What’s a parent to do when their teenage daughter or son is not motivated and seems to be completely uninspired with their schoolwork?
Sometimes these situations seem intractable, but with a little love, patience, empathy, and perhaps a motivational aid, you can make a difference. Here are 4 ways to try.
1). Use a Motivational Aid
Sometimes teens show a lack of motivation because they haven’t really been able to visualize something they really want. If your teen has an idea for what they want out of life, even a very vague one, work with that.
Talk to your teen about what they really want out of life, what they want to do after high school and whether they want to go to college.
Ask them to visualize what it would look like, walking in their graduation and getting their degree. You can even get them a convincing and very real-looking fake diploma, a novelty item which can serve to spur their minds on to accomplish great things and get the diploma for real.
2). Take Time to Empathize
It’s very easy to see the problem behavior in your teen and want right away to fix it. This is a very reasonable instinct in many ways, but as parents we need to stop and think first: how can we “fix” our teens if we don’t know what’s not going right with them?
When we take the time to empathize with our teens, we can move away from thinking of it in terms of “fixing” what is wrong by actually understanding their issues and what is important to them. It’s likely the case that something is going not-quite-right in their lives in a way that they find difficult to deal with.
If you take the time and simply draw them out by asking them to help you understand what they’re going through and what they want, they’ll be much more likely to open up to you and be able to have a worthwhile conversation.
Be advised, however, that this process can sometimes take a while: young people are not always ready to open up on the first try, or even the fifth. Show your teen with your body language and the tone of your voice that you really do care about them, that you want to understand them, and the chances are much better that they’ll come around.
At the same time, too, realize that sometimes a lack of motivation may be at least in part an attempt for your teen to get your attention. If that’s the case, try to approach the situation with empathy and understanding: getting cross with them won’t help.
3). Stay Informed & Helpful
Take the time to stay informed about what is going on in your teen’s life, including school, any sports or extra-curricular activities, friendships, relationships, etc. This will help you realize when something is off, or seems like it might be: if they stop talking about a crush/love interest, for example, or they report they are having trouble in a given class.
In addition to staying informed, try to be helpful when your teen tells you about a problem they are having. If you are able to offer meaningful advice that they may be willing to hear, do so.
All of this is important for helping your teen to be motivated to study harder. If they know you are supportive and have their back, they will be more likely to talk to you.
In the context of difficulties with subject matter and specific classes, take the time to help your teen with subjects and assignments they find difficult.
4). Encourage Them to Take Pride in Their Achievements
Where your teen has accomplished something worthwhile, don’t be shy about praising them and reminding them of it. When they are having a difficult time, remind them of that time that they did really well, either on a similar challenge or something different.
The other way to approach this is to sit down and help them work through each part of a given problem, and then praise them as they make progress. You don’t need to pin their hopes and their motivation and their sense of well-being on that time they did well on a spelling test two months ago: help them learn and achieve now.
The more you can help your teen feel accomplished, the better they are likely to do.
Teenagers suffer losses of confidence and motivation in many of the same ways as adults do. However, since they do not have an adult’s length of time in dealing with those issues, it can be harder for them to pull out of a slump—they haven’t learned yet.
The 4 strategies discussed here all have to do with taking the time to really engage with your teen and be understanding about what they are going through. With any luck, you’ll get through to them and help them regain motivation to succeed.