Motivating your teen? 2 things that don’t really work and 2 Golden Rules
There are hundreds of books about motivation out there! I am not going to write another one, but give you some keys about what works and what doesn't with teenagers.
Some people are temperamentally goal-oriented in a methodical way, people who can set an objective and work towards it in a diligent fashion. But this is not your teenager, or you would not be reading this article. And those people are actually difficult to find!
What you have to realize right now is that we're all different! What motivates you, probably doesn’t motivate your spouse, your best friend, your boss, and of course doesn’t motivate your teen at all.
My clients (from 13-25YO) report two things that parents wrongly think will work:
1. Motivational, pumping up or cheerleading speeches "I know you can do it", "I trust you", "make me proud".... and so on. I even had a “thank you for your good grades darling…”
2. Analogies with your experience or friend’s or worst… sibling’s. Your teen is not a mini-you nor someone else's clone. “I don’t understand, his sister was so focused in class, having her homework done before I even asked, always on top of things with so many activities on her hands…”
Saying that, those 2 Golden Rules will help your teens find what really motivates them.
Golden rule #1: Help them understand the different styles of motivation to more consciously tap into those that work best for them.
There are basically 2 types of motivation:
· The external (extrinsic) motivation is to do something for the sake of an external benefit or to avoid pain. “If I do my homework then I won’t be yelled at by my parents”, “If I have good grades then I will go to a good college”.
· The Internal (intrinsic) motivation is to do something because the action itself is the reward. “I like to play football because it’s fun”, “I love mathematics because I enjoy good challenges” even “I want to see what happens when I follow through with …”.
Both styles of motivation are useful but the external motivation works well in the short-term while internal motivation is more efficient on the long run. In other words, they must find a way to balance doing their homework for the sake of the grade with doing their homework because learning and doing the work is enjoyable. We all had this experience of being on top of our work and actually enjoying it, or cleaning our room and feeling good about it.
Help them gain awareness about what works, given different circumstances, and what doesn’t. You will help them develop their Emotional Intelligence, especially self-awareness and self-control. Help them set the habit of motivation mindfully now, it will last for the rest of their life.
Golden rule #2: Performance precedes motivation
One of the most surprising things about motivation is that it often comes after starting a new behavior, not before!
It is in the doing of the act that we discover the motivation and eventually enjoy it or enjoy the results!
Thus the key is not to try to get your teenager motivated (which has previously involved ineffective consequences and useless verbiage) but to instead do something different to try to get them to perform. Your concern is to get the desired behavior started, not to change the mind of your teenager (a difficult if not impossible—but thankfully unnecessary—task). And a common bonus is this: when behavior changes, mind changes.