How to Motivate Your Teen

Motivated teens are a powerful addition to their family, as well as their community. When your teen is motivated, their behavioral will reflect their motivation. They will have a desire to succeed at home, at school, at work, and as a part of a larger community, as well. Not only does their behavior improve, but their relationships improve, as well. Motivated teens are willing to compromise. They are willing to work as a part of a team. As such, they have good relationships with their parents, siblings, teachers, and friends.

On the other hand, teens who are unmotivated are unpleasant to be around. They do not care about others, and it is apparent through their behavior as well as their words. Unmotivated teens are defiant. They are unwilling to follow rules or to work hard in order to achieve goals and earn rewards. They refuse to be held accountable for their actions. As such, they are difficult to get along with and struggle to maintain relationships with their parents, siblings, friends, and teachers.

Motivating your teen is one of the most important – and most difficult – tasks that you, as a parent, have to complete. However, if you have noticed that your teen is ignoring the house rules, behaving disrespectfully, and seems not to care about the impacts that his actions have on others, it is time to get to work and begin motivating your teen to do better and be better.

Establishing and Maintaining Motivation

Some teens are naturally motivated to behave positively, follow rules, and develop good relationships with their family. For many, however, their motivation must be encouraged by their family, and namely, their parents. You can motivate your children in many ways. Parents often find that using parental privilege, such as providing rewards and instituting consequences, is the most effective way of establishing motivation within their child.

Once motivation is established, however, it is up to you to keep the motivation going. Maintaining motivation is easy if you are persistent. Parenting is hard work, and in order to have a child who is continually motivated to behave appropriately and earn rewards while avoiding consequences, you must implement the rewards and consequences continually and without fail. Consistency is key.

Creating Leverage

Leverage is not necessary for parents who have quality, working relationships with their teens. However, for those parents whose relationships with their teen need improvement, leverage is an effective tool that will motivate their teenage child to change their behavior, thus resulting in improved parental relationships. Leverage gives parents the influence that they need to alter their teen’s behavior over the long term. Leverage is something that naturally occurs when a person holds the keys to things that another person covets. For instance, a parent has leverage over a teen who wants to go to the movies, but needs to borrow the family car. Though “keys” is taken literally in this situation, it is only one example in which a parent exercises leverage over their teen’s behavior. To create leverage, think of things that your teen desires, as well as consequences that they wish to avoid, and use them in your favor in order to encourage your teen to make positive choices and become a motivated, responsive individual.

Using Effective Motivators

Consequences are, undoubtedly, one of the most effective motivators. In order to be effective, however, a consequence must be strong enough or severe enough to deter undesirable behaviors. This means that the consequence must be implemented immediately upon behavioral transgression, and be severe enough to make an impact and act as a deterrent of inappropriate behavior in the future.

Equally effective as consequences, however, are rewards and benefits. Using rewards is a great way of utilizing leverage to your own benefit as a parent. You can encourage your teen to make appropriate behavioral decisions simply by offering a coveted reward as a motivator. Effective rewards include privileges and opportunities that the child may not otherwise be offered. Electronics, such as cell phones and computer use, time with friends, permission to participate in activities, and even money all act as effective and motivating rewards for teenagers.

Getting Respect, Appreciation, and Cooperation

The best way to motivate your teen is to avoid spoiling them in the first place. Many teens are living a life of retirement and ease, even though they are not old enough to even hold a full time job. The professionals at Parent Tools deem this “Teenage Pension.” To learn more about Teenage Pension and what you can do to avoid this situation in your own home, visit

Reflect on your teen’s life. Do they have access to a comfortable home, car, and extra money without having to work for it? Are their comforts available to them, despite their behavior, actions, and activities? If so, they are living a life of teenage retirement. It is time to break this cycle and change your teen’s behavior so that you receive the respect, appreciation, and cooperation that you deserve.

You need to break the cycle of entitlement by ending your teen’s retirement early. Take the time to sit down with your teen. Talk about the current family situation, discuss how it is not working, and warn them of the upcoming changes. Let them know that, going forward, they must earn their privileges and perks by behaving appropriately, following rules, working hard, and contributing to the family. Warn them that misbehavior and poor choices will be followed by strong consequences, and give examples of those consequences. Most importantly, follow through on what you say you will do. Though it may be a battle at first, following through on your decision will create credibility and will, in turn, motivate your child to be a respectful, obedient, and enjoyable part of the family.



For a FREE parenting video series on this topic and many more, visit:

Smart but Scattered Teens: The “Executive Skills” Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Full Potential
Parents who are struggling to motivate their teens will learn a lot from the tools and resources listed in Smart but Scattered Teens. Dr. Richard Guare, who is the director of the Center for Learning and Attention Disorders in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, provides parents with the information that they need in order to address their child’s lack of focus and motivation in the classroom, as well as in the world beyond. The tools provided here will allow parents to refocus and motivate their teens at home, at school, and in the world.

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