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Motivation + Teens

A Parent’s Guide to Motivating Your Teen

Remember when your kids were little, and they were happy to do just about anything for a sticker or a kind word? Now they’re older, and you must try harder to motivate them. Many parents become frustrated with teens who play video games for hours but avoid homework and chores. I will be the first to admit, I am one of those parents! The situation might have become even more challenging after the COVID-19 had placed limitations on opportunities for socializing and extracurricular activities. But before we label our teen as lazy, let’s try to understand their perspective.

As a mental health professional and a parent of teens, I always get asked what my secret is to help my teenagers overcome obstacles that may be impeding their motivation. My response is always the same, let’s take a step back and look at the whole picture from the outside in. Then we can come up with several ideas that may help motivate our teen.

It can be as simple is prioritizing their sleep and upgrading our diet. Many teens are tired much of the time due to sleep deprivation. For biological reasons, they need about 9 hours of rest, and they’re likely to be night owls. That can make it difficult to wake up early for school. Try enforcing consistent bedtimes and limiting screen time at night. It is highly recommended that children and adolescents should be off any use of technology an hour before bedtime. Roughly 90% of studies have found a link between a teen’s screen time and deprivation. Further, upgrading our diet can help. Your family’s eating habits could be causing fatigue too. Avoid junk food that is high in unhealthy fats and sugar. Serve balanced meals and nutritious snacks. Fight dehydration by drinking water and eating fruits and vegetables.

Other ideas to consider are testing for learning disabilities. Many students struggle due to undiagnosed learning disabilities. Ensure that your child receives recommended tests. Work with their school to arrange any special accommodations they’ll need in the classroom or through remote learning. Check hearing and vision.If your child’s grades are dropping, they may have trouble seeing the whiteboard or hearing the teacher. Take care of their eyes and ears with regular examinations. Talk about the dangers of listening to loud music. Also, a mental health check. Sudden or dramatic increases in listlessness and withdrawal could be symptoms of depression and anxiety. Talk with your family doctor about your concerns.

There are some many ways that we can help our teens be more motivated! By simply helping them build confidence. Your teen will be more prepared to motivate themself if you boost their confidence and self-esteem. Be generous with praise and help them to recognize their core strengths. As a parent we should try to work as a team. Remember that you’re on the same side. Search for common goals that you can pursue together. On the other hand, your teen will sometimes have different priorities than you. They might be more enthusiastic about completing their term paper if you promise to give them driving lessons over the weekend. That is when you must negotiate and compromise. Your teen is more likely to cooperate when they can approach tasks in their own way. Let them decide how to clean their room and budget their allowance. Do this by offering them choices. 

If you have a long running conflict over dress codes and curfews, humor may dissolve the tension, so laugh about it! Share a funny story about something similar that happened during your own teenage years. I know looking back at my teenage years, I probably should have listened more about what I wore. But we must find a balance between setting boundaries and exerting excessive pressure. Teens may lose motivation if they feel like your expectations are too high. Lighten up a little! Praise them for making an effort instead of demanding that they win first prize.

Most importantly, stay calm and keep trying. Your relationship with your teen matters more than any temporary disagreement. Speak to each other with respect and show compassion as they try to cope with the changes in their development. Take a break if you need to regain your composure. Motivating your teen is an ongoing process. You may need to repeat the same message several times and experiment with different approaches. Focus on overall progress regardless of the occasional setback.

As a parent, you can help your child to develop intrinsic motivation and other life skills that they’ll need in order to fulfill their dreams. Your teen wants to do well, and their success depends on your guidance and support.

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