Ask Dr. Meg: How Can I Boost My Teenage Daughter’s Self-Esteem?

Teenage girls are growing up in a tough world. Make sure you’re building up her self-esteem by encouraging positive character, not just good performance.
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Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
January 9, 2017
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2
Minute Read

Dear Dr. Meg,

How important can sports and activities be to a teenage girl’s self-esteem building? How can we help her if she doesn’t make teams? And how can we boost her self-esteem, in general?

Sincerely,

Concerned Mother

Dear Concerned Mother,

The best way to help raise a girl’s self-esteem (at any age) is by having her father give her affection. How easy is that?

The best way to help raise a girl’s self-esteem is by having her father give her affection.

When a Dad hugs his daughter, she gets the extremely important message that he sees her and he likes what he sees. Her father’s feelings about her are far more important than her performance on any soccer field. Fathers have the potential to have the greatest impact on their daughters’ lives. Simply by being with them and paying attention to them, they can ensure their daughter will grow up to be a strong woman with great self-esteem. (There is so much research to back this up, I wrote an entire book on the topic.)

Beyond this, there are many other things that parents can do to boost self-esteem.

Fathers have the potential to have the greatest impact on their daughters’ lives.

First, pick out a character quality that your daughter has and applaud her for it. Is she patient, courageous or kind? Does she persevere during tough times? You get the idea. Focus on her character, not performance. It does hurt when girls fail to make teams or don’t get roles in the school play. But more important than the failure or acceptance is how you deal with either.

I have seen stellar athletes whose parents ogle over their successes but who feel that they need to keep performing to get their parents’ attention. So, when she fails to make a team, tell her that you’re sorry and move on. Don’t focus too much on sports in your home—focus on more important things like character, humility, how she gets along with her siblings, and faith.

That said, help her find what she’s gifted in and then try to find opportunities to help her use those gifts. Sometimes gifts are in music, the arts, or other sports, but sometimes they are outside of those things. Does she have a passion for animals, community service or children? Once you help her identify what she is passionate about and makes her come alive, then help her get involved and her-self esteem will improve.

A girl's self-esteem comes mostly from how her parents see her as a person, not as a performer.

But always remember, a teenage girl’s self-esteem comes mostly from how her parents see her as a person, not as a performer in one area or another. The thing a teenage girl needs most is affection from her parents, especially her father, and an assurance that they love her and think she is great no matter what.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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