Helping Your Teens with Their Sense of Power

In my last post, I discussed helping your teenagers have a healthy sense of personal power to raise their self-esteem. However, developing a healthy sense of power is a tricky process since it requires a true balance that is well-placed and very clear.

What happens when a teen’s power is out of balance?

When teenagers are allowed to have too much power, they have unhealthy social experiences. For example, if they believe they are better than their peers, they will be labeled as egocentric and snobs. They may take unnecessary risks because they feel like they have superhuman abilities.  Or, they may become like bullies in their attitudes and treatment of others.

Out of balance power issues can cause family conflict

On the other hand, if your teenagers feel chronically powerless, inadequate, useless or clumsy they can easily develop severe hopelessness. They can be quick to give up trying because they do not believe they can make a difference within their own lives or lives of others. Their attitude becomes “what’s the use if I already know I am going to fail!”

Strangely enough, sometimes there can be a paradox: they may feel too powerful in some ways and impotent in others. Often, we have seen teenagers with complete power to make their whole family miserable while they feel powerless to change that circumstance. They are simultaneously caught in both extremes of the continuum of power.  Naturally, this is perplexing and confusing to teenagers and their parents.

Turmoil necessitates that parents and caregivers be clear and intentional about the issue of power in the lives of their teenagers.

17 ways to build a teen’s healthy sense of power

Here are some ways you can provide your teenager with a healthy sense of power:

  • Be clear about the teenager’s responsibilities
  • Be clear about their expectations
  • Clearly describe the behaviors that you want changed
  • Express your own feelings, needs and issues,
  • Provide alternatives when planning activities
  • Let your teenagers know that they are responsible for managing their own feelings
  • Teach them how to relate to people in positive ways
  • Help them become aware of how they make decisions
  • Teach them how to explore and solve problems
  • Plan activities that will increase their chances of experiencing success
  • Allow them to do things that they can do well
  • Help them set limits for themselves
  • Avoid changing rules and procedures arbitrarily
  • Involve them in decisions that affect them
  • Develop ways for everyone to deal with grievances
  • Encourage them to take on more challenging tasks
  • Distribute family resources equitably among family members
interracial family
Developing healthy personal power is a process

Feel like this list is overwhelming? Actually, it gives parents areas to work on with your teenagers to help them have the right balance of power without over-reliance on you. (It is not in your teen’s best interest to have you handle everything.)

Two at a time

Try taking one or two of these suggestions to begin establishing a more healthy process of working through power issues with your teenagers. By doing so, you will optimize the opportunity for them to feel like they have purpose, meaning and a true sense of value.

The right kind of personal power is a great gift to give to our teenagers.  It will be one of the building blocks toward a healthy self-esteem and empower their confidence!

Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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

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