How To Grow Your Tween’s Self-Esteem

My Mom has a friend whose daughter is having a difficult time in middle school, and it has spurred a few conversations. Apparently, she is not only being bullied by her peers, but by a parent who is texting her, and getting more catty then a Middle School student. WTF is that about? I can see getting involved in a productive way, but a grown woman texting a 12 year old and calling them awful names? There is definitely a problem here, and what are you teaching your kid?

Through a crazy twist of fate I ended up volunteering at the same dinner as this little girl. There was a situation and coincidentally I ended up sticking up for her. She reminded me of me. I didn’t know until later that night that it was the same girl. How awesome is that?

There are moments when I feel like that little girl. That tween who was just too innocent and naïve to be cool, and I realize that everyone was afraid of something at that age. We’re all afraid of something still! Hopefully, you find your Romy to your Michelle and make it through life less scathed.

My birthday is in August and the year I was going into 7th grade no one came to my birthday party. Before you feel sorry for me just know that while there are moments I’m haunted by this, it’s more that I’m haunted because I know some kid somewhere is facing the same struggle or worse.

It turns out the girls all conspired that I wasn’t “cool,” enough and they would RSVP and then just not show up. They thought that it was really funny, but for me I thought that it defined my worth. I’ve since forgiven those girls. One even apologized.

I was also that kid that just kept going back in for more because I just really wanted to be liked. The same girl that didn’t come to my birthday party was telling me to ask my Mom what a condom was so she could laugh at me. My poor mother was caught so off guard.

I know that it can be difficult. On one hand you want to help your kid, and on the other hand you want to teach them to fight their own battles. I think that we think that once kids are at that self-sufficient age of tying their own shoelaces, washing their own ass, and telling you that you’re annoying and they don’t need you. I’m pretty sure that I can tell you from experience that that is when they need you the most.

Beyond unconditional love, which is super important, here are a few things that may have helped me. I hope that everyone can help each other and it opens up a dialogue…

1. COMMUNICATION: How do you communicate? Do you communicate? Pass each other notes under the dinner table? Do you talk it out? Have a family meeting? Dance it out? What works for you? (Find a way!)

2. RESPECT: you can treat your kid with respect, respect their privacy, and still be aware of what they’re up to.

3. DA TRUF: Be honest and open with them. I didn’t know my Mom was ever 12.

4. WHERE ARE YOU WALKING: Teach them that sometimes the best answer is to take the high road…

5. LEAD BY EXAMPLE: Tell them that it’s okay to stick up for themselves, and know that you’re allowed to stick up for yourself too.

6. NO CELL PHONE RULE: Put your electronics down and really listen to your kids even if they’re being assholes. (Even if you think that they don’t deserve it) I’m not saying to coddle but I’m saying to treat them with respect.

7. YOU ARE WORTHY: Don’t put yourself down in front of them. This breeds similar behavior. Know your worth too!

8. THE SILENT TREATMENT: If they won’t talk to you find someone in your life, maybe even a neutral person that they will talk to and make sure that they are super present.

9. CONTROL: Be specific with your words, and honest about yourself. Do you mean right now or can you wait for them to complete a task? Don’t ask them to do something later, but you mean right now. (I felt like I had no control as a kid.)

10. VALIDATE their worth, their likes, their dreams and goals. They may be different from yours. Their accomplishments. Let them know that you’re proud of them.

11. MISTAKES: Remember that we can all learn from our mistakes, and we’re allowed to make them.

12. LET IT GO! If we can learn one thing from Frozen, Let It Go. Are their things that you can let go of, but you just can’t? Is the end result is the same, but the task at hand is performed in a different way? “You never help! Why don’t they help?
Or do they just not help YOUR way? Is it just what they do is not good enough? It’s okay to let it go.

13. EXPECTATIONS: Expect Less, Encourage More. Strive for excellence not perfection. No one is perfect. Everyone is an individual, we all learn differently, we all have different talents. We all have our limits, and if we set an unreasonably high standard for someone, that person will always let you down. They will feel like they’re letting you down, and that will make them feel inadequate.

14. STOP beating yourself up, parents. There will come a point when your kids realize that you were just doing the best that you can.

15. BE PRESENT

Photo courtesy of thebluecloset.com.

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