14 Tips for Motivating Teens

Tips on motivating teens

Finding an effective method for motivating teens can make you want to pull your hair out.

Take a deep breath.

You are not alone.

Many parents struggle to motivate their teens.

It’s not a lost battle.

You want your teenager to become a self-motivated, hard-working adult, and when they fail to display these characteristics, it is easy to become bossy and prescriptive.

You may think that your teen is completely unmotivated and that they would fall apart without your reminders.

However, the chances are that your teen is more motivated than it may seem. They are probably motivated to hang out with friends, play sports or video games, or watch Netflix.

The secret to motivating teens is teaching them to apply their desires more productively to unlock their intrinsic motivation and ambition. 

Your reminders and micromanaging might help them do well on a test, but what happens when they leave the house without intrinsic motivation?

Motivating teens is possible.

Use the following tips to unlock your teen’s ambition and intrinsic motivation…

14 Tips for Motivating Teens Without Micromanagement or Nagging

1. Focus on actions, not words, when motivating teens

Many teenagers have become masters at giving the “right” answer instead of the honest one. They know what you want to hear and say it, but their actions don’t match their words.

To gauge your teen’s behavior, pay attention to what they do instead of what they say. 

It can be easy to become distracted by the answers your teenager gives. This can allow bad habits to develop.

If your teen’s words and actions do not align, you can draw attention to this and help them find a path forward. 

Focusing on actions instead of words will give you a clearer understanding of your teen’s behavior and motivation. It will allow you to point out consistencies and emphasize their actions.

Teaching your teen the importance of their actions is an important first step in motivating them. 

Motivating teens with positive feedback and encouragement

2. Motivating Teens With Positive Feedback and Encouragement

It is essential to give your teenager positive feedback when displaying the desired behavior.

You might think, “Well, of course, I should do that.”

However, it can be easy to get caught up in day-to-day life and take your teenager’s good behavior for granted. 

Make an effort to give your teenager positive feedback every day. You can do this by:

  • Compliment them when they’ve done something well
  • Say “thank you” when they help out around the house
  • Praise them in front of other family members and friends

It is also essential to avoid giving criticism that is vague or nonspecific. For example, instead of saying, “You’re lazy,” try. “I noticed that you didn’t take the trash out this morning. Can you please do that before lunch?”

This type of specific feedback is more likely to result in the desired behavior change.

Finally, avoid comparing them to their siblings, peers, or yourself. These comparisons are not motivating and may harm your teen’s self-esteem. 

3. Give Your Teen Independence

The teenage years are exciting. You are becoming your own person, developing an identity, and finding your way in the world.

Teenagers have a strong desire for independence which is a natural part of their development as human beings. 

Unfortunately, most teenagers are not given much autonomy. Their behavior and schedule are strictly regulated at home and school.

The desire for independence and a lack of control can cause teenagers to become apathetic, lack motivation, and feel powerless. 

I am not advocating for your teenager to have free reign. They are not adults yet. However, teenagers do need more independence and autonomy. Giving your teen more space to be themselves and to make their own decisions in one of the best methods for motivating teens.

motivating teens is a journey

4. Emphasize the Journey, Not the Outcome, To Increase Motivation

Getting caught up in your teen’s grades or extracurricular performance can be easy. However, focusing on the outcome is fool’s gold.

Would you rather your teenager be a hard worker that challenges themself or a Straight-A student that avoids difficult classes? 

Focusing on the process instead of the outcome will help your teenager develop a strong work ethic and love of learning. These are qualities that will benefit them their entire life.

Emphasizing the process can also give your teen specific areas to work on improving. Getting straight A’s is a huge and daunting task. Working on your homework each night is more manageable and achievable.

When your teenager does experience success, praise the journey and the effort it took them to get there. For example, celebrate their study habits and consistent studying instead of praising them for getting an A on an exam.

Shifting your emphasis to the process will help your teen do the same and inspire your teen’s motivation and self-discipline.

5. Pick Your Points of Emphasis

It can be easy to become concerned about your child’s future. You may have recurring thoughts about their options for higher education, their first job, and their career. 

You may also notice all the things they need to learn to be a self-sufficient adult (i.e., cook, clean, stay organized, do their work, etc.).

It is tempting to point out and correct each of these shortcomings. However, doing so is counterproductive. 

Pointing out all of your teen’s growth areas can overwhelm them. They may develop the feeling that they cannot do anything right. 

Instead, pick three or four key topics that you think are important and stick to these topics. Let the other issues go. 

Think back to when you were their age and what you were capable of. They may seem helpless now, but remember you were there at one point. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your teenager won’t become a responsible adult overnight. 

You can't motivate your teen with the "right" answer

6. Avoid Fishing for the “Right” Answer

When talking to your teen about school or life in general, you will likely hear some perspectives you disagree with. It is tempting to correct or nudge them towards the “right” answer in these moments.

However, this will only shut down the conversation and make your teen less likely to come to you with their thoughts and concerns. It can also teach them to give the “right” answer rather than the honest one.

It is essential to listen to your teenager’s perspective, even if you disagree. This doesn’t mean you must condone their behavior or agree with their choices. It does mean that you should try to understand their point of view.

Instead of correcting them, ask them questions and try to understand their perspective. 

If your teen feels like you respect their perspective and are actually listening to them, they are more likely to communicate with you. They are also more likely to heed your advice. 

7. learn how to motivate young adults with Questions Instead of Lectures

When your teenager performs poorly on a test or fails to complete some of their responsibilities, it can be tempting to become prescriptive and lecture your teen about what they should do better.

Teenagers quickly learn to tune out this type of communication. 

If you are committed to motivating teens, instead of giving your teenager a lecture or a pep talk, ask them questions. Some great questions to ask are:

  • Are you happy with the results?
  • What do you think went well?
  • What could you have done better?
  • How can I support you in the future?

These types of questions demonstrate that you care about your teen’s perspective. Additionally, by encouraging them to reflect and find a better path forward, you are teaching your teen to problem solve and have a growth mindset.

empathy is key for motiving teens

8. Empathize With Them 

When your teenager complains about a problem they are having or gives you a reason why they could not meet an expectation, it may be tempting to dismiss their perspective.

You might have even told them, “Well, back in my day….”

Minimizing your teenager’s struggles is tempting, but everyone believes their problems are legitimate. Connecting with their struggles is an effective method of motivating teens.

Instead of dismissing their problem or immediately providing them with a solution, Practice active listening. Give them eye contact and let them speak. You can give guidance but ask if they want it first. Finally, ask follow-up questions.

This type of communication will make your teenager more likely to speak with you and ask for your advice and help. It will also demonstrate that their opinions and perspectives are valid.

Believing in their feelings and emotions is essential for problem-solving and developing a growth mindset.

9. Be the Change You Wish To See

It can be easy to focus on your teenager’s bad habits. Maybe they procrastinate or don’t clean their room.

Take a moment to think about your behavior. Do you always clean your room or do things on time? 

I’m not suggesting that you need to be perfect. However, teenagers watch their parents closely and model their behavior after them.

If you want your teenager to be motivated, hard-working, and organized, you should also strive to model these behaviors. 

To be a good role model for your teen, you can:

  • Acknowledge the mistakes you have made and what you did to move past them
  • Share your success and failures at work
  • Follow through on the commitments you make at home and avoid procrastination
  • Take care of your mental and physical health
Routines are essential for motivating teens

10. Establish a Healthy Routine

A healthy routine can help your teenager stay on track and be more productive. This is something that is best accomplished as a family. This can be an excellent way of modeling good behavior for your teen.

Some things you can do to establish a routine are:

  • Wake up at the same time every day
  • Eat breakfast and lunch at regular times
  • Take breaks throughout the day to move your body and get some fresh air
  • Do homework at the same time each day
  • Spend some time reading or doing another activity that you enjoy
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour each night
  • Eat dinner together as a family

Of course, there will be days when things come up, and the routine has to be adjusted.

A regular structure will provide a framework that will support your teen while also providing them with the space to express their autonomy.

A weekly routine in which the entire family participates models the power of habit and demonstrates that you practice what you preach. 

11. Set Expectations and Consequences Together

One of the most important things you can do to successfully learn how to motivate young adults is to set clear expectations and consequences.

This is something that should be done together. By involving your teenager, you give them additional ownership in this process and validate their opinion and perspective.

Some things you may want to consider are:

  • Chores that need to be done each day
  • Expectations for schoolwork and grades
  • How much screen time is allowed each day
  • Curfew
  • Household rules, such as no swearing or fighting

Additionally, you should collectively agree on the consequences of breaking the rules.

By establishing rules and consequences together, your teen will feel empowered and feel like they have more control and independence.

Making mistakes is part of motivating teens

12. Allow Your Teenager to Experience the Consequences of Their Actions

As a parent, you want to protect your child as much as possible. However, you also want to avoid micromanaging your teenagers.

This can be a tricky balancing act to follow, but your teenager must learn to accept the consequences of their actions.

If you clean up their mistake, this is the illusion of success for you and your teen. 

For example, if your teen forgets their homework at home, and you bring it to school for them, they did not successfully complete their task. However, since you bailed them out, they still get the rewards.

Instead of learning to be responsible, your teen learned that they don’t have complete tasks because you will finish it for them. This type of behavior emphasizes the outcome, not the process. 

Learning from mistakes is an essential step in becoming intrinsically motivated. Allowing your teen to fail will teach them to take responsibility for their actions. 

If you let your teen learn from the consequences of their actions, you can avoid power struggles. They will also know why certain habits are so important.

13. Identify Your Teen’s Motivations

An important step in motivating your teen is identifying what motivates them. Focusing on the bigger picture issues like going to college, getting a good job, and supporting themselves financially can be tempting.

Unfortunately, your teenager will probably not connect with these issues, and focusing on them will not motivate your child. 

Instead, ask your teenager what motivates them. What do they want to achieve, and why do they want it? If you want to encourage your teen, you need to speak their language. 

For example, if your teen is motivated to spend more time with his friends, they focus on this when discussing the importance of doing homework during the week.

By embracing what motivates them, you are empowering your teen and helping them develop a reward system and delay gratification. 

As they get older, these teen motivations will change and get left behind. However, teaching them to trust their current motivations is an essential step in their journey to becoming adults.

14. Boost Motivation With an Academic Coach

All of the tips on this list can help motivate your teenager. However, sometimes there are limits to what mom and dad can do.

Teenagers want more independence and agency, making them unwilling to listen to parents and teachers. 

A great way to avoid this conflict is to find an academic coach to work with your teenager.

An academic coach will work with your teen to help them find their intrinsic motivation by giving them the support and feedback they need to thrive. 

An academic coach is not an existing authority figure who can make it easier for your teen to engage with them openly. As a result, your teen is more likely to accept and follow through on the feedback from an academic coach.

Academic coaches specialize in motivating teens and working with one can help set your teen on the path to success.

About the Author: John Hyde

I am an educational coach specializing in teaching students’ academic fundamentals and a growth mindset. 

After graduating from Duke University in 2015, I taught at a public middle school from 2016 to 2019. Although I loved working with students in the classroom, the public education system was not teaching students the skills essential to academic success. 

I left the classroom in 2019 to start Academic Empowerment Academy. Since then, my coaching program has helped hundreds of students realize their academic potential by assisting them in building confidence and empowering them with the skills and mindset to meet their goals in school and life. 

If you’d like to discuss how I can help your teen be more motivated, foster good habits, and improve academic organization/performance, Book a Complimentary Discovery Call Here.

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Author Spotlight

Hi I’m John, author of this blog, academic coach, and founder of AE Academy.

I help teens reach their academic potential by empowering them with academic fundamentals, a growth mindset, and critical thinking. 

If your teen is struggling to reach their academic potential, or isn’t learning the skills they need to succeed in school, we should connect.

It’s on me – Book Your Free Call Here

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