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Five Ideas on Motivating your Teen

April 28, 2020

First question: Why do you want to motivate your teen in the first place? Is it because you are sure they are capable of “more”? Is it because you feel they are not measuring up to your standards? Is it because you view their grades or behavior as disappointing? Is it because you are worried about their future options? Is it because you feel embarrassed that they aren’t as advanced or as “impressive” as their peers, or as your peers’ kids?

I ask because the place where you’re coming from matters more than what you do. The way you’re being about wanting to motivate your child plays a decisive role in the outcome of your efforts.

Let me explain. Let’s say you clean your kids room for them out of rage and anger and fed-up-ness, throwing things away, donating things with abandon, and flinging around trash and dirty laundry, screaming, “How the heck can they even live like an animal?! I raised them better! Roar!” That’s you coming from or being ANGRY, FRUSTRATED and OUT OF CONTROL.

Let’s say you notice they’ve been struggling to stay on top of their personal space so you go in when they aren’t around to notice, put on some fun music, and go crazy, cleaning the same insanely messy, gross room, but this time, it’s out of generosity, fun and showing them a great example of serving others. You’re way of being is different, but the end result is the same.

So, before you read on, let’s experiment with a new way of being that is from a place of caring, teamwork, and support instead of feeling like you’re losing your mind, desperate or raging! I get that there are real issues and this idea may seem just so simplistic and foolish BUT I’m just basing it off of the idea we are constantly preaching to our kids: The only person you can control is YOU and/or You need to adjust your attitude!

  1. Take a fresh look at what worked and what didn’t from the past semester. Assess and discover, together, from a non-judgmental place. Be open and honest with your kid. Tell them what you think worked and didn’t about your role as a mom or dad too. Modeling is of vital importance to parenting.
  2. Remove extrinsic motivators like money, gaming, and car or phone use from the equation. Help them level up authentically from the inside. Always seek to find the root cause of low performance and motivation. Ask lots of questions to understand the issue versus assuming you know what the problem is and how to solve it.
  3. Work together to create small, doable, incremental changes for each class for each week based on science-based study habits. Keep checking in. Set aside time each week (see next point).
  4. Give the online grade book a rest! Instead, have kids present to parents each week their highs and lows based on the results. Child-led, self-awareness based meetings are great ways to teach ownership.
  5. Create more fun and recreation together. Like the balance of protein, carbs, and fat that people talk about for diet. Make sure you are not all business with the kids. Cut loose and enjoy each other. Take an honest look at how much time is spent being present with no agenda, lectures, suggestions. This creates a stronger relationship from which you can influence your kids on motivation issues in general.

When you’ve been more intentional with how you operate when you’re around your kid, you’ll see that you can in fact make a huge difference in how they respond to you. Letting them have some slack, some reigns to work with gives them the chance to show you, but beware the giant caveat of teenagerhood and play your cards wisely: the second you demand something of them, it’s the last thing they want to do.

Baby steps, parents and caregivers! Have some faith in the both of you!

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