Has Your Teen Lost Their Motivation?
Are you feeling exasperated that your teen doesn’t seem to want to do anything other than watch TV or play on their Xbox? Do you feel like you are always nagging them?
Why don’t they understand that you only have their best interests at heart?
This is a common scenario in many families (mine included). But there may be a simple explanation and a simple fix.
Think about something that you really don’t enjoy and feel that you can’t do well. In my case, it would be playing a team sport which involves a ball (wow, that brings up bad memories!), creating a complicated spreadsheet or solving a computer-related problem.
Now imagine somebody referencing this perceived “weakness” on a daily basis and insisting that if only you practised more, you would “improve”. Our shoulders slump. We sigh. Whenever we hear that word “improve,” we instantly feel negative. It is loaded with connotations of “not good enough” and “could do better.”
The thing is that as parents we really do have our teen’s best interests at heart and there is a scientific reason why we tend to focus on what they can’t do rather than on what they can.
All of us have a negativity bias which stems from our prehistoric days in the wild when we were programmed to look for danger or threat to our survival. Just as our prehistoric ancestors didn’t want to end their days as breakfast for a saber-toothed tiger, we don’t want our teens to become victims of their limitations.
Our parental radar kicks in. Does my teen have a wide enough social circle? What will happen if my son fails GCSE Maths? How will my teen’s CV look if they don’t do an extra-curricular club every night of the week?
We are socially conditioned to believe that if we spot a weakness, we should fix it, perhaps through extra tuition or summer school or packing their schedule with clubs and extra classes.
However, this may be doing more harm than good and it may be worth considering the opposite – extra classes in the activities they already excel at.
Think about something you love doing – something that you become so absorbed in that you don’t notice the passing of time. For me, this would be research or planning and organising. These things are your natural talents – the things that you do easily and without effort. When doing them, we feel positive about ourselves and our abilities and we feel less defensive and more open to suggestions.
The most important thing to notice is: where does your teen get their energy? When are they in flow? These are the keys to unlocking their motivation.
If your teen loves football, let them play football.
If your teen loves art, let them be creative.
If your teen loves drama, find opportunities for them to shine.
We are conditioned to think that “practice makes perfect” and the more time we spend of something, the better we will become. This is true to an extent. But how much more amazing would we be if we spent our time “improving” those things we already have a natural talent for?
Often it can become a bit of a vicious circle. Teen hates English. Teen is forced to do extra English. Teen becomes disengaged and defensive.
If we allow our teens to do what they are good at, they will automatically feel more positive and motivated.
By observing the areas where our teens shine, we can then use this information to help them succeed in other areas. For example, “Your art work is amazing. How could you use this to help you in other areas of your life?” There are so many ways in which art can be used for other subjects to create visual representations and reminders.
The more stressed a teen becomes, the more over-taxed their impulse control becomes. When they no longer feel able to control their impulses, they may seek solace in TV and gaming.
However, if we let our teens relax and do what comes naturally, we will no longer need to nag or micro-manage them. They will reach their own unique potential by doing what they love.
If your teen has lost sight of what energises them, I can help. Through one to one coaching, I can help them discover who they really are and help them find a path to achieve their individual goals and ambitions.