From F’s to A’s
6 Ways Parents Can Motivate Teens to Succeed
& 3 Ways that Never Work
Teens aren’t motivated by simple rewards like younger kids. They are in the process of becoming adults and need to develop motivation from the inside – intrinsic motivation.
First, here are the 3 methods that NEVER work:
- Tutoring. The issue with an unmotivated teen is, of course, motivation. Tutoring will work temporarily but will not work in the long term.
- Power Tactics. A power struggle over homework / school assignments merely creates a tense and sometimes unbearable atmosphere in the home. Rewards and punishments – even extreme ones – do not work on teens in the long term.
- Changing Schools or Classroom: There may be a “honeymoon” period when the teen begins to complete assignments, but soon old patterns reappear.
Here are 6 ways to motivate your teen. Actually, they are ways parents can set the stage for their teen to find their own intrinsic motivation.
- Listen Attentively. Many parents conclude teens need less and less attention as they get older. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is vitally important to spend the time with your teen to listen carefully and understand what’s going on with them. I call this using the Connection Response. It involves parents listening actively without imposing answers on their teen, but instead expectantly waiting for their teen to connect the dots on their own.
- Encourage Choice. Teens are developing their sense of identity as individuals. Encourage your teen to make choices and set out reasonable decisions for them to make.
- Notice Effort, Not Outcome. Recognize effort and compliment it, even if the grade or result wasn’t what you wanted to see. (“I notice you worked really hard to study for that math test; I’m proud of you even though you didn’t get the grade you wanted. You’re moving toward your goal.”)
- Encourage a Sense of Competence. Teens are developing the feeling they can handle new and challenging situations. Parents can’t develop competence for a teen but can set up reasonable challenges and goals. (“What’s your plan?”)
- Set Challenges. Your teen may be avoiding the normal challenges of being a teen (success in school being a primary example). Since rewards and punishments don’t work as they used to when your teen was younger, it’s better to set up goals with your teen’s participation. (“What are your goals for this soccer season?”) Maybe the goal is simply to have fun and gain experience.
- Make Agreements, Not Rules. The older your teen gets, the less effective imposing rules becomes. Instead, make your expectations known by making agreements. (“If you do this, I will do that…”) Be willing to go out of your way to encourage genuine effort.
It is possible to motivate teens; actually, this means setting the stage for your teen to do the inside job of finding their internal motivation. It’s a long term project, but one well worth your effort as a parent!
Mark J. Luciano PhD