Say This, Not That by Ilana Kukoff and Jessica Huddy

Dip in My Teen’s Self-Esteem

Dear Ilana and Jess: My teenage daughter has such a brutal time with self-esteem, specifically in terms of her looks. I don’t know how to help her. Advice? — Rudy

Dear Rudy: As you can imagine, teen girls get little reprieve from the pressure to look good. Social media has made unattainable success in all domains — including conventional beauty — feel unrealistically attainable. It’s all too easy to detach from reality and get lost in fantasy. With that in mind —

Remember that compliments won’t do much. You’re her parent, she’s your daughter. She will dismiss certain praise out-of-hand. Besides, you’re fanning the fire by implying that she has something to compete with or live up to.

Help your daughter focus on what makes her look her own. She can’t be just like those Instagram influencers, but she can be herself. Have your daughter make a list of what she likes about her own appearance, specifically. Don’t be particular about what she includes on the list — it can be her toes for all that matters. The point is to get her in the habit of thinking about herself positively. Expect resistance and heavy sarcasm and don’t be deterred.

Take a social media cleanse. While it may feel like a right to your teen, social media is a privilege. If it’s not being used appropriately or healthfully, it’s time to step back. If you need to impose parental restrictions on the phone, go ahead and do so, but start by framing it as a shared undertaking. Take a break yourself and do it as a family. Start by having a phones-free dinner or a one-night “fast” from the phone. The more your daughter is thinking about the world outside Instagram, the less focused on it she’ll be.

Say This: “I want you to make a list of ten things you truly like about yourself and/or your appearance. It doesn’t matter what you put on it, as long as it’s true. And yes, you can think of ten things.”

Not That: “Stop comparing yourself!” (It’s good advice, but it won’t change her behavior).

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit: