Last week I talked about how to motivate yourself when you’re just not feeling it. This week, I’m talking about how to motivate others. Specifically, what to do when you’re having trouble motivating your teenager.
The truth is, you can’t, but you can help them motivate themselves. Keep reading to learn more.
First, is the thing you’re trying to get them to do something they actually care about. From having a clean room to getting into an ivy league college, if it doesn’t mean that much to them there’s little chance they’ll work for it. But they might work for something else tied to it. More on that below.
If you are trying to convince your child to work harder at school so that he can get into Yale when he really loves to work with his hands and wants to be an electrician, rethink that. Why is Yale so important to You? And what does your child love about being an electrician? How can you help them craft the goal that will make Them the happiest? Off my soap box…
We’ll talk about motivating your teenager to take their responsibilities to the household more seriously and motivating them to accomplish something that they want or know that will benefit them. But, we’ll take those separately.
You’re tired of reminding your teen to do their chores. They’d rather play video games, hang with friends or sleep. Okay. What else do they like to do or enjoy having the freedom to do? Things like driving a car, going to concerts, or having a cell phone.
Consider the completion of their household responsibilities as currency to do the things they enjoy. I’m not suggesting you withhold sleep, but why can’t having access to a car be contingent on them doing their chores? Or you paying for their cell phone? Talk about it ahead of time and then follow-up. Consistency (not perfection), almost always improves. But it does require your follow through on the consequences.
As for the clean bedroom, unless their messiness is impacting someone else’s living situation, I would close the door and let it go. It’s generally a losing battle. If you find rat droppings or other damage, then make them pay the bill. Otherwise, save your energy.
Just like for you, getting motivated to do what you know you should do can be a challenge for our teens sometimes. And if they are working with depression or anxiety, it can make progress more difficult. This is when you can help them get organized. The recommendations I laid out last week are a good starting point. Starting with fifteen minutes of activity can often be enough to get things moving.
In conjunction with the above mentioned ideas, tying a reward to activity can make a difference, as well. I’m not talking about paying your child for grades, but helping your child identify their own rewards. Say your daughter wants to make the soccer team, but is having trouble getting daily touches into her routine. If she is consistent five out of seven days for two weeks, she will buy herself tickets for an upcoming concert (maybe you’ll split the cost with her, but maybe not). This will put her well on her way to establishing a habit and she should start to see some progress in that time, which will be motivation to keep going.
Maybe your son does want to go to Yale, but doesn’t have the resume to support his grades. He knows he needs to add community service, but has little time with the tough academic schedule he has taken on and hardly has time for friends, as it is. Help him to identify service opportunities that he can do with his friends so that the service itself, becomes the reward.
You can apply this approach to many scenarios. The key is to find the short term motivator that will spark the activity. Not only do these approaches help your kids achieve what they want, but also teach them tools to help motivate themselves into adulthood.
The one last suggestion in motivating your teenager is to be the example. Walk the talk. Live what you say. When your actions are in line with your words and your kids see the results, they can see what steps to take. Telling them what they “should” do is one thing. But showing them what works produces completely different results. Don’t mistake this for trying to perfect. Owning your mistakes and how to learn from them and keep going is the biggest opportunity.
If your child is struggling to make the progress they want and you’re concerned, don’t wait too long to seek professional help. Having them talk with a mental health professional can provide a safe place to work things out and help determine if additional action is required. And at the very least, give you peace of mind. You can find a ton of resources here.
I help women see their situation from different perspectives so they can appreciate their success, evaluate their opportunities, and improve their relationship with themselves and everyone around them.
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