You've tried and tried but had little success in motivating your teenager to do well in school. Maybe some of these ideas will work or even trigger other ideas that can help you in this important effort.
I would love for this article to be the silver bullet solution to one of parents' greatest challenges, how to motivate their kids to do well in school. However, it is not. Rather, these are some helpful suggestions that I have found to be useful not only with my kids but others as well. As you read and consider these suggestions, it is important to remember that each teenager is different so your ability to master several different ways of motivating will become important.
Encourage, encourage, encourage
Nothing like stating the obvious — but do not underestimate the power and importance of encouraging your teen to do well. Now, it is important to understand that encouraging is an art. If your definition of encouraging ends with a threat of grounding or an ultimatum, you are misinformed. Encouraging is done in love, patience and understanding. It can often be tough, but creating a positive environment with your encouragement can pay off. You are also modeling for your teen for when they become a parent.
For point number one to really become a great tool in your motivational toolbox, you must create a trust and bond with your teen. One of the best ways to do that is by being genuinely interested in what they are doing in school. This has been a struggle for me at times because my sons have proven to be much better students than I was. Their abilities and skills are more advanced than mine were at their age. I have had to take a step back and show my interest.
Make a connection
. I wish I could tell my sons I was a straight A student in high school, but I would be lying. However, I have been able to make some important connections between my learning experiences and theirs. I have surprised them at times by showing them items from my past like my yearbook or journal. As I make these connections, it helps build confidence in both of us and that leads to a trust. As the trust between my sons and I gets stronger, they are more motivated and willing to do their best in school.
Find ways to reward
This point will almost always create conversation. There are some who will say that you should not reward your kids for good grades or doing well because it creates a false motivation. There are others who may go to the extreme in their rewarding system. The reality is everyone loves to be rewarded and there is motivation in striving for something you want. The key is to find out what can motivate your son or daughter. I will admit, we pay for grades but it's more than just the report card. We also look at their extracurricular activities, their church service, Boy Scout progression and other items. We want to reward them for being well rounded. This has helped our boys excel in many areas.
One of things that we have seen work is helping our sons apply what they are learning. We will often ask them what they have learned in school and at times we get an answer like, “nothing” and other times we get a long, excited explanation about what they did and learned. With either answer, there is needed follow-up and an opportunity to help them see how what they have learned applies to life. Our oldest has experienced this a number of times as he has found great passion for math. He continues to talk about wanting be a Chief Financial Officer or something in that line of work. As a business professional myself, I have been able to share with him connections between what he is learning and how he will use those skills in the world of finance. The more this is done, the more he wants to know, and there is real motivation to learn as much as possible.
If you look up the definition of motivation you will read something down the lines of the desire to do something or take some type of action. The truth is, motivation is not something that we can do for someone else, including our teenagers. What we can do is try our best to help them get motivated to do their best. As you find ways to increase their desire to do well in school, you both will find great joy. As a concluding piece of advice to parents, don’t make this a complex issue. Your teenager already has so many pressures that they need to feel that their parents are supporting them, not hounding or pressuring them.
As with so many other aspects of life, you must be an example of living with motivation. If you are lazy, negative and a procrastinator, you won’t have the credibility necessary to help your teen. There is nothing worse than seeing someone who is unmotivated trying to motivate someone else. It just never works and often will backfire.
It won’t always be easy but I can tell you from personal experience that it can definitely be worth it. As you strive to help motivate your teen to do well in school, you will find great opportunities to strengthen your relationship with them. Use this precious time wisely as they quickly will be gone, living on their own and you will only be able to see how they are doing based on their latest Facebook Status or Tweet. OK, maybe not that bad but your efforts will pay off.
Seth Saunders is an executive business consultant and leadership coach. Seth has been married 20 years to his amazing wife, Amber, and is the proud father of three wonderful sons. He is passionate about helping others succeed.