Finding Motivation for a Teenager

How to motivate a teenager who doesn’t care? A lot of parents have to face the issue of having a child who does not seem to care about anything. It may seem like a simple problem at first, but underneath it is an issue that needs to be addressed.

The biggest problem that most parents have when tackling this dilemma is how to solve it properly. Below are a few simple explanations on why most teenagers do not care and what parents can do to help remedy the situation and motivate their child.

There is no such thing as no motivation

Behavior is the word formally used to describe how people act. The term signifies what people do and what they do not or refuse to do. In simple terms, motivation is the driving force behind a person’s behavior. Motivation is the reason; the why or what gives a person’s behavior any sort of direction.

Parents often make the simple mistake of believing that their teenagers are not motivated. In truth, there is no such thing as an unmotivated person. Some form of motivation drives every person’s behavior.

The reality that parents have to deal with first is that most teenagers are motivated to do nothing. They do not yet have something in their lives that motivates them to act or push themselves to be more productive. As far as they are concerned there is no pressing desire to succeed or perform.

Find out what they are motivated in doing

Most parents feel that simple encouragement is the solution to a teenager lacking in motivation. All they have to do is to share a couple of words of wisdom to instill in their young and adolescent child the virtues of pushing oneself to perform and be productive.

If a parent looks at it carefully, most teenagers are actually exerting a lot of effort and energy into doing nothing. Teenagers come up with a plethora of reasons and excuses to find a way to weasel their way out of being productive.

Avoid trying to force motivation onto your child

One of the most prevalent problems with parents in general is that they try to force their kids to feel motivated. This is sort of like when parents try to spoon feed a young baby or child a spoon full of oats or baby formula that their kids find disgusting.

Motivating a person is not about forcing one’s own motives onto someone else. Motivating someone is more about giving someone a reason to care and inspiring them to do more with their lives by being productive. It is about giving a teenager a reason to care.

Offer them incentives and rewards

This may seem simple, obvious, and old fashioned, but there is science to back up the idea that rewarding a teenager for their success can be a good source of motivation. The success of a rewards system for motivating teenagers is based on the works of B.F. Skinner known as operant conditioning.

Without going too much into it, operant conditioning is a form of learning derived from a person’s experience. Simply put, it explains how people learn to behave in a particular way as a result of experience rather than something that is innate.

Parents should look at what their child likes and reward them with it whenever they achieve something. Eventually, the teenager will begin to associate success and achievement with rewards. The experience of earning a reward at the end of an achievement is what should motivate your teen to exert more effort in school.

In operant conditioning, the reward is a form of positive reinforcement. Reinforcement is the process of strengthening a particular behavior by using stimuli. In this case, the reward is a positive reinforcement because the reward is something positive that is given to reinforce the behavior of being productive.

Take away toys or distractions

Another form of operant conditioning reinforcement is negative reinforcement. First of all, it is important to understand the difference between punishment and negative reinforcement.

Penal sanctions are imposed on a person when they disobey the law. This is punishment. Punishment is stimulus that is meant to decrease the occurrence of a particular behavior with the objective of extinguishing said behavior. People are penalized in the hopes that they will never make the same mistake twice.

Negative reinforcement refers to removing an undesired stimulus in order to reinforce a behavior. In other words, negative reinforcement is a way to strengthen behavior by removing things that might otherwise reduce the chances of strengthening the behavior sought to be reinforced.

For example, if the teen wants to study for a particular subject, but he cannot resist the temptation to access the internet, taking away the computer or smartphone to deprive them of internet access can be seen as a form of negative reinforcement. Without the internet as a distraction, the teenager is more likely to commit to doing their homework during study hours.

Avoid punishing a teenager

Some parents see the worth of punishing their child whenever they do not do something right, or when they do nothing at all. True enough, punishment can produce results. However, it is still considered to be one of the worst ways to try and motivate a teenager to being more productive.

The basic problem with punishment is that what motivates a person to act is avoidance of a negative stimulus. The teenager will not be motivated to succeed, but motivated to avoid negative consequences.

Remember, motivating a teenager properly is not about forcing them to do something. It is about making them want to do something.

In fact, the long term effects of punishment can have a negative impact not only on the teenager’s motivations, but also on the parent child relationship. A parent can be seen as more of a taskmaster and tormentor than a motivator, which should never be the case. Motivation is not a worthy prize if the price is the relationship between teenagers and their parents.

Punishment can also lead to a teenager resisting their parents instead of trusting them. The loss of trust and confidence in a parent can inflict serious harm on the parental relationship as well as the teenager’s development and growth.

Encourage Proper communication

It is very important to keep the channels of communication open. Without knowing why a parent wants to motivate their child, a teenager might come up with a myriad of reasons why their parents are suddenly denying him internet access. This misunderstanding might end up causing a right between the parent and their teenage kid.

Parents would do well to explain their concerns and their motivations to their kids to avoid any sort of misunderstanding.

Parents should be the mature one in any scenario and should act accordingly. They should avoid yelling, arguing, or begging with their teenagers. A parent needs to know how to reason or bargain with their teenager.

How to know if a lack of motivation is the real issue

Some teenagers may seem like they are not motivated to succeed when in fact there is another underlying cause to their lack of productivity or drive to perform. When a teenager is withdrawn or confining themselves to their room it does not always mean that they are not motivated.

In one of the worst-case scenarios, a teenager might be depressed. Some adults may handle or cope with such feelings better than a teenager would, but for most teenagers this often not the case.

When addressing such issues it is important to take the matter seriously. The worst thing a parent could do is to belittle the problem and not take it seriously. Teenagers often feel misunderstood or are simply being told to not care about the way they feel. Teenagers can excel in not caring about a lot of things, but not caring about their feelings is not one of them.

Remember, teenagers are young and are dealing with feelings and situations that they never have in their life. A patronizing parent who seems like they could not care less about their personal problems or issues is the last thing that they need.

In this situation, what a parent needs to really do is identify what the problem is and help the teenager in whatever way that they can. Parents who find themselves ill equipped to handle the situation would do well to seek professional help from a counselor or a psychologist.

Show that you care

One of the simple, yet important, things a parent should always do is to show that they care. Parents would do their child a great service by telling them that their motivation for wanting to make them care about their school, or just care in general, is because they care about them. Making a teenager understand a parent’s motivation is in itself a powerful motivation for a teenager to start caring.

A parent should never forget to tell their children how much they care and why they care so much.