Parents are rightly concerned about the self-esteem of their teens. It is important to feel confident and self-assured. Equally important, however, is the need to learn to accept and benefit from constructive criticism. You can help your child develop this skill without damaging her self-esteem.
First of all, it is important to use praise effectively. When you praise your adolescent, it should be when he does something praiseworthy. Teens actually lose confidence when praised for poor quality performance. For example, if your son skips baseball practice the day before an important game and consequently plays poorly, he should not be praised for it. If you say, “Sorry you lost. You did your best,” he will think he must be a really terrible player. He knows he did not play his best, but you just told him he did.
Second, your child needs to connect his success to how hard he works. If he really feels he is a terrible player, then he has no motivation to work to improve; but if he connects his poor performance to the fact that he didn’t practice enough, he will want to work harder. Rather than telling him he did his best, ask him, “How do you think you played today?” Follow that with a discussion about how he can improve next time. In this way, you are teaching your child to accept constructive criticism. If he attends all practices and works hard, his skills will improve, and he will play better.
It is important to be able to accept suggestions for improvement. Obviously, it helps in school when teachers ask for better work. It might not be so obvious that it also leads to higher self-esteem. The secret is in the effective use of praise (only when deserved) and helping children connect their success to their hard work.