Tips for Motivating Teens

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There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding teenagers. Generally these portray them as stroppy, lazy, self-righteous, lethargic, and ultimately directionless and unmotivated. These generalizations are harsh, and certainly they are not true in all cases – like any other group of people there is variation and you will find that some teenagers are actually highly motivated and very good workers. How your teenager turns out though is going to be partly down to you and it is possible to influence them to be more motivated or less. And that doesn’t just mean academically – it means in terms of their work ethic around the house, their ability to look into jobs… even their ability to find and maintain part time work. The following tips should help.

Praise and Reward

Rewarding your teenagers is a great way to ensure that they stay motivated and this will mean that they are getting one more thing out of their hard work. For instance tell them that if they get an A then you’ll take them on holiday, or tell them that if they find a good job then you’ll add 10% onto their usual allowance. You can also encourage them to run errands and do work around the house by offering to pay them a small fee – this way they are now doing part time work for you.

Praising your children works particularly well as it means they aren’t just motivated by material gain and will learn to internalize that feeling of a job well done and of pride. When your child does well, then tell them so and tell them how proud you are – and boast to other people. They will enjoy feeling like they’re doing well and will strive to continue this. If all you do is scold them for their usual lethargy then they will feel irritated and loathe to work and it will have the adverse effect.

Point Out Others

If you don’t want your teenager to develop into a monster of hormones who strops around the house then point out other teenagers who do this so that they can see the impact from an outside perspective. You probably know a teenager who meets the stereotype perfectly, and by seeing this behavior they might become more self-aware when they are doing it themselves.

Relate to Them

Teenagers tend to have tunnel vision when it comes to their interests and hobbies – maybe they love skating, maybe they’re in a band, maybe they’re a shopaholic-fashionista… and chances are they are also interested in impressing members of the opposite sex or of just seeing their partner. This will mean that they lack motivation in other areas of their life that don’t interest them (hygiene for instance… ). Make these things more relevant then by explaining it in terms of things that they are interested in. Tell them for instance how they need to work in order to afford to fund their hobby. How being productive and earning will make them more attractive to their partner – and how by being motivated to do well at school will help them to pursue the career that they are so set on.

Establish Routine

Teenagers are tired all the time and this is partly due to hormones. It’s also though because they are ‘all over the place’ and likely stay up late partying or playing games then lounge around in the afternoon. You have the power to stop this by waking them up early in the morning and not allowing them to nap during the day (and getting a part time job will help to encourage this motivation too). If you can get them into a routine then they’ll have more time in the day and they’ll be more alert and focused during that time.

Financial Motivation

If your teen is currently something of a freeloader, then cutting their revenue by stopping giving them pocket money is a good idea. If they get money from other sources then charge them rent to live at home. Doing so will encourage them to prepare for the real world, but it will also make them realize the value of hard work – if they want to see their partner and go out with their friends then they will need to earn the money to fund this and they’ll realize that this applies for the real world too when they have left your home.

Give Them Discipline

As your child has gotten older you’ll find that your ability to shout at them has deteriorated and they will now shout back. From now on their discipline has to come from within – so sit them down and talk to them about this like an adult. Tell them how if they want to be a success and if they want to do well in life then they need to have self-discipline and they will need to force themselves to work on their own. You can explain this and you can demonstrate it and you can let them know that this is the simple difference between success and failure. Likely they will have role models and they will have people who motivate them to live life a certain way – whether it’s someone in a band, a sports star or a movie star. Explain to them how much dedication it required for them to get to that position, and how if they want to get a modicum of that success and respect then they need to work hard as well. You can also introduce them to new role models who will do this – show them Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky for instance and you should notice them gathering energy and motivation from the training montages and music. Of course many teenagers turn to their parents for role models – even if they would never admit it – so make sure you’re a good influence and that you work hard yourself.

Give Them a Hobby

Teaching this kind of dedication can be hard unless your teenager is particularly responsive. Giving them a hobby then is a great way to encourage them to work hard at something and a great way to give them focus. Particularly good are things like drumming, swimming, the gym, painting, woodwork, martial arts etc… anything where they can work on developing their ability and then see a gradual improvement over time. This dedication and hard work will then spill over into other areas of life – struggling under a heavy barbell when you’re really not in the mood to exert yourself is the perfect metaphor for hard work in real life and will get them to understand the importance of pushing through when they don’t necessarily want to. You can even do this together with them – for instance why not enter a marathon together? It will give them a great sense of achievement, help you to bond and help to teach them the discipline training and hard work necessary to achieve things – and how you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it.

Give Them Direction

Sometimes teenagers flounder because they don’t know what they want out of life. Suddenly life is starting to get real and they are forced to forge an identity as a young adult – it can be scary if you’re fresh out of playing with Lego and Barbies. Talk to them then about what they want to achieve in life and help them to explore their identities. They will likely start experimenting with identities now – trying out different roles, dress senses and peer groups. Try to understand what it is that appeal to them about these behaviors and talk to them about how they see themselves and what it is that they like about certain ideals. From here you can work out the kinds of jobs and their role in life that might suit them, and you can help to plot a trajectory and work out a plan with them on how to achieve those goals. No doubt this will all change not far down the line, but in the meantime you’ll have inspired them to work hard toward a goal.

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Elizabeth Danish

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