Labels and stereotypes used to describe people with executive functioning issues can be detrimental to teens’ self-esteem. Problems with executive functioning may vary, but are common in teens with anxiety disorders, ADHD and autism. Some examples may include trouble following directions, staying organized, getting distracted easily, and thinking flexibly. With the proper support, teens can learn skills to help them manage executive functioning problems. However, with a lack of understanding, teens may be judged as “lazy,” “dumb,” or “defiant.”

Beliefs about Executive Functioning

When executive functioning issues affect teens’ academic performance, they may begin to believe that there is something wrong with the way they learn and doubt their own competency. This can lead to feeling powerless, hopeless, angry, anxious, and depressed. When teens internalize these beliefs about themselves, they struggle to feel confident about their ability to reach their potential. Instead of comparing themselves to other people’s expectations, when teens set personal goals that acknowledge their individual strengths and needs, they regain their confidence in achieving goals.

Low Confidence Reinforces Executive Functioning Issues

Teens’ motivation and confidence in their abilities predict their long-term success. Students who struggle with executive function can have great difficulty with academic assignments and often experience negative impacts on their grades over time. Academic failures can damage a student’s confidence that they can be successful in school, which in turn, affects their motivation. 
Intrinsic motivation comes from:

  • Attributing success to internal factors they can control
  • Believing that intelligence can be developed and improved
  • Passion about a subject area, rather than just good grades
  • Feeling supported by others

Ways to Build Teens’ Self-Esteem


  • Focus on their strengths. While their executive functioning skills may affect their performance on some tasks, it is not a reflection of their overall academic abilities or personality. Instead of focusing on limitations, consider what other areas they feel passionate about that make them feel more confident. 
  • Encourage socialization. Despite a desire to connect, many teens struggle with social interactions based on a fear of judgment. Social skills therapy encompasses a range of approaches that help teens build meaningful interpersonal relationships. Social skills therapy promotes well-being through building up their sense of self-worth and strengthening their support system. 
  • Give them more autonomy. Many teens who struggle with executive functioning doubt their ability to make informed decisions and hold themselves accountable. They rely on guidance from others to help them meet their goals. As teens become more independent and make more decisions for themselves, they develop a greater sense of self-efficacy, or confidence in their ability to succeed. 
  • Encourage them to participate in recreation activities that challenge their executive functioning skills. Adventure activities are a great way for teens to practice problem solving, emotion regulation, and teamwork. 


Seven Stars Can Help

Discover Seven Stars RTC is a residential treatment center for teens ages 13-17 struggling with neurodevelopmental disorders, like Autism, that affect teens’ self-esteem and executive functioning. The program provides acute care stabilization, residential treatment, academic programs, adventure-based therapy, skill-building, and positive psychology. These various programs and therapies help students to improve their confidence, self-awareness, and emotion regulation. Seven Stars provides students with individualized access to the resources they need to transition to the real-world practicing healthier habits and self-control. We can help your family today!
Contact us at 844-601-1167 for more information on how executive functioning issues affect self-esteem.  We can help your family today.