5 Limiting False Beliefs of Teens

Ingenio Category: Family Coaching


No one is unfamiliar with a limiting false belief. Most of us can think back to our formative adolescent years and remember some of our own—a fear of trying out for a sports team or feeling like you weren’t as cool or as popular as others. Sound familiar? If you can easily remember harboring these types of beliefs about yourself, then you can be sure your teen does, too.

While believing that your teen will just end up outgrowing this type of thinking may seem okay, there’s a proactive approach you can take to help your child overcome these limiting thoughts. Working to overcome and eliminate them now will prevent them from dominating their psyche with age.

There are important signs to look for when trying to identify limiting false beliefs in your teen. Does your teen use negative speech when communicating? Is their behavior avoidant or self-sabotaging? Keep a look out for these common, limiting false beliefs, and learn how to best deal with them:

1. Self-Judgments

It’s not uncommon, even as an adult, to harbor the thought “I’m not good enough.” This is one of the most devastating forms of self-deprecation and tends to follow us from our childhood. Even as young children, one can harbor fears of failure or being a disappointment to others, resulting in a fundamental sense of shame. Your duty as a parent is significant at this stage in life; identifying your teen demonstrating this type of behavior and providing encouragement to avoid it is absolutely vital! Your parental feedback is key, so make sure you communicate that your teen’s self-worth is not based on the outcome of his or her actions.

2. Social Anxieties

If you’re noticing your child circumventing social situations, there may be a possibility that they’re harboring anxieties about not being liked or accepted by their peers. Perhaps one or two ill-fated experiences led to these thoughts, but allowing them to linger will mean your teen could likely generalize them and project them to all future social experiences. Remain aware of your teen’s social behavior and conduct, inquire about their reasoning, and encourage them to think confidently about interacting with their peers.

3. Capabilities

You’ve certainly caught yourself at some point in your adult life thinking, “Others can do that, but I can’t.” This stems from an underlying fear of failure, and it’s not unfamiliar to teens. Many teens hide being a false sense of security—it’s better not to try than to attempt something and fail. Teach your child that success is a process, and achieving success comes from taking risks, many trials, and many errors. Learning lessons along the way are the most valuable and important for growth. This lesson itself should provide them reassurance that trying and failing does not make you a failure.

4. Helplessness

Helplessness is a prevalent thought in our society. Teens can easily pick this up and adopt it as their own. The idea that “I can’t change it” can lead to feeling hopeless, anxious, or giving up. This is a deadly combination that can lead to an overall dissatisfaction with life and depression. The best method in challenging this type of thinking is to minimize modeling the victim mentality-- take action more often and encourage your teen to take action when they’re unhappy with a certain aspect of their life. Teens are less likely to adopt this limiting belief when parents act are a positive role model when faced with a difficult situation. You can take action to change or repair a situation. Demonstrate that it’s possible, and your teen will believe it to be true. 

5. Guilt

You may be guilty of this yourself when dealing with your teen, or know other parents who are: Repeated guilt-inducing parenting letting their child know that what they’ve done (or haven’t done) is a huge mistake. Using guilt as a tool to discourage bad behavior can lead to a child feeling inferior or incompetent. The guilt belief looks and sounds like, “I deserve to feel bad for being inadequate.” Believing you deserve to feel bad or that you deserve punishment affects a child’s perceived self-worth and what she believes she deserves in life.

If you haven’t looked out for these signs in the past, it’s never too late to work towards empowering your teen (and yourself!) through positive parenting. Your teen’s future self will be thank you.