If you are a parent to a teenager, you know the struggles of figuring out how to motivate teenagers in the right ways. Be it in academics, sports or household responsibilities, creating a sense of urgency, priority and general motivation can feel like a constant, mind-numbing battle.
One of the challenges we face as parents is that communicating with teenagers is very different from how we address younger children. In fact, learning how to communicate and listen is one of the mostchallenging transitions parents need to make. After all, we spend approximately 10 years teaching, guiding and talking to our kids.
Through all the difficulties there are steps parents can take to help our teens become more responsive, and help them to start maturing into responsible adults. Here are seven tips for how to motivate teenagers:
- Sit down and ask your teenager what they enjoy. Sometimes we can make assumptions about our kids based on what we hear and see from day to day. However, the best approach is to hear it directly from them. Teenagers want to have more control over decisions about their lives, and it is important we give that to them. Once you know what interests your teenager, the next step is to facilitate it. Give them opportunities to experience the things they enjoy and are good at. And do not worry if their first professional aspirations do not involve following in your footsteps or becoming an investment banker.
- Induce motivation by showing real-life examples of what commitment and hard work achieves. As mentioned above, this starts with listening to what your son or daughter is interested in. It culminates with you finding and introducing your child to professionals in careers that follow similar paths to their interests. Sharing stories in the news or video interviews of people who have followed a similar pursuit or interest will help connect the dots for your teenager. I also mentioned in a previous post (See Motivating Teens: How To Connect College To High School Learning) that signing your child up for college mailing lists can also have a positive impact and induce motivation. The key is to connect your teenager’s interest with potential role models, mentors or opportunities. Give them something to shoot for and let them go after it.
- Recognize your teenager’s accomplishments and limit your critical responses. Remember, there is still a sharp learning curve for teens. And while many need direction, teenagers frequently want to learn it for themselves too. Building motivation is a delicate balance. You want to cultivate a positive attitude and desire, you do not want to kill it before it’s started.
- Another way to motivate your teenager is to set goals and encourage them to complete tasks. Even when finishing a task is uncomfortable or unpleasant, you need to push your teen to get it done. Teens, like adults, build habits. Habits are hardwired into our brains from the moment we start moving around and learning. The more bad habits we build and the longer we build them, the harder it is to change. An effective motivational tool is to build-in incentives for performance when setting goals. Just be sure to give thought into any contract or incentive-based agreement you make. Remember, teens, like adults, start to make neural associations with pleasure and pain. They put off writing research papers for the same reason many of us put off filing our taxes. What pushes us to start tasks is the realization that the pain of putting it off any longer outweighs the actual task itself. So, while trying to capitalize on a reward, remember to make the alternative as unpalatable as possible.
- The spark to the motivational fire within us often comes following success, and can sometimes occur after taking a risk. First, try to position your teenager for small successes that can serve to build confidence and excitement. Accomplishing something new, however simple, builds a positive foundation. Alternatively, you also should encourage your teen to take risks. Risk-taking can bring out a wide range of emotions and reactions in our kids—just like it does in each of us. One result is that taking risks helps to eliminate the fear we associate with trying something completely out of our comfort zone.
- Do not make excuses for a lack of motivation. We all know how overloaded and stressed our teenagers are in school and life in general. Their schedules can be tight. Our kids get pulled in a lot of directions. Do not use that excuse for a lack of commitment.
- Lastly, be sure to give your teenager attention. Talk with them. Listen to them. Be present for them. One of the most overlooked ways we can inspire motivation in our kids is to give them our time and engage them in their lives.
If you have other tips or recommendations, please share them by submitting a comment below.