to get to the bottom of this behavior and not let it go as a regular part of growing up.
  • Counseling and psychotherapy are options that are very useful in understanding teenage behaviors. Unless you know for sure what the problem is, you can't treat it.
  • The wounds to low self-image are indeed profound, and recovery usually begins when children get help repairing the small child inside them so they can believe in themselves and be at peace with the world again.

You, as a parent, have the most extraordinary power to build your teen's self-esteem. 

Help your teen to learn by doing new things

In the teen years, there is so much a kid can learn to do. Learning new skills helps build healthy self-esteem.

  1. Help your teen learn how to dress well, play, swim, dance, or ride a bike to grow self-esteem.
  2. Be fulsome with praises. Praise wisely and never overdo it. Your teen will know!
  3. Always praise the effort your teen has put in rather than the output. 
  4. Don't praise your teen for their fixed qualities, like being cute or fair. Praise them for the qualities they have learned, like dressing well or learning to keep their room clean. 
  5. Praise your teen for attitude, effort, and progress. 
  6. Say, "I love you because you put in so much effort." don't say," I love you because you are so beautiful."
  7. Be a great role model. Your teen will follow your example. So, always practice what you preach. Treat others with respect. And see your teen do the same. 
  8. Model the right attitude. This counts because your teen will follow the example you set. 
  9. Never rebuke your teen. This will be accepted by the teens subliminal as they are not good enough. Instead of saying harsh words like an idiot or stupid, say you behaved stupidly or foolishly this time. Instead of saying-" You are a failure.", use words     like" You failed this time."  
  10. The thing to remember is to criticize the behavior. Criticize laziness, tardiness, and attitude - but never label your child as lazy or immoral. And not the child.
  11. Remember, harsh words are never motivating. When teens hear them, it scars them for life. 
  12. Be patient. Just focus on what you want your teen to do next time after they have failed once and show them how to do so. 
  13. Focus on your teen's strengths. Always pay attention to what your kid enjoys doing. Then help her develop their strengths and skills in the tasks they do well and enjoy. 
  14. Focus on strengths more than weaknesses. This will help your teen feel better and develop a healthier self-esteem. 
  15. Let kids fail. It sounds tough to do, but remember, failure is a part of growing up and building healthy self-esteem. 
  16. Don't get over-involved in your teen's life- When parents get over-involved, the child has a higher chance of having low self-esteem. 
  17. Set healthy goals- Set goals that are achievable or just a bit tough. This way, your kid will develop more confidence in her abilities to navigate life.
  18. Show love. This one is at the bottom of the list because it is the hardest. Adults who have not learned to love themselves become very toxic. They make harsh, critical parents. If you follow these behaviors, do take time out to check in on your inner world. See how you can learn to accept yourself better. Only if you love and get yourself can you do the same with others, especially your kids.

Love is the answer

Never withhold love. And know that every child is a complete human being in their own right. You have no right to trespass their boundaries, even if you do it for their good!

Learn to look at your child from a place of love and guide them compassionately. This will help them achieve their fullest potential by developing healthy self-esteem in their teens.