I have three teenagers and I can tell you, it is frustrating to watch them not grow into their potential at times. I’ve learned the best thing you can do is let them discover who they are, and what they want to do, at their own pace.
Yes, help and support is essential. Telling them you believe in them and letting them know how capable they are is a must. But you can’t rush or force anyone into doing or being something they aren’t ready for.
Think of how much motivation you need on some days to work, clean, work out, or even start something you’ve been wanting to tackle for a long time. It’s hard.
Throw a bunch of self-centered hormones into the mix, and you have lots of teens who can seem … less than motivated.
Here are four things I’ve done with all my teens that have really helped make life easier for all of us (and saved me from saying something I know I’ll regret later).
Meet them with understanding.
Even if we cannot fathom why our kids would rather lie in a room of filth, or not change their clothes for a few days, criticizing them for doing so doesn’t help. Meeting your teen with understanding and saying things like, “I get too tired to clean, too, but I always feel so much better when I go to bed and my room is clean,” goes over so much better than saying, “How can you live in this pigsty?”
Believe me, I’ve tried both approaches — and showing compassion and not shaming them goes a really long way.
Accept they aren’t going to be good at certain things.
My kids hate school — all of them. Some years they do better than others, but the truth is, they have all always struggled and not tested well. Learning doesn’t come naturally to them, it feels hard, and they don’t want to do it.
I don’t try to turn them into high honor students. I accept it’s not their thing, and all I can ask is that they put in fair effort.
Let them know it’s okay if they aren’t great at something.
Things are so competitive these days. Between the intensity of sports, kids taking college courses during their sophomore year of high school, feeling the pressure to do a ton of extra curricular activities, and work, I don’t know how our teens are doing it.
I remind my kids all the time not to get frustrated if they aren’t as good as the other kids at sports or in chorus. I don’t want them to have the attitude that if they aren’t at a certain skill level they should give up.
Kids need to be reminded that it’s okay if they aren’t super good at something. This saves so much frustration on their end and they will learn there will be lots of times in life when they aren’t the best.
This way of thinking will keep them a lot more motivated than if they are constantly comparing themselves to others.
Give them incentives to be motivated.
This is probably the most effective tactic I’ve used in my teens. I got this tip from my brother-in-law who is an elementary school principal. When my children were young he told me if I take something away from them, then tell them they can earn it back with good behavior, I’d see a change in behavior. I did.
I do this now that they’re teens, too. If they had a missing assignment, I’d take their phone with the understanding they could have it back when they handed the assignment in. I do the same thing with their chores. If there’s a tougher job I want them to do (like bring in the deck furniture) they get a bigger reward then their weekly allowance.
If it comes to something like getting them to do a task I knew they didn’t want to do, I’d tell them if they got started on it, we’d go for ice cream or they got to pick what we had for dinner.
We all need a little push at times to get motivated, and our teens are no different.