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How To Motivate Teens (Without Losing Your Mind!)

by Jessica Parnell | Jun 29, 2015 | 5 min read

The teenage years are a mixture of wonderful and maddening. And, while we all have different parenting methods, we all want to know how to motivate teenagers to do and give their best. Let’s face it. There is no one size fits all recipe for how to motivate teens. What works for one will be a complete bomb for another. And that fact is that some days we feel like we are dragging them to the table by their hair while other days they surprise us with a surge of energy that means we are just getting started and they are finished with everything for the day. (Okay—maybe that is a bit optimistic but you get my point.)  Ready to find out how to motivate teens to get the best out of them without losing your mind or going grey? Here are a few strategies that have worked for me in motivating my teens to keep going, to get things done, to conquer rather than collapse under the pressure.

But my suggestions come with a disclaimer—every teen is different so what worked for me might just be a complete bomb for you. The key in learning how to motivate teens is to find what works for your unique child and be ready to shift gears on a dime because, chances what motivates them will change as fast and often as they do!

  1. Get them to take ownership of their homeschooling. This one is huge and is a must for every teen! But it is much more than setting long term and daily goals. When I say “Let them take ownership,” this is what it looks like:
  2. Get them involved in choosing their courses
  3. Allow them to create their own schedule—whether they plan it day by day or by the week, getting them to outline their schedule develops skills that will help them succeed later in life.
  4. Allow them to choose when and where they study. For some, sprawling out on the floor is the best place to tackle academics. For others, having a quiet room, a desk or music in the background works best.  As long as it’s working—let it happen.
  5. Allow them to define their own assessments. When your teen starts to complain about the tests, the writing assignment or the project, don’t waste time explaining that they just have to deal with it and move on. Put the responsibility back on them.“Okay, I see what you mean. How about you submit an assessment suggestion to me? Feel free to come up with any creative idea that will show that you know the material and will allow you to enjoy the process.”Suddenly you have shifted the conversation from complaining to a solution. And you give your teen the ability to use his/her gifts and passions to show you what s/he knows.
  6. When they find something they love—let them explore it further. All too often our curriculum shifts gears far too quickly. If your teen is excited about the Civil War; the Medieval concepts of chivalry; or Romanticism, let him/her keep digging in. You can always continue to build skills such as writing, critical thinking, speech and debate, science into their studies by having them suggest assignments that will build those skills while also give them the freedom to dig deep into what interests them.
  7. Be sure you have a way for them to track progress.  There is nothing more motivating than seeing progress. If you can find a way to graph it, do so. This can be their first computer/math project—to create a spreadsheet that they can update regularly and see just how far they have come and where they still need to go. Transparency about expectations can be a huge motivator!
  8. Get a mentor involved in their life. If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that our teens often receive our praise and/or criticism with skepticism. Are they really good at writing? Do we really know what is good/bad/right/wrong when it comes to academics, sports, music, etc.?  I have a teen who is an amazing soccer player. We have been telling her for years just how gifted she is and she has shrugged it off as “Yeah, but you are my parents. You are supposed to think that.It wasn’t until this season, when her tournament team played at several college showcase tournaments that she realized we have been right all along. Because despite the fact that we did not reach out to or invite any college coaches to see her play, there have been multiple coaches contacting her with an invitation to play for their school. For the first time, she is motivated to do some cross training, to consider playing in college and to reach out to the coaches of the colleges she is interested in attending. A mentor chosen well can be your greatest advocate. Not only can they invest in and encourage your child, but they can work with you to help coach your teen through those difficult struggles, worries, and self-doubt. 
  9. Let them get a job! One of the greatest ways to help your teen realize his/her own value and potential is to put them to work for someone else. They not only develop valuable skills but they begin to develop confidence, a purpose, and an identity outside of typical teen realms.
  10. Cater academics to their learning and personality style. Nothing is more demotivating than tackling a subject day after day where you are either completely bored or unable to fully understand or master the material. Finding and catering to your teens learning and personality style means that you are providing courses that appeal to them whether they love the material or not. You minimize or eliminate the conflict about presentation and instead present information in a way that they best process and understand. This makes learning much more attainable—guaranteed! Find your teen’s learning and personality style here and get plenty of tips and ideas on how to cater to what works for him/her.
  11. Encourage, encourage, encourage, encourage. No matter their age, your kids need your encouragement. All too often we focus on what they are doing wrong rather than what they are doing well. We focus on their shortcomings rather than their strengths. Make a conscious effort to notice and point out the good. Every day! Nothing works better to motivating anyone than recognition and encouragement!  If you need some help getting focused, grab this resource “101 Reasons You are Amazing” and schedule your own time each day or week to pour encouragement and recognition into your teen!

For us the teen years have been unbelievably tough and incredibly fun (depending on the year). But no matter the kid, encouragement and the ability to own and define their own learning have been our greatest tools for success.  And guess what? I recently heard these words of wisdom from my 17 year old to my 14 year old. “Amanda, you need to just learn this now and I hate to admit it. But Mom and Dad are usually right so you should just listen now.” Ah! Success!

If you’re looking for more for your homeschooling teen, call today. We have programs that can set them up for success and provide the accountability and mentoring they need during the teen years.
What’s your key to motivating your teenager? Share in a comment below!

Jessica Parnell
Hello everyone! I’m Jessica Parnell — mom, homeschool evaluator, teacher, and CEO of Bridgeway Academy. In my 20+ years of experience as a homeschool mom and evaluator, I have had the privilege of meeting homeschoolers that take a variety of approaches to their education. It is their many stories and successes that inspire me in my own homeschooling and I love to pass on the knowledge that I have gained from them to other homeschooling families. The one constant that always remains true is that there’s no such thing as a “cookie cutter child.” Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made and as a result, learns and functions differently. It’s our job to ensure that we’re raising each child to fulfill their individual purpose and when we can teach in a way that inspires them, we are on our way to homeschool success. When I’m not writing or teaching my children, I like to ski, write and participate in triathlons. I graduated from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Masters in English and I am currently pursuing a degree in Neuroleadership.
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