242: 5 Ways to Boost Your Teen’s Confidence

Picture of hosted by Penny Williams

hosted by Penny Williams

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In this episode of the Beautifully Complex podcast, I outline five strategies to boost the confidence of neurodivergent teens and young adults. I emphasize the importance of leaning into a strengths-based approach, fostering a growth mindset, providing opportunities for talents, interests, and passions, making “time in” a part of the family culture, and being transparent about your humanness, frustration tolerance, grit, and resilience for your teens.

I share practical examples and insights on implementing these strategies to help you guide your neurodivergent kids towards building confidence and self-esteem.

3 Key Takeaways


Spending time with your teen, showing interest in what they’re interested in, bolsters both their confidence and your relationship.


Focus more on the positive and foster a growth mindset so the struggle doesn’t overwhelm your teen.


Provide opportunities for TIPs: talents, interests, and passions (TIP): Channel your teen’s interests and passions into productive outlets, such as volunteering, taking classes, joining clubs, or teaching others, to help them feel successful and spend time feeling good.

What You'll Learn

The importance of leaning into a strengths-based approach to help boost your teen’s confidence, and how to implement this strategy at home and school.

The significance of fostering a growth mindset in your teen and how to create a family culture that supports this mindset.

The concept of providing opportunities for your teen to engage in their talents, interests, and passions, and actionable examples to support and channel their interests into productive outlets.

The value of making time for your teen through “time in,” and how it contributes to building their confidence and sense of purpose.

The impact of showing your teen that you are a human being, and how being transparent about your own struggles and mistakes can model important life skills, such as frustration tolerance and resilience.


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Penny Williams [00:00:03]: Talents, interests, and passions,T-I-P, Those are the 3 things that really help to engage the neurodivergent brain. And so we're using those. We're harnessing that to help our kids to, one, have successes, but also to spend time feeling good. They need those times as well in their lives. Welcome to the Beautifully Complex podcast where I share insights and strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids straight from the trenches. I'm your host, Penny Williams. I'm a parenting coach, author, and mindset mama honored to guide you on the journey of raising your atypical kid. Let's get started.

Penny Williams [00:00:52]: Welcome back to the Beautifully Complex podcast. In this episode, I am going to outline for you Five ways to boost your teens' confidence. This works, of course, for young adults too. A lot of us have young adults at home still, And they need our help to boost their self esteem and their confidence and feel like they have a place in the world, They have a purpose in the world. All of those things are really important for our kids to feel good and to be able to succeed. And it takes some mindful effort from us, their parents or teachers, any of the adults in their lives to help them in this area. They get a lot of negative messaging as a neurodivergent individual. And we have to help to counterbalance that so that they can feel good about themselves to really engage in life and to be able to move forward and succeed in their own ways, whatever that looks like for them.

Penny Williams [00:02:03]: So I have 5 different strategies here that you can implement that will help to build your teens' or young adults' confidence and self esteem. So let's jump into them. Number 1 is to lean into a strengths based approach. We have to lean heavily on strengths. We have to use strengths to counterbalance weaknesses. We have to use them to help our kids do things that are a struggle for them. You want to highlight strengths, and focus heavily on their abilities. This goes for both home and school.

Penny Williams [00:02:47]: For example, if your teen struggles with chunking, planning, and sequencing a big task or a project, but they love video games where their character goes on some kind of quest to achieve something in the end, Then you can ask them how that task will be broken down, if they were going to complete it as a quest in their favorite game. Now you've really engaged them, their interest, their brain, into this task or project because you've attached something that they're interested in, that they care about, that they enjoy to the task. And that helps them to walk through that process that is often a struggle for them They're just looking at doing the process for something that is not of interest. Number 2 is to foster a growth mindset. And this should really be part of your family culture. We need to lean heavily into growth mindset with our kids, especially for neurodivergent kids who struggle with Achieving things in the same ways as their neurotypical peers for only looking at achievement, then they feel like they are not measuring up. We have to focus more on growth. So a growth mindset is an approach to learning and personal development that really emphasizes the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort and practice.

Penny Williams [00:04:28]: It is the belief that your skills and abilities are not fixed. They can be improved over time. A growth mindset focuses on embracing challenges, persisting through those obstacles and struggles, and to really learn from your mistakes. It encourages you to see failures as opportunities for growth, and to view the effort as the key piece that led to success. So we are focusing on effort, persistence, determination. We are not focusing on the outcome, the achievement. That is what growth mindset is. So here are some ways to foster growth mindset.

Penny Williams [00:05:15]: Encourage your kid to embrace challenges and to view those challenges as opportunities for growth instead of obstacles, instead of struggles, instead of something that they feel like they can't do. It is a means to actually better themselves. That's sort of the perspective. That's really helpful there. Again, we're celebrating effort. We're not celebrating achievement. And we need to be celebrating even those small efforts, people. Even a little bit of progress is progress.

Penny Williams [00:05:49]: It's a big deal for our kids. It's a big deal for our families. Celebrate all effort no matter how big or small. You can also remind them that failure isn't the end. It isn't the end of The journey, the quest, the task even, it is just a roadblock, a hurdle that they need to problem solve and work through. So you're looking at it as a stepping stone on that path or journey to their success. You're helping them look at it that way as well. But sometimes, we do.

Penny Williams [00:06:26]: We have to do the work ourselves to have a growth mindset about the struggles our kids are facing. And then the last piece of really fostering growth mindset, the last example that I wanna give you is to engage your teen in activities that are challenging but that are also doable. When you do that, you should notice their determination and effort out loud along the way. So an example of that would be maybe to Build like a small model car from a kit for a teen who really likes cars. They also have them as ships and planes and trains and who knows what else. You could even do the really tiny LEGO sets, so the little metal sets that are architecture based. You know? Figure out What your teen is into, find something that is going to be challenging. But if they persevere and they take their time and have patience they can succeed at, that is a good way to challenge without stepping over the line to breaking them.

Penny Williams [00:07:33]: We don't wanna break our kids. We want to teach them that they can do hard things. So kits like this are really meticulous, and you have to take your time, and you have to commit to the time it takes to finishing it. It's not a quick task. You can't just be over and done. But in the end, they've created something. They made that thing, and that gives them A feeling of success, and it gives them something tangible that they can use To say, wow. I did this.

Penny Williams [00:08:06]: It was hard. I had to really push myself, but look what I did. Right? That's a good way to Foster growth mindset and to help to build confidence in your teen or young adult. Number 3 is to provide opportunities for what I call tips. Talents, interests, and passions, t I p. Those are the 3 things that really help to engage the neurodivergent brain and neurology. And so we're using those. We're harnessing that to help our kids to, one, have successes, But also to spend time feeling good.

Penny Williams [00:08:49]: When you're doing something you really like, you're feeling good. They need those times as well in their lives when they are struggling so much with other things. Like, maybe they're still in school and it's hard. So we're looking at activities that your kid is good at and enjoys. You wanna support your teen by channeling their interests and passions into productive outlets. So taking those passions and using them, also, not just as something for fun, but also to help them with growth, to help them to use those interests to maybe help others to do things that are rewarding to them in other ways. So some examples would include volunteering at an animal shelter or a farm If your team likes animals, my kids would volunteer at our local animal rescue and really enjoyed that. Not only were they spending time in something that they super, super enjoyed, they were also being helpful in the world.

Penny Williams [00:09:55]: Right? And that really sort of lit a fire within them. It made them feel really great. So if your kid loves animals, there are multiple ways to get involved with that. Sure, you could get an animal. Sure, you could go, you know, ride a horse or do something like that, but you can also do the work to take care of animals, to help out animals in need. If your kid really likes horses, can they help out at the stables? Can they come by, you know, a couple mornings a week to feed the horses? How can they engage in that and also feel useful at the same time. I think it gives you the most sort of bang for your buck when we're talking about this. Another example is to have them take a class in electronics if that's an area that they're interested in.

Penny Williams [00:10:51]: A lot of our kids are really into science and mechanics. So what sort of class could they get involved in to take that a step further. And by class, I'm really meaning something more fun, something that is either meant for teenagers or young adults for their age or something that isn't really school related. So I'm not really talking about a lecture on its class at the local community college. Although if it's an adult learning class, That is much less intensive and more casual and sort of enjoyable. So make sure, if you're Trying to provide opportunities for tips for your kids that it doesn't feel like school or feel like something that they really struggle with. You don't want them to have a negative feeling associated with things that they're doing to Engage in their talents, interests, and passions. Another example, join a gaming club or an anime club.

Penny Williams [00:11:52]: A lot of our kids are into gaming, anime, those sort of cultures, and that pop culture. There are even, like, these anime card games that People get together and play in person. And I think you can probably play them online as well, but our family is involved in some that they play in person. They're hosted at a local game shop here. They sell board games and other accoutrements to games like Dungeons and Dragons and that sort of thing. But they also host these get togethers to play these games together. So they get social interaction, they're doing something they love, and they're spending time feeling good. Right? Another idea, if your kid maybe loves fishing or something outdoorsy like that that takes some knowledge and maybe a slight bit of skill, Maybe they could take a younger cousin or younger neighbor out fishing to teach them how.

Penny Williams [00:12:53]: So they're getting some feeling of purpose. They're getting A feeling of being the expert in something. They're also doing something they like, the fishing aspect of it or that activity that they like. But, also, they're really being a helper in that instance, because they're teaching another kid how to do this thing that they love. So many of our kids really feel great when they are able to be a helper to someone. I don't know if I've told this particular story on the podcast or not before, but my Brother in law's mother, who we know well in our family and love, had a stroke a few years ago. And when she came home, She needed a railing on her front steps while she rebuilt sort of control of her muscle movement and stuff. She was not steady on her feet for a while.

Penny Williams [00:13:47]: And my father builds things. We've all built a couple of our own houses at this point, and So he volunteered to do that for her, and my son volunteered to help. He really, really wanted to do something that would be helpful to Trish. And so he went with my dad, and he helped to build this railing. He didn't really have the skills. You know? He held Boards up. He passed tools over. I think he nailed or screwed a few things in, but he certainly didn't create this railing and install it.

Penny Williams [00:14:20]: Right? But He was very much helpful, and he was beaming for days days, if not more than a week, after he did that. It made him feel so very good about himself. It also helped him to feel like He was doing something in a situation that was upsetting to him. As I said, our whole family Knows my brother in law's mother. We spend a lot of time with her. And he was very upset that this was happening to her, But this gave him a way to do something about that, and he really needed that as well. Bonus points here for learning a new skill because that also boosts confidence. So if your kid is getting out there and they're really nurturing their talents, interests, or passions, They're also learning a new skill, building their skills.

Penny Williams [00:15:14]: That is going to boost confidence even more. And who knows where that could lead people? A lot of our kids take a lot longer to figure out what they really wanna do in life. These exploratory activities can really help them to figure out what that thing might be. They might take that electronics class and Figure out that they really like to design circuits or machinery or something, and they can work in that area. They might love animals so much that they wanna work at a farm, or they wanna work at a shelter. Maybe they want to someday Start their own animal rescue. Like, the sky is the limit here. The possibilities are endless.

Penny Williams [00:16:00]: Get creative. Do things, offer opportunities, and see where they lead. Just be completely open minded about it. The 4th strategy for building confidence in your teen or young adult, is to make time in part of your family culture. Time in isn't just for young kids. It's for everyone. It's actually even for adults. One of my colleagues, Sarah Whalen, who's been here with me many times on the podcast, she and her husband do time in with each other.

Penny Williams [00:16:31]: It is focusing on another person, because you care about them. You're spending time with your teen, your young adult, without distraction, no phones, no TV, without correction, without teaching, and without leading. This is leaning fully into showing interest in your kids' interest, and engaging in conversations about those interests. Be curious about what they're into, But you're spending a chunk of time all about your kid, and you are 100% focused on it, and you are not correcting, and you're not teaching, and you are not leading. It's all about them and where they wanna go, what they want to do. It makes a huge difference. Play a video game with your kid. Talk to them about the music they just discovered that they love.

Penny Williams [00:17:26]: Talk to them about who they're watching on YouTube. My son's been watching some cooking stuff on YouTube, and he has asked me to get some ingredients at the store to make things that he has seen on YouTube. It's a great way for us to have conversations and to spend some time on something that he is super interested in right now. So your kids are out there Absorbing, taking in a lot of things. What is it that they're interested in? How can you get curious about it? How can you spend time with them on those things. And last but not least, maybe most important, actually, In my list of 5 strategies to build confidence, show your teen or young adult that you are a human being. You are human. Instead of expecting perfection, which, you know, I don't believe exists, Show your teen that you're a human being that also struggles and also makes mistakes.

Penny Williams [00:18:31]: And as you are transparent with your kid in this way, your modeling, regulation, frustration tolerance, grit, resilience, all sorts of skills that we are trying to help our kids build, our teens, our young adults. You're modeling that just by being transparent about your own human experience. When we set the bar as high as perfection, when we only let our kids see us succeed, When we only let our kids see us succeed and set high expectations for them, they feel like there's something wrong with them and that they are broken when they can't meet those expectations. And what you have done is you have set expectations that aren't doable. So you have set them up for failure instead of setting them up for success, Building confidence and self esteem in our kids at any age is about setting them up for success, Offering them opportunities to experience success. That is what they need to be confident human beings. So start implementing just one of these strategies. I do not want you to walk away from listening to this and try to do all 5 of these things all at once.

Penny Williams [00:19:52]: It is too much. It is way too much. Choose one thing. Get your teen involved in helping you to choose something that you want to do off of this list, to plan it, schedule it, organize it, Make it happen. And I wanna really emphasize that schedule it piece. Make time for this. It's very easy to put these things on the back burner because we feel like school matters more, work, extracurriculars, sports, social engagements, all those things, we tend to prioritize those. This is what really matters most.

Penny Williams [00:20:29]: Make time for it, schedule it, and get it done. You will see huge differences in your teen or young adult when you implement some of these strategies. And I want you to remember that none of these strategies are gonna help you without implementation. Make a plan. Take action. That's what you have to do here. For the show notes on this episode, Go to parentingADHDandautism.com/242 for episode 242. I will have this list for you printable on the show notes on the website so that you can have it as a reference, so that you can start implementing some of these strategies.

Penny Williams [00:21:15]: I just wanna say for anyone listening whose kid isn't a teen or a young adult yet, This stuff is good for younger kids too. Start early. The earlier you start, the more confidence your kid is going to have when they get to the teen and young adult years. It's really valuable stuff, so I hope that everyone will go ahead and start taking action on these strategies. And I will see you on the next episode. Take good care. Thanks for joining me on the Beautifully Complex podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and share.

Penny Williams [00:21:49]: And don't forget to check out my online courses and parent coaching at parentingADHDandautism.com and at thebehaviorrevolution.com.

Thank you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it. Have something to say, or a question to ask? Leave a comment below. I promise to answer every single one. **Also, please leave an honest review for the Beautifully Complex Podcast on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and appreciated! That's what helps me reach and help more families like yours.

I'm Penny Williams.

I help stuck and struggling parents (educators, too) make the pivots necessary to unlock success and joy for neurodivergent kids and teens, themselves, and their families. I'm honored to be part of your journey!

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About the show...

I'm your host, Penny.

Join me as I help parents, caregivers, and educators like you harness the realization that we are all beautifully complex and marvelously imperfect. Each week I deliver insights and actionable strategies on parenting neurodivergent kids — those with ADHD, autism, anxiety, learning disabilities…

My approach to decoding behavior while honoring neurodiversity and parenting the individual child you have will provide you with the tools to help you understand and transform behavior, reduce your own stress, increase parenting confidence, and create the joyful family life you crave. I am honored to have helped thousands of families worldwide to help their kids feel good so they can do good.

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