Confidence is something our culture encourages, yet attacks on a daily basis, especially through the constant comparison encouraged by social media. But Brooks Wilkening, a Bethel Seminary graduate and confidence coach, says that confidence is a mindset that can be chosen and developed. “Confidence equips kids to listen to their own voice,” she explains, “and to be grounded in truth, instead of easily swayed by our culture’s many lies.” So how do parents instill this kind of confidence in their kids? Here are five ways:
1. Get in the game.
How you engage—or choose not to engage—in your teen’s mental health will directly impact them. This is hard for many parents to hear, but acceptance of this issue, or the inability to accept it, greatly impacts kids’ mental health. If your teen is not struggling with mental health challenges, they most likely know someone who is. Parents need to open their hearts and minds to the truth of our current reality. This may mean they need to do some personal work themselves, to begin to get some language around their own feelings and recognize their own tendencies. If parents don’t have the language of healthy dialogue, they can’t teach it to their kids. Kids are in this reality already, and parents have to get in the game.
2. Claim truth.
The best way to silence a lie is to claim the truth. Mental health challenges like anxiety and depression lie. Low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence lie too. They tell kids—and sometimes parents—how to feel about themselves. They tell bold yet hard-to-decipher lies, like “I’m not valued. I’m not worthy. I’m not loved.” Parents must learn to call out these lies, and claim truth instead, in their own lives and in the lives of their kids. To do that, use the truth of Scripture. Consider verses like these:
“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV).
“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you receive the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15 NKJV).
3. Notice what’s not obvious.
Learn to look beyond the words your teen might be using to see the underlying, unspoken message. Most behavior, conversation, and interactions are fueled by our feelings about ourselves. Kids are not always great communicators, but they are great perceivers. They are constantly taking in the stimuli around them and trying to make sense of it. So notice what’s not obvious in their explanations. If this is not your strength, pray for it. Ask God to give you eyes that see beyond the surface and see your child with a deeper sense of compassion.
4. Encourage time alone.
Many kids—and even many parents—equate being alone with being lonely. With the distractions of technology, kids have not learned how to spend time alone in constructive ways. They haven’t learned to manage their minds and to engage in positive self-talk. This is a critical skill for adulthood and one that needs to be built. It’s like training for a new skill in a sport—players spend hours practicing so when the time comes they have a well-practiced skill ready in that moment. Our thoughts are like that too. We need to train them, prepare them, and practice the skill of positive mindset so that when we are pressed, we have the skill ready to go! Parents need to encourage kids to have alone space to build this muscle.
5. Pray specifically.
Mia, a teen who competed in gymnastics, was performing a vault in competition. As she ran down the runway, she tripped on the edge of the mat. It looked like the vault would be a disaster, and worse, she might be injured, but instead she adjusted her movement, saved the vault, and landed on her feet. This is what parents need to pray for in their kids’ lives—not that they will never trip, because they will. But when mistakes inevitably come, that they know how to take the fall and land on their feet. Parents can pray specifically for their child’s mind, for the thoughts entering it, and for the lies they’re hearing to be covered in the truth.
Brooks Wilkening contributed her expertise to this blog post. She is a 2009 graduate of Bethel Seminary’s marriage and family therapy (MFT) program, has been a youth pastor for 25 years, and has been counseling teens and adults for 15 years. And she’s the mother of four teens, one of whom is a first year student at Bethel University. Transformative preparation for high-impact work like Brooks’ is offered at Bethel Seminary in areas like ministry, leadership, and counseling. If you’re considering next steps in your educational journey, we can help you explore your options and equip you to serve and lead in ways that make an eternal impact.