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How Parents Can Encourage Teen Motivation

Teen motivation. It’s been a parenting pickle for generations. You may have tried everything from rewards to punishments to pep talks, but nothing seems effective when it comes to motivating your teen.

You can’t magically inject motivation into another person. But as a parent, you can lay down relationship foundations that encourage motivation in your teen.  

What Is Motivation?

Motivation can be defined as “the force that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors.” The root of these forces can be social, emotional, cognitive, or biological. Motivation is about changing behavior. As a parent, we desire to see our children motivated to become well-adjusted, functioning members of society.

Two sources of motivation for people to change their behavior include intrinsic (or internal) and extrinsic (or external).

How Parents Can Encourage Teen Motivation

Teens are smart.  If we patronize them or cajole them into changing their behavior, it won’t motivate them. There isn’t a foolproof way to produce motivation in your teen; however, nurturing a healthy relationship with your teen encourages motivation.

Foster intrinsic motivation over extrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic motivation is behavior driven by the desire to earn a reward or avoid punishment. When used sparingly and strategically, extrinsic motivation works for younger children.

However, once a child enters their teen years, it is no longer an effective tool because the discomfort of punishment tends to immobilize teens rather than inspire them to action. Punishing your teen for not doing their homework can lead to them feeling demoralized, causing the opposite of the desired behavior.

Intrinsic motivation is when your teen child changes their behavior for internal rewards such as pleasure or personal satisfaction. Neuroscience research reveals that the feeling of competence is one of the most driving factors in intrinsic motivation, which is why your teen might be so motivated to tackle that next video game level or hone a skill they enjoy.

Nurture a safe relationship where your teen feels heard and accepted.

Safety and acceptance are core relationship foundations. For a teen, safety with a parent means they can engage in conversations with you knowing their perspective will be heard. They can trust that you will consistently listen and accept them even if you disagree with their point of view.

Although your role as a parent includes instructing and guiding, if your teen regularly feels lectured, criticized, or rejected, they won’t deem your relationship safe. Acceptance means you always accept your child — it doesn’t mean you accept misbehavior. Your teen’s motivation flows from a healthy relationship with you.

Focus on encouraging your teen to the desired behavior over trying to motivate.

It may sound counterintuitive, but action precedes motivation. This means your teen doesn’t get motivated before taking action but instead does what they’re supposed to do first, which is the gateway to their motivation.

Consider the last time you needed to complete a task you weren’t looking forward to, like sorting through paperwork. You probably got started even when you didn’t feel like it. Then the motivation to keep going kicked in. The “action precedes motivation” concept is applicable for your teen as well and gives them opportunities for intrinsic motivation.

Eunoia Supports Parents and Teens

Parenting isn’t easy, and encouraging motivation in your teen requires intention and creativity. Processing ideas with someone else can be clarifying. Eunoia is here to empower you, your teen, and your relationship. Contact us today. We look forward to talking with you!