One of the biggest struggles I have is how to motivate kids – my kids in general, two of them in particular. One of them is just plain lazy, at least that’s how it appears. There is probably more to it than that, but it sure comes across that way. The other one is a struggling teen – she has school problems, is frequently depressed, and can be extremely belligerent to us. Teen motivation isn’t one of the easiest things to do; you really have to have a strategy.
I was recently looking for answers and found a couple of good articles by James Lehman on the Empowering Parents website. One of them really applied to both of my problem kiddos. It’s called Motivating Underachievers – When Your Child Says “I Don’t Care”. It gave me several great ideas – I’ll share a few that have worked for us.
One of the things he says we have to understand is that it’s impossible for teens and pre-teens not to be motivated – it just depends on what they’re motivated to do. Quite often, they’re motivated to resist us, withdraw, or under-perform. Instead of acting out, they’re acting in!
So how can you motivate teens? Mr. Lehman gives 9 “motivate tips” to get through to your unmotivated children or teenagers. Here are 4 of them that really resonated with us.
- Look at what your child likes. The idea here is to observe what your child likes to do. Don’t take his word for it, he’ll say “nothing matters”. But look at his actions – does he watch a lot of TV, play video games, play on the computer? Observe, and write them down – later on you can use these things as incentives.
- Make sure everything is earned each day.This is one I didn’t realize, but it makes sense. You have to hold unmotivated children accountable. Make sure everything is earned. Life for these kids has to be one day at a time. They should have to earn their TV or video games. How? By doing their homework and chores. They earn their cell phone today, and then start over tomorrow.
- Have conversations about what your child wants. This has been very successful with my daughter. It’s not small stuff, like the phone or iPod, but bigger things like a car, driver’s license, apartment, and so forth. She has to have good enough grades to take driver’s ed, to get insurance, and to be able to get a job so she can move out on her own. This is motivating her well, and in a more long-term way.
- Don’t shout, argue, beg or plead. If you do any of these things, it lets your child know he’s in control. With underperforming kids, you have to be very cool. Keep the shouting to a minimum!
One thing you have to realize is that being an underachiever gives your child a sense of control and power, because she doesn’t have to worry about the anxiety of failure or meeting responsibilities. She doesn’t have to deal with people’s expectations. Once people start expecting more of these kids, they fall apart.
That’s a few tips about dealing with underachiever children. To read the whole article, click here.
If you like what you read, and want to learn more, consider trying out The Total Transformation program. It’s a CD, DVD and workbook set with hundreds of ideas for managing challenging behaviors in kids. It’s done wonders for our family – believe me, if you’re willing to work at it, you will get results.