“What does every mother want for her daughter?”
This question has long guided my work. It even led me to the name of my business.
A few things I know for sure: Every mother wants her daughter to be happy and safe. Every mother wants to launch her daughter into the world and to see her fulfill her potential.
To me, you can sum up these hopes with one word: confidence.
Then, I wondered about what every mother wants for herself as she tries to raise her daughter. Again, I came up with the same answer: confidence. Free of worry, second guesses, and fatigue, a mother wants to feel she has prepared her daughter for the world.
It sounded good. But then I thought further… How does someone get this coveted confidence? And what is it exactly anyway?
As you’ve likely noticed the teen years are not a stage of life that’s brimming with steady confidence. For some girls it comes and goes, and for others it never seems to show up at all.
And when it comes to being a parent, I don’t need to tell you that you’ll often feel more worry than confidence.
As you parent her in these years it’s important not to focus on individual incidents that represent her lack of confidence but rather focus on the big picture of her growth toward confidence as a young woman.
How to spot teenage confidence when you see it
Confidence is part of the teenage experience. When is it likely to emerge and how can you encourage it to show up more often?
First, let’s explore what confidence in a teen actually looks like.
Here’s my list. What would you add?
Confidence is about being comfortable.
Comfort with making mistakes
Comfort with trying something new
Comfort with not knowing and with learning
Comfort with being silly
Comfort with saying NO.
with asking questions
with having goals and dreams
with expressing needs
with with being the smartest kid on the block.
with loving her body and explore what it is capable of beyond sex appeal
with starting over
with being angry -even at you
with saying I am sorry
with being stuck
with not knowing what she wants to be when she grows up
with listening to herself and know when she is uncomfortable
with not having to do what everyone else is doing
with taking risks
with asking for help
with being vulnerable and share her tears
with speaking out about what she thinks is not right
You Can Help Build Her Confidence
The teenagers who have let me into their most vulnerable worlds have taught me that confidence is a work in progress. Confidence is something they really want and are very willing to learn.
As a parent you sit in the most influential seat in the house. Here are ten ways you can wield that influence and support her on her way toward building lasting confidence over time.
1. Understand that the teenage years are inherently a scary time and confidence is something that comes and goes.
2. Know that what you say contributes to how she understands herself. You have more influence – both good and bad – than you realize.
3. Your daughter is seeking to understand herself. Take this opportunity to step in. Show her and tell her why she is valuable.
4. She needs permission not to be perfect. She doesn’t need to have it all figured out. You can help her value the journey rather than the destination.
5. She needs encouragement and support to explore what she is capable of whether that’s in art, sports, drama, music, animals, or the outdoors. All these experiences help her know her potential and opportunities as a young woman.
6. She want you to engage her in thinking critically about her world in a way that’s fun and exciting so so she can learn to disagree and be challenged in a positive atmosphere.
7. She needs to see you be vulnerable so she can learn how to take risks too.
8. She need you to be okay with the fact that she is taking risks.
9. She needs you to be okay with her identity experiments even if you don’t like them.
Finding confidence for yourself as a parent and for her as a teenager will come and go. That is the nature of this stage of life for both of you.
Always remember that this is a process and not a destination for both of you. Know one has perfect confidence. But you can have acceptance of the ups and downs, both of you are experiencing on your way to finding comfort with being human.
In full support of your awesome relationship with your teen daughter
Josie Bohling, MFT