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How Do I Motivate my Teen?

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

Motivation is defined in Marriam Webster as "a motivating force, stimulus, or influence: incentive, drive." Essentially it`s a feeling that causes you to act. This is intrinsic motivation (inspired from within).

The fact is that we are NOT always intrinsically motivated. Life is about doing things we don`t always like doing but we know they have to get done or there will be consequences.

Teenagers need to find ways of being self-motivated. Parents can certainly encourage and support their teenagers but when parents try and push, force or nag their teens into action, it creates negative relationship and behavioral cycles. Parents cannot make them do anything.

Controlling, nagging, reminding, managing simply DO NOT work. These things make teens less likely to want to do what their parents want them to do. Conflicts arise because teens don’t feel they have enough control and choice (in the context of learning & independence)

Adolescents are going through a challenging time as they make sense of the confusing world around them. They desire three things: control, choice and credibility. When they don`t feel these things, they push the limits because they desire more autonomy. When parents control and micro-manage, teens become more dependent which frustrates both teens and parents. When teens know they are going to be reminded, they don`t monitor themselves and feel less confident in their abilities. This affects their confidence and credibility ("I can`t do this").

Well meaning, good parents manage and control their kids because they want their teenagers to succeed. The irony is their good intentions and managerial parenting may decrease motivation, confidence and self-discipline; the very traits parents desire to see in their teens.

Parents need to make a shift in their parenting from being a parent manager to being a parent coach. This involves asking them more questions and listening to their solutions and ideas as opposed to telling them what to do. A parent coach is still involved and supportive but the focus shifts in how they show up and how they relate to their teens.

When parents make this shift, it`s transformational!

How do parents create more motivation in their teenagers?

By giving them more control, choice and credibility.

1. Give them more space to fail:

Adolescents desire 3 things:

  • Choice (what to learn and how to learn)

  • Control (in making decisions and solving problems)

  • Credibility (being seen as capable and confident)

Giving more control, choice and credibility means giving teens more freedom to fail or make mistakes. They need to own their failures and own their successes and experience more autonomy (with responsibility & accountability) in their daily lives. It`s important for parents to make peace with the pain and discomfort in watching their kids fail. Letting go of fears, control and their own perceptions of failure - prepares them for a healthy transition into adulthood.

“Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.” John C Maxwell

The best way to learn what not to do is to learn through mistakes. This is how the brain is rewired for more resilience so teens can persevere through setbacks. The right place for a teenager to fail is now - while living at home - in a supportive safe environment when the stakes are low. Later on the stakes will be much higher and the consequences will be greater too. It`s important to give your teenagers permission to fail and provide a non-judgmental space (with loving correction) to communicate with you when they mess up. They also need to own their successes and feel proud about the decisions they make. This builds their confidence as they realize their abilities and accomplishments.

2. Celebrate their progress:

Be careful here because parents often spend more time praising accomplishments, grades, achievements and not enough time on the process - building character and strengths. Praising smartness can cause teens to have a fixed mindset and think if they are so smart then they don't have to try hard or they don't stretch themselves to do harder things because if they fail, then people will see they are not so smart after all.


"I am noticing how you are remembering to do your chores more often without me reminding you."

"I noticed that you didn't go out with your friends yesterday because you had work to do. This shows you are learning to be more responsible."

"I see how you are managing your work and taking more ownership in getting it done. That is great progress."

3. Support with Executive Functions:

Your adolescent may need help with executive function skills (planning, organization, time management, prioritizing). Remind your teenagers that they are learning to master skills for life which they build step by step. Let them know that self-management comes with time and practice, and they will gain more autonomy when they learn to master these skills. Also mention that these skills are not easy for an adolescent and that`s normal and all kids their age need a lot of time to practice. School is the "practice ground" for real life living and these skills help them succeed into adulthood. Seeing "school" in this light gives them a "reason" to persevere.

Create clear agreements for a Stress-free Start-up Semester and get this resource:

11 exact agreements with a step by step plan to create a calmer home environment!

Let`s talk about motivation again.

I love this quote by one of my students during my GO PROGRAM group coaching class: "Motivation is a set of actions that you do to achieve your goal." I love that this student sees motivation as an ACTION! The challenge for teenagers is to find extrinsic ways to motivate themselves if they are not intrinsically motivated. It helps when their perspective changes with regards to motivation; to not see it as a feeling or emotion but as an action.

If students viewed motivation as an action, then they GET TO CREATE motivation (and not wait for it) with the discipline of better habits and routines (executive functions). Motivation is a CHOICE with action which improves productivity and achievement.

When parents give teenagers more autonomy in recognizing the problems for themselves, teens feel more confident in their ability to solve them as they experience more buy in. Having more control and choice - and support in executive function skills, they develop more self-discipline, self-motivation and credibility (I can do this).

Examples of parent coach questions:

What do you need from me? (check in to see how you can support them)

What would you like me to do less of?

What`s your plan for completing your schoolwork this weekend?

It`s much easier to tell them our plan but this does not help them manage their own lives and learn to make good decisions. They need practice now. Even if they don’t know what their plan is, it gets them thinking about their intentions and motivations.

We need to support our teens in building the skills they need to survive without us. We are training them to NOT NEED us. I know that’s hard, but if we want to launch them into adulthood, they need more autonomy.

As parents give teenagers more control (what to learn and how to learn), choice (in making decisions and solving problems) and credibility (being seen as capable and confident) families experience more connection!

If you interested in learning more about how to be a parent coach, and experience transformation in yourself, and your relationships with your teenagers, join a supportive group coaching community. How would it feel if you could take a break from being supermom to the rescue and your teenagers could advocate for themselves?


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