Identifying how to motivate your seemingly unmotivated teen can feel challenging and a bit overwhelming. Parents may prematurely jump to the conclusion that their teenager is not motivated about anything, but the reality is they are not motivated to do the things their parent wants them to do.

Your teen may demonstrate lazy and unruly behavior when asked to complete homework or chores. On the flip side, your teen may display an interest in video games and be motivated to play until they reach a new level.

The key to motivating an unmotivated teen is a combination of actions. There isn’t a particular order to follow, but parents must be willing to try tactics multiple times.

Proactively offer positivity.

It sounds corny but positive reinforcement is an effective way to boost your child’s confidence. The key to providing positive reinforcement is offering it in a proactive way. Don’t wait until something negative happens to voice encouraging phrases to your teen. Tell them how awesome you think they are every day – no matter what.

Simple ways a parent can offer positivity are:

    • Leaving a note in their backpack or lunch bag that says, “You are so smart,” “I am so proud of your hard work on the science project,” or “You did such a great job at practice.”
    • Writing a note on their bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker that encourages a good day. Write: “Good luck on your test. I know you’ll ace it.” or “Be positive!”
    • At dinner, invite family members to share highlights from the day. After each person speaks, say something positive that reinforces their good attitude.

Incorporating positivity into the normal day-to-day will help your teen channel a better attitude when they’re not motivated to do something that needs to be done.

Create boundaries and stick to them.

In many cases, the lack of motivation is a form of resistance. Teens challenge their boundaries by saying no and resisting to do the assigned tasks. Set up a routine with your teen and layout the expectations. Everyone has off days, but it is not acceptable to blatantly opt-out. If your teen decides to push back, implement consequences, and set restrictions. Be fluid with the expectations and regulations – this way, your teen isn’t caught off guard and surprised when they are reprimanded.

If your teen enjoys playing video games, require their chores and homework to be completed before they are allowed to play their games. Or maybe your teen would like to have friends over. Ask your child to finish their chores and do well on their upcoming test, so they can have the privilege of guests.

If you set the precedence and stick with it, your teen will respect their boundaries and the routine in place. Teens will be motivated by the framework their parent builds and reinforces – even if they initially push back.

Teach your teen how to be a problem solver.

Problem-solving skills are not actions teens naturally know how to use. Parents must teach their children the process of using social skills and solving problems. When your child faces an issue, take the time to sit with them, discuss it, review the options available to solve the problem, and listen to their concerns. A parent’s willingness to teach their child the ins and outs of resolving issues will be the key to creating independence and motivation within their teen.

Unfortunately, parents who sit back and allow their child to figure the majority of life’s events out will grow frustrated because their teen’s discouragement will lead to being unmotivated. Offer your child advice on how you would approach a problem and ask for their feedback. Creating an environment where your voice is valued and heard will help your teen feel comfortable speaking up.

Don’t call your teen names.

The last thing your teen wants to hear is their parent refer to them as lazy, not hardworking, or incompetent. Don’t argue with your teen. If a parent yells at their teen and demands their compliance, the reality is they are experiencing a power struggle, and teens pick up on that.

Approach your child’s unmotivated behavior with a calm and open mind. Don’t beat around the bush, ask your teen why they are not doing what they are supposed to do, and offer a reasonable resolution. If your child decides to push back, then you should push back and implement a consequence. The parent should always maintain composure, so they can maintain their authority and not lose respect.

Let your child experience the consequences.

Oftentimes your child needs to learn things the hard way. The reality is, occasionally, teens need to hear advice from someone else before they’ll listen to their parents. So, if your teen doesn’t study for a test, allow them to fail and receive the bad grade. Follow through with your consequences at home, and your teen will also receive consequences at school.

Experiencing natural consequences is oftentimes the nudge a teenager needs to get motivated to do the next right thing. Natural consequences are an important part of life and usually become red flags for the future.

Approach each tip with patience and persistence. Helping your teen shape into a motivated individual is not always easy, but it is part of parenting. Try to maintain a realistic attitude and understanding throughout your teachings. Try to be rational and realistic, odds are you were probably not the most compliant teenager either. Teens must learn lessons and experience life in order to understand and appreciate the benefits of being a motivated individual.

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