How You Can Help Motivate Your Teen
It can be very frustrating for parents who have children they know are smart but for some reason are underperforming at school. Parents may sometimes feel that their children are sabotaging themselves by not caring enough about their grades and disregarding their homework.
How to Motivate an Unmotivated Teen
Teens who disregard school work appear to be lazy, and irresponsible. However, being unmotivated in school does have several possible roots. In order to motivate a teen to do better in school, it's really helpful to understand what demotivates them. Nagging them to do better is not always an effective strategy. If it were effective, then not many parents would have the same problems with their teens. Nagging can be a normal reaction for parents because they desire a good future for their teens, and a good education can be a key to this. Nagging often invites rebellion and resistance from teens.
Here are some of the common reasons why teens underperform at school, and what parents can do to help teens succeed over these challenges.
Some teens, especially those who are particularly smart and intelligent, think that some of the work assigned in school are kind of stupid and not worth their time. Teens who are clearly more intelligent than other young people their age tend to not see the point of doing well in algebra when they are more interested in (and have a natural knack for) other things.
In such cases, being decidedly underwhelmed with their school's coursework should not be an excuse for teens not to do well. Talking to teens about things that they should put up with in order to get where they plan to get someday may help.
If your teen is particularly gifted in specific subjects like the arts, athletics, math, or sciences, it may also be worthwhile to look into specialized schools where their talents can be honed and developed. Getting your teen into an environment where they can be with kids who love the same things can be beneficial. For one thing, being in a culture where it's not okay to underperform and where it's fun to rise up to the challenge can use peer pressure positively.
Stressed and Overwhelmed
Some teens appear motivated as a way to tell their parents that they need help. Teens go through a lot of stressful situations because of the changes that they deal with in life. There are also some instances where teens go through stressful situations that they can't tell their parents about. This is the case for teens who are victims of bullying and other forms of abuse. If your teen has never had problems with grades before but is now struggling with it, it may be a good idea to look deeper and see what's really happening.
Perceived Strengths and Weaknesses
In an ideal world, teens will find learning fun. However, it's not an ideal world, and not all teens enjoy being in school and taking advantage of all the benefits of a good education. Most kids lean naturally towards some subjects and become very good at them, and do less spectacularly in some subjects. For example, some kids may believe that since they're so good in writing, it's understandable that they do bad at math, and they grow to dread anything related to math even into their adult years.
The best thing to do is to support your teen's achievement in the subject he/she is really good at, but help your teen focus more on the subjects that they find difficulties with. Reinforce your teen's efforts through rewarding any achievements they make. Empathize with your teen's difficulties on the subject, but push towards a solution. For example, say "I know Math is a difficult subject for you, but what can you do to help you pass it? Would it help if we hired a tutor to help you out?"
Distracted and Disorganized
Some teens just need help getting a direction and organizing their thoughts. They need structure when it comes to their school work, personal life, and social life. They need a way to stay on top of their schoolwork and keep track of projects and assignments.
Parents can help by providing tools and guidance for the organization. Some teens are more visual and prefer to work with large calendars, organizers that they can decorate, or simply to do lists posted in places where they can often see it. Parents can help their teens by enforcing a structure where teens can only play games, use the phone, or watch TV when they are done with their homework. They can allow study hours at night and assign a place in the house which can be teens' study area, a quiet place with no distractions.
Some teens don't care much about performing well in school because they don't really want to achieve something. Parents often think that their teens will set personal goals by themselves, but this isn't always the case. Sometimes teens need to be encouraged and guided through the process of goal-setting. Parents can help by helping their teens identify what goals would be realistic and suitable for them, and by helping teens celebrate milestones that bring teens closer to these goals.
Bad Company, Bad Habits
Some teens have school problems because they are preoccupied with questionable activities they do with bad company. Some teens may be pressured by their peers to cut class. Some may be influenced to drink or try drugs, which always affect performance at school. If this is the case with your teen, talking with a family therapist can give you an idea how to help him/her get back on the right track. Depending on how bad the situation is, taking your teen away from bad company may help. There are therapeutic boarding schools that offer to give troubled teens individualized therapy and counseling while they earn academic credits. If your teen is involved in drugs and other dangerous activities because of bad company, this would be a good option to consider.
Many times, poor grades aren't what parents should be worried about, but the reason behind these poor grades. When teens act out, their grades suffer. However, when the emotional needs of teens are addressed, the improvement of their grades more often than not would follow as a benefit to these emotional needs being met.