Do you worry about your teen’s lack of motivation?
Does it make you beg, bribe, coax, nag, or push them to “motivate” action?
Do you get so frustrated at times that you resort to yelling, screaming, or punishing?
If you imagine that this will lead your teen to become self-motivated you’re fooling yourself. Your actions are self-defeating, don’t bring you any closer to motivating your teen, and only end up straining your relationship.
Sure, if you nag and push and yell long enough, your teen may comply. But it’s not because they’re motivated, it’s because they want you off their back. Most often, though, your teen will probably resist you even harder. In the end, the situation only becomes worse than it was before.
Understanding Your Teen’s “Lack of Motivation”
The fact is, very few teenagers have no motivation at all. What your teen is probably lacking is the motivation to do the things that don’t seem important to them. Because of that, they are actually motivated to say “I don’t care” and resist.
It’s ironic, but their stance of non-compliance, resistance, complaint, and withdrawal actually takes a lot of energy. Why do they put so much effort into doing “nothing” when they could just comply and perhaps use less energy?
The simple answer: it gives your teen a sense of power and control.
Control of what? – Their fears.
Think back for a moment to your own teenage years and recall the search for your place in life at that time. Was it always easy? No. Did you eventually find your place? Probably. But do you also remember the fear and worry that came with the uncertainty? The anxiety of failing to meet challenging responsibilities, of competing with other children, of dealing with everybody’s expectations, especially those of your parents?
Underachieving helps your teen to manage other people’s expectations. They know, once they achieve something, more will be expected of them. This pressure is powerful and children often have trouble defending against it. Saying they don’t care and resisting takes that pressure off and makes them feel in control. – “I don’t care” becomes their shield.
How to Coach Your Underachieving Teen Successfully
Now that you understand why your teenager resists, you can approach the situation from a fresh perspective – being their coach, or mentor.
How does it work?
Understand your teenager – It requires that you get to know your child; what is important to them. Being observant about what they like and dislike, will help you to find incentives with which to motivate them.
Be tough but fair – Hold your teen accountable. Allow them to make decisions and experience the consequences of those decisions – good or bad. Let them earn privileges and don’t always tell them how great they are when they haven’t put forth any effort. Flattery and false praise only backfire.
Teach them skills – Don’t do everything for them; encourage independence. Help them understand the value of the task, instruct them how to do it, and be there for support. But also give them a measure of say. They’re old enough to think creatively and come up with new ideas.
Focus on and compliment them for specific achievements – Emphasize their positive progress. Reason with them about how their accomplishments give them control over what they want to do and have in the future. Helping them see what’s in it for them can be highly motivating.
Lead by example – To inspire, you must act inspiring. So, stay patient and calm, and don’t take their behavior personally. Remember, it’s not directed toward you. Communicate to them that they matter to you and be a role model by handling your own responsibilities well.
Above all other benefits, employing coaching/mentoring strategies will allow your teens to understand themselves and discover their own motivation.