Saturday, August 14

Motivating Your Teens

Once upon a time, before automation became commonplace, teenagers were the working class of our society.  You'd see them in shopping malls, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and other such places working hard alongside adults.  However, thanks to technology, teen jobs have been phased out, leaving them to devote that time and energy to such fruits as video games and texting...

Teenagers are in that middle realm between childhood and adulthood.  They want to be treated like adults, and most would welcome the invitation to take on adult responsibilities.  "Back in the day," they could contribute to society through their after-school and summer jobs, which contributed to their own sense of pride and self-worth.

Teens today have those same desires, to feel worthy and contribute.  However, they often aren't given meaningful opportunities to do so, and they aren't motivated by things that seem trivial or that they can't relate to.   So how do we motivate them?

6 Secrets to Motivating Teenagers

  • Make it Personal

    • If you want to wear clean clothes, you'll need to do laundry.  If you want to drive, you'll need gas money.  If you forget to put the trash can lid on, you'll be picking up trash off the ground.  These are tangible benefits that teens will understand.  It can be difficult to understand WHY some things need to be done, but try to relate chores and tasks to a greater goal.  For example, you have to write this essay because it affects your grades, which affect your acceptance into a post-graduate program, which affect your ability to achieve your dream job.  We all have to do things we don't want to at times; helping your teen find that logical path will help remove some of the resistance.

  • Give Them a Say

    • Remember that feeling of always having to do what someone else told you when you were a kid?  It's not a good feeling, is it?  One phrase we eschew in this house is "because I told you so."  It disempowers our children and turns us into despotic rulers.  (And on the extremely rare occasion we've had to use it - typically in a move-it-life-or-death situation, the kids have perked up and responded!)  Teens are at a pivotal point in their lives, on the cusp of adulthood, and with that comes the need to make their own decisions.  That includes having some say over what they do and how things are done.  Our children have chores that must be done on specific days of the week, but it can be done at any point in the day as long as it's done correctly.  Should they fail to complete the task, or drop the ball, then we're on them the following week.  But just for the one week...because there's nothing more demeaning than continuing to harp on someone after they've recognized and corrected their error!

  • Remind Them...But Let them Fail

    • Teenage brains are undergoing one of the most major transformations of their entire life (second only to that birth-five range).  Because of this, neurons are constantly firing and occasionally things get forgotten.  This is in addition to emotional swirls, extracurricular activities, and #life.  One thing our teens need from us right now is help learning how to organize and create routines, which will help them to remember both the big and little things.  In our house, we have a giant whiteboard for notes and reminders.  If it's important, it goes there first.  The grocery list is on the fridge -- if they drink the last of the milk, they write it on the list.  Granted, this only helps them function as part of the family, but when they fly the coop, we'll be helping them tweak the system to their own personal needs.  By the same token, when it comes to more routine tasks (loading the dishwasher, taking out the trash), we're not going to go behind reminding them constantly.  If he fails to do his chore, there are natural consequences, such as having unhealthy animals, having to hand wash dishes, having to drive the trash to the dump in the car, failing a test, or perhaps even losing a job.  I'd rather them learn from failure here at home, where we can talk it to death discuss it and make a better plan for next time, than out in the big, bad world...

  • Be Realistic

    • I always say to my students (in my writing classes), "How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!"  This is usually in reference to writing long research papers, but the same applies for bigger tasks and projects that teens are facing.  If it seems overwhelming, they're very unlikely to even start on it.  They may not think they can finish, or won't do it correctly, or just simply don't even know where to start.  In this case, we help them break a larger task into manageable pieces.  The more you do this, the more they will be able to begin doing it on their own.  We started years ago -- living on a large farm and telling your teen to mow the yard is a great way to get dumbfounded looks!  So we started pointing out specific regions of the pasture / yard to address.  Fast forward several years...our kids now take on big tasks independently by breaking them down one piece at a time.

  • Incentivize

    • Does your teen do their chores on time every week?  Help out around the house without being asked?  Are you praising the positives as much as you're nagging the negatives?  Using your teen's 'love language,' spontaneously reward him or her with something just to say thank you.  For our boys, this means making sure that in addition to schoolwork, extracurriculars, and chores, they have time carved out every single week for things they want to do...alone.  (We're a bunch of introverts over here!)  But also, once a year, we like to reward them for working so diligently and just being amazing.  😏  (Yes, I'm biased, but they are good kids.)  For one of them, this means a music concert with his dad.  For the other one, it means a chance to see water...preferably the beach.  (This is a huge deal when you live in middle America!)

  • Teens Just Wanna Have Fun

    • And now I'm singing Cyndi Lauper...  But seriously, who isn't motivated by the prospect of fun?  This might include playing games, turning a menial task into a competition (eg, raking leaves into the biggest pile), or just singing along to the radio while working.  And for these Gen-Zers, incorporating technology typically makes tasks more appealing, too...
You may also be interested in How to Engage Your Teen / Tween

Snag a slew of resources in the Homeschool Helpers Bundle!

Covers ten topics to get your homeschool running smoothly!
Getting Started
· A Parent’s Alphabet
· Choosing the Right Curriculum for Your Family
· Motivating Your Teens
· Seven Steps to Teaching Work Ethic
Special Needs
· Occupational Therapy in Homeschool
· Speech Therapy in Homeschool
· Teaching the Distracted Child
Making it Fun
· Game-Schooling – Learning through Play
· How to Snag Free E-Books
· Holiday Foreign Language Fun

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  1. one of the things I struggle with is not nagging... drives me nuts when I need remind the lad about his chores all the time.... I like the thought of "you get to wash the dishes". :)

    1. Yup. :) I struggle with nagging, too, at times...mostly when I'm busy and all, "it would be SO much easier to just do it myself!" Then I remember I'm raising someone's future husband...


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