Building Your Teenager’s Self-Esteem Through Healthy Role Models

For building healthy self-esteem, the fourth component of CUPS is the “S,” which stands for your teenagers to have a sense of role models in their lives. We already know that during a teenager’s development many identity questions arise; so does a teen’s dependence on others (in order to gain approval and to learn who they want to be like).

Who are your teenager’s role models?

teen with handgun
Role models have significant impact on teens

A role model significantly impacts a teenager’s development.  Without a strong sense of a role model,  a teenager can become unsure of himself. In the absence of a standard to live up to, he may not be able to tell if he is successful. Yet, if he identifies too much with a role model, then the result of his behavior can be total conformity, with little or no creativity or spontaneity.

Teenagers who have a healthy sense of role models:

  • know people who are worthy models
  • are exposed to worthwhile philosophical and operational models
  • grow confident in their ability to distinguish right from wrong
  • have established values and beliefs
  • have a broad range of experiences
  • develop the ability to work toward goals
  • can make sense out of what is going on in their lives
  • are clear about the standards by which their performance in work, school, family, community will be evaluated
  • know how to learn
  • have a sense of order

Teenagers who have problems identifying with and imitating models in a healthy way may:

  • be chronically confused, depressed or anxious about completing tasks
  • be unable to set goals
  • be disorganized, sloppy, mopey
  • have trouble making decisions, even about what to say
  • be obsessive and rigid in insisting that there is only one way to do something
  • have difficulty with ethical or moral values and behaviors
  • shy away from new experiences
  • try to be like others with whom they relate

The reason for healthy role models

girl climbing rock
Teens use role models to determine their own success.

Real life role models provide our teenagers with images to study, copy and emulate.  If they are able to observe and idealize, they can have a clearer sense of their own purpose, life’s meaning and direction.  These role models provide goals and a means by which to measure success in achieving those goals.

The adage of children and teenagers living more what is “caught than taught” is an important truth to recognize as we surround them with positive and stable role models.

Parents, on behalf of your teenagers, please give attention to role models. Intentional activity in this component will benefit your teen’s self-esteem.

In my next post, I will make suggestions as to how to help our teenagers work through their need for a healthy role model.

Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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

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