Parents: Common False Beliefs in Teens
Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA
Many people have false beliefs about themselves that keep them from getting what they want. If you think back to your teenage years you’ll probably remember you had some of the same limiting beliefs then as you do now (e.g., being afraid to try new activities or try out for teams, feeling you never were able to keep up with others, etc.).
Similarly, if you notice false beliefs in your teen and think she will simply outgrow them with experience and age, think again. With age and experience also come tougher challenges which can help perpetuate the same old false beliefs. As such, it is wiser to nip these limiting beliefs now then allow them to spread and dominate.
How will you be able to identify any of the false beliefs your child has? Pay attention to your teen’s speech (negativity) and behaviour (avoidant or self-sabotaging). Your child’s habitual patterns are visible through her words and behaviour. You cannot separate her thoughts from who she presents herself to be in the world.
Watch out for these common false beliefs:
1. Self-judgement: A common false belief adults hold is “I am not good enough.” This belief tends to be picked up in childhood while kids are learning new skills and frequently making mistakes and are solidified in teen years as they try to figure out their identity. This is where the quality of parental feedback is extremely important. Encourage your teen to avoid basing her worth on the outcome of her actions.
2. Social fears: If you’ve noticed your teen is avoiding social situations there is a good chance she holds the belief “Others tend not to like me” or something similar. Thoughts like these are usually based on 1 or 2 bad experiences and are then generalized to all future experiences. Pay attention to your teen’s social habits and inquire about her reasoning.
3. Capability: One of the most used words by adults as well as teens are “I can’t. Others can but I can’t.” Usually there is an underlying fear of failure and what that failure really means. For many teens it feels safer not to try than to try and prove to self that “I knew I wasn’t good enough.” Clarify to your child that success often comes after many trial and errors. The learning lessons along the way are normal and important for growth.
4. Powerless: Another prevalent thought which circulates in society and which teens adopt as their own is “I can’t change it.” This type of thinking leads to giving up, feelings of hopelessness, dissatisfaction with life, anxiety, and depression. To challenge this thought, it’s important for parents to minimize modeling the victim mentality and take action more often. The more parents model to their kids that they can take action to change or repair a situation; the more likely teens will adopt this type of mentality.
5. Guilt: Guilt tends to be used if child has not done what was asked of her or if she made a major mistake. Repeated guilt-inducing parenting can lead child to feel she is bad and at fault for her inferiority. It can lead her to conclude “I deserve to feel bad for my inadequacy.” When a teen develops this guilt belief it can lead her to believe she deserves to feel bad about herself and deserves punishment. This affects her perceived self-worth and what she believes she deserves in life.
Now is the best time to empower yourself and your teens through positive parenting!
Best Wishes to Your Family!
Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach Toronto