Building Your Teenager’s Self-Esteem: Power

The idea of a teen’s power is often not the focus when discussing a teenager’s self esteem. But when you think about it, teens often feel powerless.

Loss of power leads to low self-esteem

group of teens
A healthy sense of power is critical to good self-esteem

Consider that teenagers are at an in-between stage: not able to do many of the things adults can do, nor can fully handle being independent. Also, their brains and bodies are undergoing radical changes; so, they have a sense of being out-of-control of their own development. Consequently, the powerlessness resulting from these issues can lead to lowered self-esteem.

When adolescents are able to claim power, to experience a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, their self-esteem can grow and be enhanced.

A healthy sense of power means that teenagers:

  • believe they can usually do what they set out to do
  • know they can get what they need in order to do what they have to do, meaning that they can make decisions
  • feel they are in charge of important things
  • feel comfortable fulfilling responsibilities
  • learn to solve problems
  • learn to deal with stress and pressure
  • have opportunities to use their skills

On the other hand, teenagers that have problems with power may:

  • be stubborn or bossy
  • act helpless, give up easily, be unable to handle frustrations well
  • feel physically awkward and incompetent
  • avoid taking on responsibilities
  • avoid challenges
  • have poor emotional control
  • try to gain power over others
  • interfere with the rights and needs of others in a manipulative way

Where does your teen fall on the continuum?

When a teenager has a healthy sense of power, his behavior falls somewhere in the middle on the continuum between attempting to claim too much power and avoiding or refusing to claim healthy and appropriate power.

Continuum of power
Where does your teen fall?

It is a bit tricky at times to recognize where your teen is on the continuum between these two extremes.  However, it is important for parents and caregivers to recognize “healthy power” and a sense of “having little or no power” in their teenager in order to help him maintain a healthy view of his power and capabilities.

To be aware and understand their personal sense of power for activities, accomplishments and relationships is a significant part of your teenager’s self-esteem.

In my next post, we will look at some ways to instill healthy power in your teenager.

Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

*Some information taken from Understanding Teens, Diane Wagenhals, 2007.

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