3 Keys To Motivating Teens
Are you struggling with how to motivate your teen? Are you tempted to send him off to school to get some discipline? That might not work, either. Maybe he sleeps half the day or falls asleep in the middle of your co-op class. Maybe he doesn’t seem to put much effort into his science book and leaves a lot of blanks on the experiment sheet. Is your daughter putting off finishing that research paper you assigned weeks ago? Do you feel like you butt heads frequently about schoolwork, but your daughter has no problem getting that service project done for your church ministry?
Maybe we need to rethink how we motivate teens. Many times, we try taking away electronic devices or “grounding” them from going out with friends. These tactics often backfire, though. How many times has your teen found ways to get around your punishments? Or, we talk about college admissions, job opportunities, and other distant threats. Sometimes, we even offer a financial incentive for doing what we ask. Perhaps, punishments and payments are not the best motivators. It leaves teens feeling bullied and manipulated. Are there other ways to motivate teens?
I have three teenagers myself, and I learned the hard way what really works and what doesn’t, especially with the teen who happens to be male. Here is what I learned.
• Respect. Have you heard of the Love and Respect book? The principles apply to younger males and females also. Your son needs to feel that you respect him (your daughter does, too, but not in the same way or intensity). You may feel that you are the parent and he needs to respect you, but he is not really a child anymore. The more you nag him and boss him around, the less cooperation you will get. Respect also means that you collaborate with him on his studies and trust his choices. Treat him the same way you would treat any of your friends.
• Relevant. Everything that your teen does needs to be relevant to her life and the future that she has expressed to you. Some homeschooling parents determine the course of their teen’s high school years based on what the public school is teaching and not on what their teen actually needs. Do those public school students need the classes they are forced to take? Not really. Most of them graduate and still don’t know how to do anything. Use these years to make sure your eighteen-year-old can enter the work force with skills. When a teen asks, “Why do I need to take this?” The answer should be, “You need it for your particular career choice” or “How can you vote and be a citizen of this country without knowing it?” The worst answers are, “Well, everyone has to take it” or “You might need it someday.” No teen is going to buy those answers. Would you? Most people learn things at the point that they need them, not for a someday that might never come. Make sure your teen has a say in what he learns and that it is relevant to his life now.
• Responsible. This may seem obvious and you are probably already doing this. Teenagers need to be responsible for their own learning and their own lives. We usually plan the course load and then shift the responsibility to them. Why not let them take responsibility for all of it? Be the resource, the accountability partner, the advocate, and the coach, but let them take responsibility for their own futures. Some teens find this scary, and it’s okay to offer a bit more help for those young people, but as much as possible, let them do it. If they mess up, they learn powerful lessons. This requires a great deal of faith in our teens and in the Lord Jesus, who commands all of our destinies.
To learn more about winning your teen’s heart, particularly your son’s, read more here.
Julie Polanco is the homeschooling mother of four children, the oldest having graduated in 2016. She is frequent contributor to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and is the high school botany instructor for www.schoolhouseteachers.com. Her book, God Schooling: What the Bible and 25 Experts Say About How Children Learn Best will be released in summer 2018. Keep up with her at her website, www.juliepolancobooks.com where she regularly posts about the writing life, homeschooling, Christian living, and her book projects.