Parenting Teenagers

Does Your Teenager Struggle with Confidence?

empowering your teenager Nov 03, 2022

Recently, I had an experience that demonstrated the process for overcoming a fearful situation.


So here is what happened…


During a workshop I was facilitating on social media a parent shared a frustrating situation followed by the obvious question… she said that her 15 year old son is constantly on his phone playing games.  They have talked about it and even threatened to take away his phone but nothing has changed.  She went on to say that it has gotten so bad that even her younger son has been complaining to his older brother because they never play together any more. She was clearly frustrated and asked …”What can I do to get him to put his phone down?”   


I offered some suggestions but I could tell that none of them provided any helpful insights for her.  In short, I wasn't helpful or effective at that moment.   


Consequently, I left the workshop feeling disappointed and questioning whether I really have what it takes to help others.  It was a blow to my confidence.  


We have all been there… right?  Those times where you just aren’t effective … you just don’t get it … or you don’t feel good enough.   These thoughts are the seeds for a breakdown in confidence.    


I bring this up because this is exactly what your teenager is going through and the first step towards empowering them involves compassion from you as the parent, followed by acknowledging and validating where they are. This step is critical because it allows any negative emotions and more importantly fear to dissipate. Remember before your teenager will open up and see a fearful circumstance as an opportunity for growth they have to feel safe.  


In fact, this is the key step that as parents we sometimes rush through or skip all together. So let me repeat. Until your teenager’s negative emotions and fear have dissipated, they are not in a position to listen to any of your good advice or words of encouragement.  In order to move them to a place of safety, we need to engage with compassion while acknowledging and validating what they are experiencing.


So how did this play out for me? 


Fortunately, my wife was in the audience that night.  On the ride home, I shared my disappointment.  At that moment, I remember questioning myself and experiencing the fear of not being good enough.  My wife was awesome. She engaged with compassion.  Then acknowledged and validated what I was experiencing and reminded me that I wouldn’t feel disappointed if I didn’t really care about helping other parents.  Her approach provided a safe place for me and eventually my fear and disappointment began to dissipate.   As this happened, my focus naturally shifted to what I could learn from this experience and how I could serve the mother from the workshop. In effect, fixing my mistake.  


By now we were about halfway home. As I thought back on the workshop, it occurred to me that I could have done a better job of  acknowledging and validating what the mother was experiencing. Helping her to feel supported so her frustration could dissipate.  Secondly, I could have asked a few more questions to understand more fully what was going on for her. This deeper understanding could have provided additional insight that would have led to a better response on my part. These ideas lead to a sense of hope about my ability to be more effective the next time. Then it occurred to me that I could reach out to her and ask for a do over. So I committed to sending an email acknowledging that I didn’t feel like my response was as helpful as I would have hoped and offering a complimentary coaching session to revisit her question.   


The last half of our car ride home  illustrates the second step for helping your teenager build confidence. Once they are feeling safe, shift the focus to lessons learned and how they can serve others.    


As we pulled into the driveway, instead of being afraid of standing in front of the room at my next workshop my confidence was back.  Over the 20 minute car ride, I had gone from being frustrated, disappointed and afraid to excited about the possibilities that lie ahead . 


My example demonstrates three basic ideas. 


A return to safety - The critical step that shouldn’t be rushed or skipped all together. 

A return to hope

A shift from being self focused to others focused.


These three ideas can be very powerful to anyone experiencing a lack of confidence, especially your teenager.


Peace be with you,


Jim White

Family Enrichment Coach





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