14 tips to motivate teenagers

To help your teenager, it is less about doing things to motivate them, and more about removing obstacles so that they are free to be self-motivated. That’s why a number of tips in this article focus on things not to do.

1. Speak positively about your teenager in front of others

I am shocked that some parents would say the following in the presence of their teenagers:

“My son is not ambitious enough to accomplish anything.”

“My daughter is lazy. I doubt he will ever succeed.”

Parents say these kinds of things to motivate their teenagers, but it does not work. Teenagers will just become bitter.

Teenagers have a strange way of becoming the kind of person their parents view them as.

If their parents say that they are “good for nothing” or “useless”,

They will behave in line with this perception.

But parents who give their teenagers a good reputation to live up to bring up teenagers who are self-motivated.

Think about some positive behaviour that your teenager has been demonstrating. Mention this in front of your friends or relatives, when your teenager is present.

2. Say to your teenager occasionally, "I am proud of you"

This is related to the previous tip. Many parents feel awkward about telling their teenagers that they are proud of them. But “I am proud of you” is a phrase that teenagers need to hear periodically.

Some parents never say this. As a result, these teenagers question their self-worth, and often lack motivation.

It’s common to hear teenagers say, “It seems like no matter how hard I try, it’s never good enough for my parents.”

So find a chance over the next few days to reassure your teenager that you’re proud of him or her. Your teenager will appreciate it more than you think.

3. Ask your teenager to make a commitment

If you want to be great at anything – a great musician, athlete, salesperson – you won’t get there by chance.

You will get there by choice and commitment.

As much as you can, allow your teenager to have the final say in matters that directly concern his or her life.

You can, and should, provide guidance, but you shouldn’t make the decision for your teenager. In just a few years, your teenager will be an adult.

Adults need to make wise choices on their own, so your teenager needs to get practice now.

When teenagers are allowed to take their decisions, they become more motivated, as they feel more in control of their life.

4. Involve your teenager in the process

Many teenagers feel as if their opinions don’t matter, because their parents often make major decisions on their behalf.

When trying to resolve an issue, ask your teenager, “What do you think?”

By doing so, you will show your teenager that his or her thoughts and opinions count.

For example, some teenagers have trouble completing their homework on time. In response, parents might even impose a ban on phone/computer usage or TV-watching.

Instead, parents should ask their teenager this simple question: “What would help you get your homework done on time?”

The teenager replied, “I would like to go to bed early at night, and wake up at 4am to do my homework.

Is that okay with you?”

Parents agreed. Teenager started doing just as he/she had promised and the problem was solved.

That’s the power of involving your teenager in the process.

5. Focus on effort and progress, not performance

As a society, we are obsessed with performance metrics and key performance indicators. No surprise that we take a similar approach toward parenting.

Parents must help their teenagers understand that results are important, but the growth process is far more important. Life is a continuous journey of learning, improving and developing. Research shows that when teenagers focus on the process, they achieve even better results.

So acknowledge the effort and attitude that your teenager demonstrates. This will encourage your teenager to concentrate on what he or she has control over  behaviour and attitude in reaching the desired outcome.

And when teenagers feel more in control, they become more focused and motivated.

6. Show your teenager that you love him or her the same, regardless of performance

Almost every teenager has said to me: “It seems like my parents love me more when I do well in school.”

Teenagers who feel this way believe that they need to earn their parents love, acceptance and approval. This affects their self-esteem and self-worth.

Of course, parents should encourage their teenagers to pursue excellence and to always give their best effort.

But, at the same time, parents should display unconditional warmth and love.

Teenagers can only maximize their potential when they are assured of their parents love.

7. Let natural consequences run their course

Many parents nag their teenagers.

They do this not just once in a while, but all the time.

“Clean up your room.”

“Stop playing with your phone.”

“Do your homework.”

 “Don’t be late for school.”

“Study harder.”

“Come home early.”

Sound familiar?

Teenagers who receive constant nagging won’t be motivated to change their behaviour. They might even ignore the nagging, and rebel.

So, instead of nagging, I recommend that parents allow natural consequences to run their course. This helps teenagers to own their choices and their life. This is the foundation of long-term motivation.

Natural consequences are often the best teacher. After all, in the “real world” your teenager will need to make choices and deal with the consequences of those choices.

For instance, if your son forgets to bring his completed homework assignment to school, don’t bail him out. When his teacher punishes him, he’ll learn the importance of being organized so that he won’t forget his homework next time.

Another example: Your daughter leaves her dirty school uniform lying on the floor, instead of putting it in the laundry basket.

You might be tempted to nag her not to repeat this behaviour, but you might still pick up the dirty school uniform and put it in the laundry basket anyway.

I encourage you not to do this. Instead, leave the dirty school uniform on the floor and allow the natural consequences to run their course.

Within a week, your daughter won’t have any clean school uniform to wear, and she’ll be forced to re-wear the dirty ones.

Once the dirty school uniform starts smelling bad enough, her friends will notice, and might not want to hang around her because of the stench.

Just like that, she’ll learn that she should put her dirty school uniform in the laundry basket. And you won’t even need to nag!

8. Don't say, "I told you so"

To follow up on the previous tip, when you allow natural consequences to occur, refrain from telling your teenager, “I told you so.”

This simple phrase will cause your teenager to become annoyed and angry.

Teenagers often feel like they’re at war with their parents. So what you need to communicate to your teenager is that you’re all on the same team.

When teenagers understand that their parents are for them not against them, they tend to be much more motivated.

9. Have “no nagging” time every day

I know it’s hard not to nag your teenager, because you observe so many areas for improvement.

I am not saying your teenager doesn’t deserve to be nagged. But I am saying that constant nagging is demotivating.

So the general approach should be to set boundaries for your teenager. In addition, establish the consequences in the case that your teenager steps outside those boundaries.

I also recommend that you decide on a specific time period each day where you won’t nag your teenager at all.

You can even tell your teenager about this commitment you’re making.

This “no nagging” time could be during dinner, or the first hour after your teenager comes home from school.

“No nagging” time creates a safer home environment, because your teenager won’t feel as if he or she could be “attacked” by a bout of nagging at any moment.

When teenagers feel unsafe – especially at home – they can’t focus or stay motivated.

Just by having “no nagging” time every day, you’ll help your teenager to become more self-motivated.

10. Allow your teenager to make mistakes and experience discomfort

Which parent doesn’t want their teenager to be perfect?

But no one’s perfect, including us as parents.

When teenagers feel that they’re expected to be perfect, they can become unmotivated. This is because they know they won’t ever live up to that mark.

Through mistakes, teenagers learn and grow. So allow them to make plenty of errors.

The exception is if your teenager is about to do something unethical/criminal or  physically dangerous. If this is the case, then step in.

Teenagers benefit from going through struggle, disappointment and pain. The parent’s role is to support and guide them, so that they’ll respond well in these situations.

Difficult experiences shape teenagers for the better, and encourage them to take responsibility for their life.

11. Show respect to your teenager

Show respect to your teenager in the following ways:

Give your full attention when he or she is speaking to you, instead of staring at the TV, or your phone/computer screen

Don’t speak as if he or she is stupid

Don’t abuse him or her verbally, emotionally or physically

Ask for his or her opinion

Show him or her basic courtesy

Involve him or her in important family decisions

Establish the expectation that the respect should be mutual, meaning that your teenager should also show you due respect.

12. Model the behaviour you want your teenager to display

You have far more influence on your teenager than you might imagine.

For example, if you want your teenager to love learning, how do you show that you love learning?

Do you help your teenager develop a sense of wonder at the world around us?

It’s impossible to be a perfect parent, but it is possible to commit to personal growth, and to show your teenager that we should all strive for continual improvement.

13. End every lecture with LOVE

During the lecture, it’s fine to express anger and disappointment over your teenager’s behaviour.

But why do you feel angry and disappointed?

It’s because your teenager is your precious child, and you love him or her with all your heart. You want the best for your teenager, and you don’t want any unwise choices to prevent him or her from enjoying a promising future.

Why don’t you tell your teenager that at the end of the lecture?

If you end the lecture with anger and disappointment, your teenager may view the situation as a power struggle between parent and child.

Your teenager may rebel, instead of changing his or her behaviour.

But if you end the lecture with love, your teenager is more likely to commit to making amends.

14. Don’t compare your teenager with others

“Why can’t you be more like your sister?”

“Why can’t you be more hardworking like Atul?”

“Why can’t you be more well-behaved like Neha?”

Most parents know it’s unhealthy to compare their teenagers with others, but often can’t resist the urge to.

When parents make comparisons, it causes their teenagers to feel as if they’re not good enough.

Once the comparisons stop, teenagers feel more secure. They can then focus on their own development, instead of trying to get out of someone else’s shadow.

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