Motivating teenagers can be incredibly difficult. Their emotions can run in highs and lows, and they can be highly engaged with topics they are interested in and then check out the next minute.
Many parents use punishment and negative reinforcement when teenagers struggle to stay academically motivated.
I’m here to tell you that this approach is not only ineffective, but it can even have the opposite effect. Fortunately, there are other ways to motivate your teenager that don’t involve punishment and can help create a more positive and encouraging environment.
As an academic coach and a classroom teacher, I discovered the secret to motivating teenagers. Please keep reading to learn about the seven secrets I’ve uncovered to motivate teenagers and help them build a positive work ethic.
1. Accept Mistakes When Motivating Teenagers
One of the biggest reasons many teens feel unmotivated is the emphasis that adults put on what they do wrong. Many parents are hyper-focused on the mistakes their teens make. Instead of encouraging their teens to learn from their mistakes, this approach causes them to check out and feel like everything they do is wrong.
When motivating teenagers, it is crucial to focus on the positive. Acknowledge their hard work and successes, even if they are small. When teens make mistakes, it’s important to point out what they did well and use it as an opportunity for growth.
Accept mistakes as part of their learning process. This acceptance will help your teenager to keep trying, not be discouraged by failure, and stay motivated.
2. Give Teenagers Independence to Motivate Them
Giving a teenager when they lack motivation may seem counterproductive. However, it is vital to recognize the importance of independence and autonomy for motivating teenagers.
Teenagers are at a stage developmentally where they are ready to take on new responsibilities, make their place in the world, and become more independent.
By giving them independence and allowing them to make their own decisions, you motivate them by showing that you trust them. This trust will help them to be more confident and willing to try new things.
Independence also gives teenagers a sense of agency and control over their lives, empowering them to work hard. Without this sense of empowerment, many teenagers will check out because they don’t feel a sense of ownership over their actions.
3. Speak their Language When Motivating Teenagers
When trying to motivate a teenager, it may be tempting to fall back on statements like:
- You will need this when you are older!
- College is essential and will help you get a better job.
- Do you want to work an entry-level job your entire life?
While statements like this may make perfect sense for your adult brain, they won’t motivate teenagers. In fact, they may even alienate your teenager and make them less likely to work hard.
Instead of what makes sense to you, focus on what they care about. Listen to your teenager and make sure you are speaking their language. Find out what motivates them and use that to encourage them to work hard and stay motivated.
For example, if they struggle to finish their homework, let them know they can spend more time with their friends if their grades are good. If they are behind in math, explain that it will help them understand the world around them and show them some real-world examples.
Speaking to your teenager on their terms will make them more likely to stay engaged in what you’re saying and be more motivated to work hard.
4. Create a Reward System
We are all motivated by rewards. 99% of adults would not go to work if they were not paid. For some reason, teenagers are expected to be different. Their only reward for academic performance is grades, which have very little social or economic value.
Instead of expecting teenagers to be motivated because they need good grades to get into college or a good job, you can create a reward system for the behaviors you want to see. Whether completing their homework on time, studying for a test or getting good grades – create a reward system for each.
This reward system can be anything from earning points that can be exchanged for something they want or a simple “good job” from the parent. It is vital to make sure the reward is motivating and achievable.
Creating a reward system motivates your teenager to take charge and take responsibility for their success and will empower them to stay motivated and work hard.
5. Use Praise When Motivating Teenagers
We live in an overwhelming negative world. The focus is almost always on the mistakes that people make.
A great example is school grades. You can only make one or two mistakes on a test to get an A. Teenagers learn to avoid mistakes at all costs, which is a negative perspective to take on the world.
When motivating teenagers, it is crucial to stay positive. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on their progress. Acknowledge their hard work and praise them for it.
Motivating teenagers through praise and positive reinforcement creates a safe space where they can thrive and grow. They will be more willing to take risks and learn from their mistakes, motivating them to work hard and develop a positive work ethic.
6. Ask Questions
One of the best secrets to motivating teenagers is to ask them questions and avoid telling them what to do. Instead of lecturing or instructing them on a task, ask them how they think they should proceed first.
By asking questions, you create an environment where the teenager feels free to think and explore new ideas. Asking them for their solution also implies trust and belief in their ability to solve the problem.
Asking questions is a great way to motivate teenagers because it helps them take ownership of their work. It makes them feel like they are in control and can make decisions for themselves.
7. Get Guilt-Free Academic Support
The final secret to motivating teenagers is providing them with guilt-free academic support. Most academic support comes in the form of tutors who cover specific topics and subjects. Many families only hire tutors after their teenager has done poorly on a test or is underperforming overall.
Hiring a tutor in response to poor performance creates a negative learning environment and implies the student is doing something wrong. Instead of waiting for the teenager to fail, look for opportunities to provide them with academic support that isn’t attached to academic performance.
Working with an academic coach is an excellent way of accomplishing this. An academic coach can support and guide your teenager, motivating them to work hard and stay focused on their studies.
Instead of focusing on a specific subject, an academic coach focuses on the holistic growth of a teenager and prioritizes their long-term growth over short-term academic performance.
If you think working with an academic coach is the proper support for your teenager, let’s chat.
I’m an experienced academic coach specializing in motivating teenagers and helping them reach their academic potential.
I’m passionate about motivating teenagers and helping them reach their academic potential. Let’s chat today and make a plan to help your teenager stay motivated and achieve their educational goals.
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.
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