Parents across generations have always found it tough to motivate and handle their teenage sons and daughters. Today’s parents however, face a bigger challenge. We are in the midst of a time when our teen’s familiar routine has been turned upside down and anxiety is at an all time high.
To bring back a semblance of normalcy and routine we try to motivate and coax our kids to adopt certain habits, do some chores, and be organised in their studies. We look at them lying on the bed, and wish we could somehow rouse their spirit.
Then again, is your teen really unmotivated?
Think about it. When it comes to talking with their friends everyday or playing games online, they display high motivation. When it comes to watching the latest episode of Family Man on Amazon Prime, they are willing to spend the entire day at it.
Your teen does not lack motivation; their motivation is just not channelled in a productive manner. When it comes to chores like cleaning up after themselves, tidying up their room, putting dirty clothes in the laundry and having an organized study schedule; these are all tasks that they are capable of.
The good news is that your teen does not lack motivation. You merely need to channel that motivation in the right manner.
Here are ten simple, but powerful ways to do just that.
This is quite straightforward. How many times have you actually listened to your kid? I mean actually tried to understand where your teen is coming from and not just waiting for them to finish so that you can go ahead and voice your opinion.
There could be a hundred different factors affecting your child. I remember one classmate of mind who had to see counselling because he was bullied every day at school. Another friend of mine’s school grades dropped in 9th standard because his parents thought it best to stop his drum lessons. Music was the only extra coaching he liked going to and that affected his mood, and consequently his studies. Others might be more straightforward. Like my younger brother. He was promised the just-launched Kodak 999, the big budget camera of the 90s if he could get into a good MBA college. That motivated him to get into IIM-Bangalore.
As parents we need to understand what drives them and what inspires them. We have to find out what will make them put their heart and soul into a task rather than simply going to through the motions.
2. Be their cheerleaders!
Who else but you can be their biggest supporter? You might probably be the only person who understands your teen more than they do themselves. And seeing them squander their abilities probably frustrates you day in and day out.
Like I mentioned in my previous tip, listen and then act. Here you need to find out if there is anything preventing them from focusing on their tasks. Teenagers lead complicated lives and it would not be out of the ordinary if your son or daughter has something large weighing on their mind.
I remember a year or two in between when my son started acting withdrawn and irritated. I figured it was a normal case of adolescence. It turned out my son was suffering from low confidence and for some reasons, felt inferior to his classmates. That negative energy affected his friend-making abilities and subsequently reflected in his ability to study.
If kids do not feel good about themselves, they will slowly erode their self-esteem, enthusiasm and motivation with their negative self-talk.
Listen to your kid. Be their biggest fan.
3.What motivates them?
Every one of us has different interests in life. So do kids. Every kid can be motivated but in different ways. For example, some kids are motivated by cold, hard cash; others are motivated by the feeling of being the best among their peers. Most of them are motivated by praises from their family and friends.
For my daughter the promise of a week-long vacation was the motivation. For my son, it is usually some latest tech.
So find out; what does your kid want? Is it the new play station that just hit the market? Is it a new pair of shoes? Is a trip to the nearest amusement park? As long as it is not handed to them and the child feels that they have earned that reward, it is not a bribe. Find that motivation and dangle the carrot.
The high of reaching a goal is addictive. Once your child gets used to that feeling, they’ll keep coming back for more.
4. Reward the process—Not the result.
While starting a new habit, it is necessary to focus on the process rather than the end result. It is in the process that we learn and gain confidence. Setbacks are also part of it and we shouldn’t falter as they come.
Making your kid into a responsible, hard-working person is a continuous process. Parenting after all is a marathon.
Think about it yourself. When you started working out or when you started learning a new course, it was completing those smaller challenges along the way that helped you to stay focused. Hitting a daily goal made you feel satisfied and the rest of the day you could be happy with your accomplishment.
With every new challenge, goal, win, or accomplishment, your child is learning – about life, about themselves, and what they’re capable of. They’re also growing and gaining more confidence. Help them take setbacks in stride.
Help them love the marathon.
5: Involve your teenager in the process
Often times, we make decisions for our kids without involving them in the process. The result in such cases is usually either disastrous or resentment from them.
As kids grow up, things change and they need constant reminders that their opinions matter. I remember once how my son ended up in particularly unhelpful chemistry tuition and wasted a huge chunk of his year travelling the extra distance. Even though the teacher came highly recommended, there were just too many kids in the class. My son was lost among them. I made it a point to listen to him when he came to me with his problem. Later my son did his own research and found a teacher near our home. He was happier, scored better and saved a ton of time!
Involve our teen in the process. Sometimes they have the best solutions.
6. Speak positive about your teen in front of others
A common practice whenever guests come over is to speak negative about the child in front of others. This is probably done as a way to motivate the child but tends to do the opposite instead.
When parents say, “I doubt he will do anything in life. He wakes up so late” or
“I am not sure she will amount to anything. She does not have any motivation to study”—it make teenagers resentful.
Teens have a strange way of becoming the persons their parents view them as. Words like ‘useless’ or ‘lazy’ will only drive them to become ‘more useless’ or ‘more lazy’. However, if you praise the good in them and speak in an affirming and positive way about them, they will live up to that standard automatically. And do it once in a while, not every time the opportunity presents itself. And of course be sincere about it.
7. Show that you love them
Any teenager I talk to, most of them have the same story to tell me. “It seems like my parents like me only when I perform or excel in something.” Well, I thought, that cannot be true. We love our kids no matter what.
Then again, when was the last time you smiled, gave them a pat and praised them for doing something well? I remember my childhood years when most of the time my mother would nag and father would simply not bother. They did love me a lot and provided me more than what I deserved. However, that love was never overtly shown except when I won an award or scored particularly well on an exam. This made me feel love needed to be earned with awards, marks and certificates.
When teens feel they need to earn their parent’s love, acceptance and approval, it affects their self-esteem and self-worth going into their adult years.
8. Allow your teenager to make mistakes and experience discomfort
We cannot expect our teens to be perfect. We need to allow them to make their own mistakes and learn. When they are expected to be perfect and fail to live up to the expectations, they can end up becoming unmotivated.
Let’s say you want to teach your kid how to save and use their allowance in the best way. But they want to waste it all away on fast food and other temporary pleasures. So let them. That was the way I taught my kids the value of money when they were suffering from ‘Swiggy-fever’ or excessive ordering in. Only once they burned through all their money, I taught them to save and invest. Now they are little pros at handling money!
Some lessons are best learnt through experience. Of course, there are exceptions when the situation becomes serious and demands intervention.
Mostly, it is about preventing them from living a sheltered life.
9. Resist the urge to compare
It is the story of every teenager that their parents keep comparing them to others. “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” “Why can’t you be more like Sharma ji’s beta?”
Most of us do it despite being aware how much our kids hate it and how unhealthy it is. We just cannot resist the urge to compare. Somewhere we continue to think that it will inspire our kids to become better than the rest. It does nothing of that sort, in fact, it only does the opposite.
A close friend of mine, Sajid, whose son I occasionally used to counsel used to tell me how his parents compared him with the neighbourhood topper and how that made him feel demotivated. I chided Sajid for doing so and told him explicitly, in a step-by-step manner to encourage his son’s strengths alone and not compare him with others. That changed everything. His son passed his 12th with flying colours.
As a result, teens feel like they are not good enough. At that age they are already busy wrestling with their emotions and dealing with their insecurity issues without us piling on top.
10. Model the behaviour you want your teenager to display
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.”
This is one point I stress with every parent I meet. Practice what you preach. Model the behaviour you want your child to emulate.
Let’s say you want your child to start reading more. You tell her to read at least a few chapters every day before bed or a book a month. On the other hand, she never sees you anywhere near a book. She will attempt to read and might succeed for a month or two but she will not be able to continue the habit for long if you are not a role model for her to emulate.
Parents are the first role models for their children. Teens might not listen to you, but they are observing you. In time, they will unconsciously take on those habits and behaviours instead of what you want to teach them. The message here is—do not be a hypocrite.
To conclude, there will be a lot of times when you will have to discipline your kids. Remember to end every scolding with love. We hardly do that anymore.
Whenever we scold our kids, we do it out of love, and to set them on the right path. The teenager, however, does not always see this as love. This is because we neglect to end our lectures and explanations with love.
Imagine a scenario. Your son made a mistake and to punish him you give him a sound scolding and a lecture expressing your anger and disappointment at him. After you are done, you send him to his room. While you are thinking, lesson taught, he is thinking ‘got a sound scolding today.’ Ending the lecture with anger and disappointment will make the teen view the situation as a power struggle, leading them to rebel.
Instead, what if you explained at the end, that he is your precious child and you love him with all your heart. You want the best for him and that is why you want him to avoid unwise choices in the future. That is the entire reason you are frustrated in the first place isn’t it? By saying this, you are sending him away with love and the will to make better choices in the future.
About The Author
A Gen-Z parent, study skill and Habit coach for students and author of “Toppers’ study hacks”, “Success blueprint for competitive exams” and “How to raise a topper”, Avinash Agarwal has been working in the area of mentoring for over 15 years. Interviews with hundreds of toppers who have cracked different competitive exams have led him to understand the topper mindset. He believes that every child can be a topper and through his sessions aims to teach powerful study strategies and techniques to students so that they can pursue their dreams.