Be their biggest fan: Helping Teen Boys Improve Low Self-EsteemAlthough the issue of low self-esteem in girls is a frequent topic of discussion these days, their male counterparts are being all but ignored; this probably owing to the strength and prevalence of the numerous male role models available for their adoption and admiration. How can boys suffer from low self-esteem, when they are constantly being bombarded with images of mighty superheroes and all-powerful athletes, handsome and oh so tough action stars who can fight their way through any crisis? Well as it turns out, this might be the whole problem. When teen boys compare themselves or try to equal these brawny, super confident, and impossibly strong heroes, they are bound to come up short—at least in their own inspiration.
How Poor Self-Esteem Affects BoysSelf-esteem is how a person feels about themself and because self-esteem is often tied to emotions, changes in self-esteem are not uncommon as children transition into adolescence. A confident child who loves the spotlight may begin to shrink into the background as they enter their teen years. Teenagers begin to face new pressures and scrutiny from peers, teachers, and parents. The expectations are higher and teen boys may find that pressure has a negative effect on their self-esteem. Some signs of poor self-esteem include:
- Your child avoids a task or challenge without even trying. This often signals a fear of failure or a sense of helplessness.
- He quits soon after beginning a game or a task, giving up at the first sign of frustration.
- He becomes controlling, bossy, or inflexible as ways of hiding feelings of inadequacy, frustration, or powerlessness.
- He makes excuses or downplays the importance of events and uses this kind of rationalizing to place blame on others or external forces.
- His grades in school have declined, or he has lost interest in usual activities.
- He withdraws socially, losing or having less contact with friends.
- He experiences changing moods, exhibiting sadness, crying, angry outbursts, frustration, or quietness.
- He makes self-critical comments, such as “I never do anything right,” or “Everyone is smarter than I am.”
- He has difficulty accepting either praise or criticism.
- He becomes overly concerned or sensitive about other people’s opinions of him.
- He seems to be strongly affected by negative peer influence, adopting negative attitudes
Helping Boys Boost Self EsteemAs a parent, you yourself hold the unique superpower needed to provide your teen boy with help for low self-esteem: your love for your very special son.
- Introduce him to the concept of smoke and mirrors. Inform your teen that the superhero characters they admire are totally fictional, possessing powers that—in truth—no human being could possess. In regards to pro athletes, advise them that they benefit from years of professional training. And about their top action movie stars, remind them that the vast majority of them employ stunt doubles to film and reenact their feats of daring; and that in regards to their image, most celebrity photos are professionally staged–employing pro lighting, airbrushing and touch-ups, and advanced hair and body makeup services to achieve flawless results.
- Become your teen boy’s biggest fan. If your son scores a third-place win in a bocci ball competition, treat this honor with the same praise and esteem you would a gold medal in an Olympic sport. Let him know that every achievement is an important and well-earned one; this in itself is a powerful help for low self-esteem.
- If your son does express an interest in bodybuilding or weightlifting, be sure that he approaches this sport in a moderate and healthy manner. The frightening fact is that 38 percent of middle school boys have reported using protein supplements and that nearly 6 percent admitted to steroid experimentation. Encourage them to achieve their fitness goals through sensible diet and exercise, alerting them of the dangers of steroid abuse.
- Let him know that intellectually driven activities such as reading and studying are in themselves empowering, and can lead eventually to high-powered careers. The promise of intellectually driven success is in itself ample help for low self-esteem.
- Talk about different, not better. It’s important to emphasize the child’s unique qualities and boys need to know that we all have different abilities and grow and learn at different rates.
- More varied role models. Showcasing alternatives to the athletic culture with male role models like artists, teachers, chefs, musicians, shows boys there are different, legitimate ways they can follow their talents and still be valued.
- Get them involved with voluntary or community projects that make a difference to someone else to develop a more positive opinion of themselves.