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Teens and Motivation: How Parents Can Encourage their Teenager to Succeed

As teens today are confronted with new and unfamiliar issues when compared with teenagers in any recent or long-term past, many parents struggle to identify the catalysts or strategies to stimulate and motivate their teens. As theTeen Skills organization asserts, many parents struggle to connect with their kids because their experiences are so far from most adults’ frame of reference: “Today's teens are faced with choices and circumstances their parents didn't face. They live in a world where it requires a security badge to enter a high school…where they compete scholastically with 4.9 G.P.A.s…where classmates cheat using cell phone technology…where world events and economic issues make it scary to contemplate the future. Is it any wonder teens often lack motivation?” 

As many experts reveal, a loss or lack of motivation in teens is often symptomatic of far greater issues, such as a lack of self-confidence, a lack of esteem, and so forth. To boost teens’ feelings of enthusiasm and drive, parents can consider some expert advice and strategies for support. 

Lacking Motivation and the Long Term Implications

As teen specialist Judy Schepps Battle further supports “Most of the problems of education are problems of motivation...When a child is self-motivated, the teacher cannot keep him from learning.” Students who lack motivation often display a gap between their abilities and their academic output and effort. While this can appear at a very young age, including many elementary grades and ages, the lack of motivation is most strongly evident as students transition from middle and high school

As students lose motivation at a young age, their inability to perform and their desire to achieve becomes a learned behavior, as students are labeled as “underachievers,” resulting in a student’s loss of self-esteem and confidence. As Battle further reveals, “A highly intelligent teen may be denied entrance into honor classes and urged to take either general or vocational classes because of a lackluster middle school performance. Such a situation easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” 

If students lose enthusiasm at a young age, it is imperative that school leaders and parents step in to guide these younger students towards more positive performance early on, as early intervention can help prevent long-term consequences.

Theories of Motivation: What Experts Recommend

As the organization Teen Skills further supports, “When an adolescent lacks motivation, the end result is often a teen lacking self-confidence, a teen with a bad attitude, or perhaps even a teen with behavior problems.” When parents are confronted with issues relating to teens’ behavior and motivation, there are a variety of expert-suggested strategies to help boost students’ performance and attitudes. 


Many experts assert that teens are most strongly encouraged and supported when they are forced to motivate themselves. Teens can learn how to motivate themselves by engaging in student clubs, groups, or organizations that foster positive peer influence solutions. For example, some clubs focus on interests that may connect with a teen’s desired future career. In this case, students can determine their interests and goals, and then can simultaneously encounter clearer catalysts that drive their motivation and focus. If a student realizes he/she needs to attend college in order to achieve his/her dream, then the teen may encounter a new self-motivation to strive and succeed in school. 

Camps and Courses

In addition to teens engaging in clubs and activities that stimulate a self-motivation process, there are also many summer camps and teen-based courses (outside of most high school programs) that focus on teaching teens, “The basics of independent living, such as budgeting, handling a checkbook, obtaining a car loan, finding and maintaining an apartment, using credit wisely, and community participation.” 

By teaching teens the more important and complex lessons of life after high school, many teens are able to realize how their current choices impact their long-term success. As a result, teens are again able to learn how to self-motivate with the guidance of expert sources and opportunities.

Mentor Programs

Many public high schools have implemented mentor programs for students, where high-achieving students volunteer to support students who are struggling. Oftentimes these mentors can help fellow teens with homework, or can just serve as a troubled teen’s friend and companion, as a mentor can help a teen to constructively work through problems, discuss issues and pressures that students encounter in and outside of school, and so forth. This avenue is a positive alternative to forcing students to deal with struggles on their own—especially when parents are finding it difficult to connect with their teen. 

Honoring and Encouraging

As Battle continues to reveal, parents can also support un-motivated teens by helping their teenager identify their strengths and abilities. In doing so, parents should simultaneously encourage their teen’s achievements, while supporting their teenager with enthusiasm and optimism. Adding to this approach, “If we are to motivate adolescents to learn what is in the curriculum, we must honor their learning styles, help them discover their unique abilities, and give them appropriate tools for successful achievement.”


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