How to motivate teenagers – Part 1

Is your teenager completely unmotivated? How do you channelise his strengths in the right direction? How do you cope with the pressures of raising a teen? Let's help you understand where your teens' motivation lies and how best to exploit it.

I have worked with teenagers for a significant portion of my life, and I see and understand them differently. Teenagers are at an awkward phase in their lives. They are neither children, nor are they adults. The world treats them as kids and wants them to behave like adults. Quite a predicament that. Teenagers get reminded that they are too young for something and then told that they are old enough to know better and must act responsibly. It is quite a challenge; they're young and old at the same time. No wonder teenage years are some of the most challenging years in an individual's life.

Teenagers are also discovering themselves; they are learning new aspects of life in their personal lives and their immediate surroundings. Teenagers experience physical changes; they become interested in the opposite sex. They experience hormonal changes and often do not have anyone to discuss intimate questions. They struggle with academics and face uncertainties regarding the stream to choose. They crave independence and the freedom to explore the world. It is a whole new world for them; they want to remove the shackles that hold them back. Their perception of things is so different from the adults'.

Parents find themselves in a fix. They cannot handle their teenage kids. The little child who once did everything the parents wanted is suddenly rebellious and unmotivated. How do parents cope with such ambiguous behaviour? How can the parent motivate the child?

The questioning phase

Every child is an unpolished stone; they need the right motivation to bring out the shine in them. However, children don't just become enthusiastic; they seek reasons. They question everything with a 'why'. From their point of view, there has to be a rationale for them to do something. Answer their whys, and voila, you have a winner ready to rock the world.

Every generation of teens has questions, but the children of today, ask those questions aloud. The point I am getting to is that you cannot just bark orders at your teen and expect him to follow. They seek an explanation for everything - 'why do you want me to do this?' 'Why should I do this?' Your response has the key to whether the child will be driven to do what you think is best for him. Don't tell a teen they should do something because you say so. It isn't challenging enough.

To make a teen do something you need to make it rewarding, not in terms of what you can give him, but rewarding to him. The aim must be to make the child see it as something that he wants to achieve, and not something that you think he should do. Every child has the strength to accomplish the impossible, provided there is adequate channelising of his latent talent.

Step up the game

Your child will question every decision you make. He will counter everything you say or want him to do. Somewhere he is showing his independence and individual thinking. Grab the opportunity and tap that individual thought, so he sees your views as challenges.

Your child will debate you, throw a flurry of questions at you. And it isn't easy to be in that situation, but don't back off now, more importantly, don't show your authority. Have convincing answers to all his questions, and none of them should be about you wanting him to do something, or you knowing what's best for him. Teenagers will do things when they realise that they stand to gain from it. That serves as a long-term motivation.

Understand that if your child is doing something to make you proud, then that's not going to last for long. That is the main reason why children who fare excellently until school suddenly drop grades when they enter college. Children need to be self-motivated to continue to get good grades. The child must feel a sense of accomplishment in his achievements, and that makes his effort worth it, and it also acts as a driving force. Help your child to find the reason why he should be doing something. Let it be his journey and not a fulfilment of your dreams and aspirations. Inspire your child to dream, but let the goals be his.

How to inspire your child

Encourage your child to believe in his abilities, show your faith in him and support him as much as you can. Speak to your child about your dreams and failures and stress on why you failed. Let it be a lesson for the child that when there is a lack of commitment, all you embrace is a failure. Show him how commitment results in success.

I find that telling real-life motivating stories help. The stories can be yours or someone else's but use an opportune moment to interject that story, so it makes the most impact.

Here is an example of a story that can motivate. It's from a television series that I saw some time ago. It was about a basketball coach who waited on the court for his students to show up; each one of them came in late. And when he addressed his class of young players, he told them that he was on the court at 05:00 hours, not because he liked to get up early, nor was it because he wanted to be out in the cold, but because the youngsters were his responsibility, he had to be the best coach that they'd had. He went on to add that every one of them is dependent on the other because they are a team. And when one player is late for practice, it affects the entire team. He fixed a sense of accountability on them. The next day onwards, every player arrived for training ahead of time.

How to motivate your child?

Parents and teens rarely see eye-to-eye. There is a difference between their opinions and temperaments. The wants and desires are different. So are the goals and dreams. Parents see their teen as lazy and unmotivated. I've heard the 'He's not interested in anything' so many times that I have lost count. The trouble is that parents read their child wrong. They see just what they want to see.

Of course, the child is motivated and interested in doing things, but his choices are different from what the parents desire. There starts the conflict. A teen who isn't interested in academics may be giving his 100% to another activity. Does your teen play cricket? Is he on time for his coaching lessons? Cricket is just an example; it could be guitar lessons or swimming classes. The point is that your child is disciplined when it comes to activities that he enjoys.

So, what could you do to channelise that focus into areas that matter? Initiate a discussion with your teen, in a relaxed, very neutral environment. Don't nitpick, instead talk to him about the activity that he shows most dedication. Show him that you're genuinely interested in his life and his interest. Once the chatter warms up, ask pointed questions, such as what keeps him devoted to the activity. He might respond that it gives him an adrenaline rush or he enjoys the company of other members, or it allows him to prove himself.

Applaud his dedication, to produce the 'feel good factor' and then suggest that he try to infuse the same passion into other aspects of his life. Maybe not with the same intensity, but he could give it a try. Speak to him about ambition and drive and how he possesses those qualities. A little shift towards life's essential things could translate into him becoming an allrounder. Use your words carefully; you do not want to come across as condescending.

Don't push too hard, leave it as a question – 'Can you figure out a way to devote a little time for your studies? I see you have the ability to do it, but it's up to you to recognise your strengths.' You appraise and praise the teen, and throw him a challenge, and teens love that. They are always looking for recognition and are ever ready for challenges. You can make your teen do something, without asking him to do it.

Parents don't apply the correct approach, which is why they usually fail. They crib, shout, demean and punish the child when all they need is to work on the child's psyche. It sounds sinister, but parenting can, at times involve mind games.

So what's the takeaway here? The biggest lesson here is that teens have to be 'guided', and the fact is that they refuse to be 'led'. As responsible parents, you have to learn the art of duping your teen into believing that the decisions are all his, while you who secretly tune his mind.

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Author: Umesh14 Jul 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 9

A very elaborate and well-presented article on handling the teenagers today. The parents are facing a big challenge in tackling their teenager children who do not seem to agree to anything proposed to them or suggested to them. Teenagers have their own world and they see everything from that angle. They have certain understandings and they feel that they are totally right on those premises and can give any verdict standing there. This is the age when the children are growing and changes in the body are taking place not only on hormonal levels but mental thinking stages also. So any force or strict control on them simply irritate them and either they will keep a deep silence which is a regressive phase or aggressively fight to vent out their anger. In any case, the purpose of being strict is lost.

It is said that though parents cannot rule the teenagers but can win their hearts by extending a friendly hand to them. One of my cousins told me that once in a while he takes his teenage daughter for dinner to her place of choice and then would have the favourite ice-cream afterwards. He further told me that with that small gesture the aggressiveness and irritation of his daughter were drastically reduced. This is only an example but there could be many more such cures and treatments which can be devised to bring the teenagers to the atmosphere of love and affection. It is true that parents have a serious role to play in this endeavour to keep the teenagers attached to the love and affection at home.

Author: Neeru Bhatt15 Jul 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

The article has given a good sketch of the problems of teenagers and how to address them. In every house this phase comes when there are some teenagers who do not abide by the rules of the house and have a different approach to everything they encounter in their life. It is not their fault. In fact they are growing through a phase of life in which there is a transformation taking place in them from childhood to adulthood. This transition period is definitely a challenge to manage for the parents but if they are patient enough and have some knowledge of the child psychology there is no reason why they cannot keep their siblings in a correct path.

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