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How Positive Thinking Boosts Tween Self-Esteem & How to Teach It

by Nongirly
mom trying to build self-esteem in her teen

The tween years, ages 8 to 12, are ripe with growth. They are more independent but still need a lot of guidance. This is also the time they experience changes in their bodies. With this in mind, it is crucial for parents to build self-esteem in their teens.

Other changes happen in their thinking. They go from thinking mostly about themselves to caring what their peers think about them. These changes may cause them to feel awkward or embarrassed. This can lead to low self-esteem.

The way your tween thinks determines how they see themselves. It is also how they perceive the world around them. If you can teach your child to think positively, they will have a better view of themselves and their life.

Learning how to build self-esteem in ourselves, let alone someone else, can feel overwhelming. A good place for tweens to begin is through positive self-talk

What Is Positive Thinking?

Positive thinking is a coping skill and tool for social-emotional learning. Your tween will use the repetition of positive affirmations to train their brain. This helps them to view difficult situations by focusing on their strengths. It can also be an opportunity to view the same situation as a learning experience—a chance for personal growth.


Your tween is working on a project, and they make a mistake. Their typical response to this could be, “I’m so stupid” or, “Why do I always mess everything up?” In this example, they are using self-doubt and negative self-talk to express frustration.

Positive thinking requires flipping those thoughts and negative affirmations to something positive. Instead, they could use positive self-talk and say, “I made a mistake, but I can fix this,” or, “I know I can do this.”

This allows your child to slow down and view the situation from a different perspective. It is also a great way to build self-esteem. It’s also important they know negative feelings aren’t bad. Sometimes life is hard. It’s important that we all try to move forward from the situation in a positive and productive way. 

How to Teach Positive Thinking to Your Tween

Building self-esteem in your tween can be a struggle. They are moody and indecisive, and may struggle to manage their behavior. They are also less likely to sit down and have an honest conversation with you. This makes it difficult to know when their self-esteem has taken a hit.

How Do You Help Them?

Watch for warning signs:

  • Looking at the ground when talking to someone
  • Negative comments or self-talk
  • Putting others down
  • Slouching or droopy posture
  • Overly apologetic
  • Bragging excessively

These are just some of the warning signs that your tween is struggling with low self-esteem.

Steps to improve low self-esteem:

  • Focus on the things they do, the attempts to accomplish their goals. Don’t focus on perfection.
  • Reinforce positive self-talk. If they are speaking negatively about themselves or things in their life—like, “I’ll never understand this!”—tell them, “I know it’s hard, but can we say this instead: ‘It’s going to take time to understand. I can do this.’” Then, ask them to repeat it.
  • Ask them about their day. Try questions like, “What was something good that happened today?” or, “What are 3 things you enjoyed about your day?” These questions are direct and require specific, positive answers.
  • Encourage them to help others. Actively helping someone else allows them a new perspective on their own life. It also feels good to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
  • Buy them a new journal. This one will be specifically for writing good things about their day inside it. When they are having a bad day, they can go back and read something from another day, and it might help them change how they feel about today.
  • Be positive. You can’t ask your child to do something you are not willing to do yourself and expect it to work. Choose to try these exercises together. It will surprise you how much you grow together.

Change won’t happen overnight. It may also feel silly or uncomfortable for both of you at first. But, if you make the effort together, you will see changes for the better and have a much happier, more self-confident tween. Find more advice on helping your tween child at Nongirly.

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