Confidence Scores Higher Than Your Teen's ACT or SAT Scores
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Confidence Scores Higher Than Your Teen's ACT or SAT Scores

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Confidence Scores Higher than Your Teen’s ACT or SAT Scores

by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

Going back to school ads are everywhere. We are preparing our teens and tweens to take the ACT and the SAT. We are talking to them about their futures. What do they want to be when they finish college? Where do they want to go to college? Where are the best schools to send their scores?

These are important questions, and it’s good that you’re talking to your child about her future. Parents who stay engaged and keep the lines of communication open raise the most happy and successful children. But do you talk to your children about one of the most shaping aspects of their lives?

Confidence is probably one of the most important traits you can impart on your children. It’s ironic that this is never mentioned, because nothing determines your child’s success or ability to achieve as much as their confidence. Many parents believe confidence is something you are born with; you either have it or you don’t. Nothing can be further from the truth. Confidence is a skill you can teach your child. Not only that, but your children can actually learn to take actions that will help them build confidence in only a few weeks.

Suggestions for teens to help build confidence:

If you have low self-esteem, you may have trouble engaging in these actions. Remember, you have to act like you’re confident first. Then you will begin to feel confident. How do confident people act?

1. Confident teens make eye contact. I know it’s difficult. Practice by talking to the mirror and looking at your reflection in the eyes.

2. Stand up straight. Your parents have told you this forever, but when you stand up straight you present yourself as being more confident. Watch people on the news; they always have perfect posture.

3. Be willing to put yourself out there. This may be difficult for shy teens, but remember you’re just acting. You can expect to feel more confident the more you practice.

4. Smile. When you smile you disarm the other person, and he will usually smile back. Even if he doesn’t, it’s still an instant mood booster for you.

5. Stay in control. You can stay in control by preparing for events prior to their occurrence. That big test coming up? Schedule times to study each day prior to the test. Life is stressful enough; if you break every big project down into small steps, you will be able to handle the biggest projects in a timely manner.

6. Don’t be a doormat for some else’s stupidity. If you don’t feel good about yourself even though you try so hard to be accepted, you may sometimes go along with friends who do stupid, risky stunts that you know are wrong. This makes you feel worse about yourself, and you are empowering your stupid “wannabe friends” to be even more stupid.

Suggestions for parents to help their teens build confidence:

1. Every teen wants to be popular. The desire for popularity can make most teens feel insecure and doubt themselves. Parents can really help by having an honest talk with their teens. Your teens needs to talk with you about how they view themselves, what they really expect from their friends and what they want their school years to mean to them.

2. Volunteering is a wonderful way to help your teen learn confidence-building skills. The economy has taken a toll on summer jobs for kids. Help encourage your teen to take a couple of weeks before school starts and volunteer. There are churches, assisted living homes, daycares, and parks looking for help. Everyone can use a good volunteer.

3. Get your child involved in extra curricular activities. Nothing builds confidence more than being surrounded by other people who share the same interests. Doing what they love is one of the first steps for building confidence.

4. Go over your teens’ homework plans for the fall. They may act like they hate it and hate you for doing this, but teens need their parents’ involvement and attention when it comes to being academically successful.

5. Your teens will feel more confident if they look the part. Take them school shopping for clothes. Look at magazines together and decide which clothes will accentuate your teen’s body. There is nothing worse then seeing a growing teen dressed in clothes that are too skimpy, too faddish, or too sloppy. Help your teen understand that each person she meets will may judge her on her clothing. This will affect how your teen is treated.

By following these steps, your teens can work their ways to more confidence.


Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at and more about Rapini at


Start Talking features succinct yet lively answers, sample conversations, and real life stories to help open the door to better mother/daughter communication. Rapini and Sherman have compiled more than 113 questions girls (and their moms) routinely ask – or should be asking – about health, sex, body image, and dating.