You’ve noticed a shift in your teenager’s commitment to things. They don’t seem to care about their grades as much. They don’t want to give the effort needed to succeed at a sport or activity they typically enjoy. They’ve become complacent in almost everything.
It can be concerning to watch your child become an unmotivated teenager as a parent. Often, their lack of desire to do schoolwork, social clubs, or sports seems to come out of nowhere.
You’re left scratching your head, asking, “What happened? What did I miss?”
The questions you should be asking yourself are:
- When did the motivational issue start? Was it recently, or has it been happening for a while?
- Can you think of a specific event that may have led to your teen’s lack of motivation?
- Are you noticing a considerable difference in their motivation or subtle changes in how they are motivated to do specific things?
The fact that you’ve noticed anything at all means you’re paying attention. And that’s one of the most crucial steps in determining how to motivate your teenager.
This phase of life can leave your son or daughter overwhelmed to the point where they sort of just shut down and lose motivation to try. It can also lead to depression and anxiety, so it’s crucial to pay close attention to your teen and any behavior changes and get them help right away.
Factors Leading to an Unmotivated Teenager
Think about when you were a teenager. You had to deal with the same kind of hormonal changes, schoolwork, friend drama, and thinking about your future.
But your teenager has that plus a whole lot more on their plate. Today, teens face unprecedented societal pressure thanks to social media and Hollywood. Bombarded with perceived “perfection” images can leave a person feeling inadequate and overwhelmed.
And don’t forget the negative impact of a worldwide pandemic.
When considering how to motivate teens, first, you have to evaluate the four most common factors leading to a lack of motivation.
- Parental pressures and expectations
- Social stresses
- Personal expectations
While all of these may not apply to your specific teen, there’s a good chance at least one or more could be why your son or daughter doesn’t seem enthusiastic about doing things they used to be more motivated to do.
How to Motivate Teens Through Common De-motivating Factors
First things first. When motivating teens, one of the most important things you have to do is listen. And not just listen, hear what they’re saying and be empathetic to their feelings. Try your best not to have a knee-jerk reaction to their complaints that may seem minor to you. For your teen to allow you to motivate them, first, they have to trust you.
Motivating Teenagers in Their Academics
- Checklists – By breaking down your son or daughter’s workload into small attainable goals per day and week they can check off, they’ll feel less overwhelmed and more accomplished.
- Small intentional blocks of time – Consider having your child download a Pomodoro timer on their phone or computer. The Pomodoro Method is a way of working or studying in short blocks of time with scheduled breaks. This is an excellent way to help your child avoid overwhelm and demotivation. (Try this one, it’s free!)
As teens get further along in their education, their workload often increases exponentially, especially if they are in advanced classes. Having to adapt to more assignments, homework, and studying can lead to overwhelm. And eventually, your teenager might lose steam and motivation to try anymore.
Or, if you don’t want them to be looking at a screen, break down their work into small working sessions with scheduled breaks.
- Manage your expectations – Make sure you check yourself and your expectations. Are they realistic, unattainable, perfect, or are you rarely satisfied with their performance? Make sure your goals for their academics are realistic so you can help them achieve them
Motivating Teenagers with Appropriate Expectations and Parental Pressure
If you think pressuring your teenager to succeed at unrealistic levels is good for their future, you’re mistaken. When you put all of your focus on their performance in sports, school, or other activities, they’ll never learn how to motivate themselves. Instead, try the following techniques in motivating teenagers.
- Have open conversations about goals – Find out what your son or daughter believes is attainable. Have transparent conversations about expectations. There’s nothing wrong with suggesting that they may be able to do more, but make sure you focus on what they want to achieve.
- Give positive reinforcement – Let them know you’re proud of them for achieving things – not just for considerable accomplishments but for smaller ones. Consider offering small rewards to incentivize them.
- Model achievements – When you discuss your teen’s goals and tasks they need to complete, let them know you’ll do the same thing. You can show them you can achieve tasks the same way they do. Consider participating in certain activities they need to get done and let them know you’re interested in how they are doing on their list of goals.
- Reframe their thinking – Discuss with your teenager what they are motivated to accomplish. (i.e., playing sports or hanging out with friends) Ask them why they are motivated to do these things.
Then brainstorm with them how they can transfer that “why” to doing other important things they don’t feel motivated to do, like school or chores. Come up with ideas together on how they can look at these things from a similar perspective. (i.e., Doing well in school gives you more time to hang out with your friends.)
Motivating Teenagers Through Social Stressors
You remember what it’s like to be a teenager. The pressure to “fit in” and the changing bodies and the girlfriend and boyfriend drama was a lot to deal with. Nowadays, teens have it even worse, thanks to social media. Cyberbullying is a real problem, and the pressure to look “perfect” like all those other people on Instagram is enough to make them want to hide under a rock.
In other words, it can cause them to become unmotivated and want to stay home in their rooms and never leave. (Sound familiar?)
Social stressors are a huge issue with teens. When considering how to motivate your teenager, make sure you put your listening ears on and try not to minimize what’s causing them stress.
- Be there for your teen – Validate what they’re feeling. Listen to them when they tell you about friend and relationship struggles. They don’t need you to “fix” everything all the time. But they do need someone to hear them.
- Ask questions – Get to know your teen. Find out what they’re interested in to build a healthy rapport. They’ll be more willing to share things with you when you do this.
- Look for teachable moments – As an adult, you have the advantage of life experience. Even if your teen doesn’t seem to want to hear what you’re saying, you’d be surprised what they hold on to. Don’t be afraid to share some of your wisdom with them.
In this digital age, many teens equate true friendship to numbers. Make sure your son or daughter understands the value of a real friend. It doesn’t matter how many followers they have. Remind them that genuine friendship should leave them feeling good about themselves. If they feel like a relationship makes them feel less about themselves, it’s okay to move away from them.
Motivating Teenagers Through Their Personal Expectations
When thinking about how to motivate teens, it’s crucial to find out what they expect of themselves. Have a conversation with your son or daughter and tell them to set aside what they think you expect from them.
- Find out what their “WHY” is – Teens need to know why things are important to them. For example, if it’s a history paper, they might ask, “Why is this important.” While it may be tempting to answer, “Because it’s school work, and that’s what you have to do.”
Instead, prompt them to really think about what pushes them through inconveniences and shortcomings. When they understand their “why” and not just fall back on “because I have to,” you’d be surprised how much more motivated they can become.
- Identify the end goal and make small goals – Teens may see an end goal as nearly impossible. Help them identify small goals they can achieve to get to the end goal. When they reach these smaller goals, they’ll build confidence and the motivation to complete the next small goal.
- Inspire them – Find out your teenager’s dreams and do your best to inspire them. For example, if your son wants to be a videogame designer, do some research on video game designers and reach out to see if your son can chat with them about how they got to that position.
If You Need Additional Help Motivating Your Teenager, Our Therapists Can Help
Sometimes, you can implement all of the above strategies and are still left with an unmotivated teenager. Don’t beat yourself up. There could be more going on that your son or daughter doesn’t want to share with you.
Our licensed therapists specialize in helping teens and young adults overcome mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, or a lack of motivation. Often, teens just need a third party to talk to, someone who can give them the tools and strategies they need to get through challenges like social pressures and unattainable personal goals.
Contact us if you’re looking for a young adult or teen therapist in Lombard. We only treat teens and young adults. So we know how to help. Please don’t wait to get your son or daughter the help they need to find that motivation once again.