Remember most teenagers are self-centred and insecure. If your teenager is critical about their looks, firstly, empathise with them. Your first reaction may be to contradict them. But if they start telling you they’re too fat, their nose is too big, they wish their hair was different, acknowledge what they’re feeling.
‘You’re thinking that you don’t look perfect. When you look in the mirror you don’t like your thighs, or your nose or your hair.’
You’re not agreeing with their opinion, you’re just agreeing that they don’t like the way they look. But you can say something they can’t argue with. Like:

  • ‘And I love you just the way you are’ or
  • ‘When I look at you I don’t even notice your nose’ or
  • ‘I really love your eyes.’

Secondly, help them get a realistic view of what is normal.
Make it your mission. Walk down the street with the express purpose of noticing what’s normal.
Look at people’s noses, their hair, and their size. Really make a study of the average. When they notice the good looking people, help them realise that the good looking ones are the exception to the rule, not the norm. Find film stars or pop singers who have the same problem as your teenager.
Most importantly start researching how they’re being manipulated by the media. Go to YouTube and type in ‘magazine images photoshopped’ or ‘Dove adverts.’ Watch the clips with your teenager and ask WHY they think magazines and the pop and fashion industry alter every single image they produce. And it’s basically to make money.
Help them look at magazine covers and billboards with a critical eye for what’s photoshopped. And find out more about campaigns to use bigger models and to stop airbrushing.

And finally, start looking at ways to build your teenager’s self-esteem.

  • Make it a habit to regularly comment on the good points of their personality, their looks or the things they do.
  • Stop criticising them and instead focus on what they do well, or right, or just ok.
  • Start praising the effort they put into something rather than the results or grades they get.
  • Hug them 8 times a day.
  • Do little things like cooking them their favourite meal or giving small gifts that say ‘I love you’.
  • Be firm about your boundaries and the behaviour you expect.
  • Get them to help around the house,
  • or even better, volunteer – there’s nothing like helping others to make your teenager feel less self-absorbed.
  • Or buy them a lovely notebook or diary to use as a gratitude book.

So if your teenager’s critical about their looks. Three things that can help are:

  1. Empathise with them and tell them your truthful views.
  2. Help them understand what’s normal and how they’re being manipulated by the media.
  3. And build their self-esteem by praising them and building habits that make them feel good.

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If you need more than three tips on this – or you’d like to discover the secrets you need to have happy well-behaved, children – please contact me by clicking here. You can arrange a free 20-minute (no obligation) chat to find out if working with me personally (by phone, Skype or face-to-face) would help you and your family. Contact Elizabeth

The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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