You Can’t Motivate Teenagers

…Unless they want for them self.  Face it– adults have motivation problems just like teenagers. A few years back I used to regularly work out but now I don’t. Why? I’m not motivated. I know I should work out. I have incentive to work out. I get punished if I don’t work out (weight gain). It’s not that I physically can’t work out. It comes down to this: I don’t want to work out. It’s my choice.

To be effective, motivation must come from within. In order to motivate your teenager from within they must learn to want it (whatever that ‘it’ may be: good grades, entrance into the college of their choice, achieving a goal, money, etc.). They should have the above components and most of all they have to want it. It is difficult to motivate a person if they don’t want it for themselves. Parents can’t always do it for their teens and if your teen does not want, for example, good grades then sometimes they must hit bottom before they learn to want it. Hitting bottom may be contrary to what you were thinking.

Do you want your teen to hit bottom now within the support of your family or hit bottom when they are in college or out living on their own? I vote for having my teen hit bottom while living at home and I’m around to help prop him or her up. I don’t want to rescue my teen and make it all disappear but I do want her to experience the consequences of real life. Let’s assume my teenager failed a course and had to retake it during summer school. I’m not going to gripe that it was the teacher’s fault and demand a grade change. Nope, she can retake the course and work harder.

In order to motivate my teenage daughter I encourage her and speak positive words to her. I reward the effort and not the grade. I offer tangible rewards. I impose consequences for lack of effort. We keep up with her grades on Edline.

All these components take a lot of work from my wife and me. Our daughter is a high school junior and is an excellent student. We support her but she understands that if she fails, she faces the consequences and we’ll hold out a hand and help her up.

Dr. Forgan is a licensed school psychologist in the Jupiter, Florida and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida area. I can evaluate your child for ADD/ADHD, testing for Palm Beach gifted programs, or a learning difficulty such as dyslexia.