Do you struggle with how to motivate your teenager?
Don’t worry — many parents do.
After all, parenting teens isn’t easy.
You don’t want to be bossy, but you still want your teens to become successful, self-disciplined adults.
What will happen if you stop controlling and lecturing your teenagers?
Will they ever develop the positive, lifelong habits needed to thrive?
Here’s what you need to keep in mind…
Nagging and micromanaging your teens won’t help them to develop intrinsic motivation.
It might help your teens to pass an exam, but what will happen when they’re at university, and you’re not there to guide them?
The secret to motivating teens is to fuel inner motivation — to support and help in the development of self-discipline.
Your teens will then get good grades and, more importantly, develop the confidence and mindset required to succeed in all areas of life.
Motivating teenagers is possible. You can help your teens develop intrinsic motivation today using the following strategies.
13 ways to motivate a teenager
Let’s explore these tips for how to motivate a teenager, so you can provide support without micromanaging your teens.
1. Focus on the process more than the outcome
Getting good grades and performing well in extracurriculars is important, but there’s more to life than that.
What truly matters are the skills your teen learns through the journey — traits like responsibility, perseverance, resilience, and hard work.
So encourage your teenager to focus on the process of becoming a more motivated and disciplined student.
If your teens don’t achieve their goals, help them identify opportunities for improvement while keeping your attention on the effort they put in.
For example, you might say something like this:
“Even though you didn’t make the football team, I hope you’re proud of yourself for practising every day. You showed determination and grit. Next time, how do you think you can practise more effectively?”
Focus on the process, and your teens will be less likely to shy away from challenges and more likely to try new things.
Every parent wants their teens to perform well.
It’s not a natural tendency for parents and teens to prioritise processes over outcomes. But shift your mindset — and help your teens do the same — and you’ll empower them to develop lifelong motivation and self-discipline.
Positive outcomes are then sure to follow!
2. Respect your teenager’s autonomy
Your teenagers are learning to find their way in the world — discovering their personality, passions, and individuality.
While your teenagers might not be adults quite yet, the desire for increased autonomy and independence are two natural elements of growing up.
What’s the problem?
Most teenagers have to abide by strict rules and schedules. They often have little control over their daily routines.
As a result, many teenagers feel frustrated, powerless, and, ultimately, unmotivated.
Now, I’m not saying that you should let your teenagers do whatever they want. But it’s important to give them some agency, so they become more motivated to work hard and follow through on tasks.
One easy way to respect your teenagers’ autonomy is to set rules and consequences together.
They’ll realise that you appreciate their opinions. They’ll then be more motivated to respect you and the mutually agreed-upon boundaries.
And when it comes to how to motivate teenagers, avoid the urge to say, “I know what’s best for you.”
Maybe you do know what’s best for your teenagers. But when you help them to responsibly embrace a greater sense of autonomy, they’ll develop into mature adults.
3. Promote empathetic communication
Talk to your teens and listen to what they have to say, even if it’s not exactly what you want to hear.
Encourage open dialogue and exchange long-winded lectures for supportive, empathetic communication.
If your teen comes to you with a problem, avoid the urge to interrupt him or her by giving unsolicited advice. You can still give guidance and coaching, but listen more and speak less.
In other words, practise active listening as you give your teen your full attention.
When you create this kind of positive environment, your teens will feel understood instead of judged or criticised. They’ll then be more likely to tell you what’s really going on in their lives.
Studies show that teenagers with close family relationships and open communication are less prone to behavioural problems — a finding that you probably don’t find surprising.
At this point, you might be thinking:
“I’d love to communicate with my teenagers more, but they never want to talk to me!”
A good way to promote open, empathetic communication with teenagers is to eat meals together regularly. 80% of teenagers say they’re the most likely to talk to their parents during mealtimes, so make family dinners a priority.
4. Support your teen’s interests
Do your teens have interests outside of school like dance, music, or athletics?
If so, that’s great!
Academics are essential to your teens’ overall development, but so are other activities and hobbies.
When your teens invest time in a passion, they learn how to become self-motivated while developing other life skills too.
Don’t talk about your teens’ hobbies as if they’re a waste of time. If you do that, your teens may become angry and resentful.
So support your teens as they pursue their interests, while helping them to lead a balanced life. If you do this, you’ll no longer ask yourself questions related to how to motivate a teenager.
Are you unsure about what your teenagers’ interests are?
Start by listening to them and observing them. What might seem like wasted time on social media could actually be a passion for video editing or media production.
5. Set a good example for your teen
Whether it’s letting the laundry pile up, putting off that long-overdue dentist appointment, or hitting the snooze button repeatedly, adults have a way of procrastinating too.
It’s hard being a parent, and no one expects you to be perfect.
Still, your teenagers are watching you and modelling their behaviour after you, either consciously or subconsciously.
If you struggle to find the motivation for the things that matter, your teens might have a hard time behaving differently.
But if your teens observe that you’re hardworking, responsible, and disciplined, they’ll be more likely to develop these qualities, too.
6. Speak positively to and about your teen
“Why can’t you be more focused like your brother?”
“I heard that your classmate Johnny got straight-As. If he can do it, I’m sure you can, too.”
It’s tempting to compare your teen to siblings or peers. But instead of motivating your teen, this can result in low self-esteem and even resentment.
Say positive things to your teens as often as you can. Celebrate their unique strengths, and encourage them to see that hard work is fun and rewarding.
Here’s another tip…
When you say things like “When I was your age… ” your teens will see it as a kind of comparison, too. They’ll feel as if you can’t relate to or understand their situation or perspective.
So try to avoid making these types of comments as much as possible.
7. Promote healthy habits
If you want to know how to motivate a teenager, don’t underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep.
It’s difficult for anyone to find motivation when they’re exhausted.
Studies show that teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night to function optimally, so help your teen develop a routine that provides enough time for rest.
Nutrition and exercise matter, too. Healthy habits help teenagers cope with stress and increase self-control.
Here are some areas to focus on when helping your teenager to embrace healthy habits:
- Establish a daily routine
- Exercise regularly
- Switch off devices before bed
- Avoid excessive caffeine
- Eat a balanced diet
Remember that if you model self-care, your teenager will be more likely to lead a balanced life, too.
8. Avoid giving both rewards and punishments
Using rewards and punishments seems like a simple way to motivate teenagers.
In fact, parents often say things to me like: “Won’t my teens study harder if they get extra video game time for good grades and lose their phone privileges for bad grades?”
But here’s what you need to be aware of…
Research shows that rewards and punishments don’t lead to long-term motivation. Sure, they might compel your teens to study more for an upcoming exam, but they won’t teach your teens the value of hard work and persistence.
Plus, rewards and punishments prioritise the outcome over the process.
Like we talked about earlier, we want to instil in our teens a love for learning and taking on challenges.
So if you’re asking yourself how to motivate a teenager, avoid resorting to rewards and punishments — and follow the tips in this article instead.
9. Let natural consequences run their course
You don’t want to micromanage your teenagers. But that doesn’t mean they should get away with anything.
Mistakes have consequences, and your teens need to learn from their missteps.
Every parent wants to protect their children, but let natural consequences run their course whenever feasible.
For example, if your teens don’t put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket, don’t do it for them. When they run out of clean clothes, they’ll be forced to rewear their dirty clothes.
And if your teens fail an exam? Resist the urge to ask the teacher if they can retake the exam. Your teens need to learn better study habits to do well the next time around.
I know you want to save your teens from unnecessary pain and disappointment.
But when you let them learn from natural consequences — without telling them “I told you so” — you’ll avoid frustrating power struggles.
What’s more, they’ll learn the value of intrinsic motivation and making wise choices.
10. Find a mentor
Did you know that students with mentors are more likely to succeed?
It’s great that your teenagers (hopefully) love and respect you. Still, it’s beneficial that they get a fresh perspective from someone outside the family.
It’s especially helpful for your teens to have a mentor when there’s a conflict between you and them.
A mentor will be able to empower your teens to understand the situation from different points of view, so that it will be easier to arrive at a solution.
A mentor could be a coach, teacher, neighbour, or even a family friend. It could also be a professional success and life coach for teens, which is a big part of the work I do.
11. Equip your teen with valuable organisational tools
Your teen wants to succeed. It’s just that sometimes, mounting school and social responsibilities feel overwhelming.
So, instead of tackling his or her long to-do list, your teen turns to videos, games and social media to escape.
And you’re left wondering how to motivate a teenager in such a situation.
If your teen feels beaten down and frustrated, a couple of crucial organisational tips can help. Start with these two fundamental skills:
A. Chunking down
This technique makes daunting school assignments feel more manageable by breaking big tasks into smaller action items.
If your teens have a huge project to complete, help them “chunk” the work down into bite-sized tasks that can be easily tackled one at a time.
Encourage your teens to write down all important information, e.g. homework, deadlines, things to bring, exam dates.
This way, they won’t forget important dates and they’ll feel more in control of the things they need to do.
Just as adults have to learn organisational and planning skills in order to be responsible, so too do your teenagers.
If you equip them with the right tools and strategies, they’ll become more self-motivated.
12. Avoid giving pep talks
Sometimes, reading motivational quotes for students can give your teens the quick boost of inspiration they need to power through an assignment.
But when it comes to motivating your teens for the long term, pep talks rarely work.
Because even the best-intentioned pep talks often turn into lectures, at least from your teens’ perspective. What you think are words of inspiration might come across as nagging or even scolding.
Instead of giving your teenagers pep talks, help them to develop intrinsic motivation by following the tips in this article.
13. Develop routines and structures together with your teen
Want a sure-fire way to eliminate unnecessary conflict while developing motivation in your teens?
Create and maintain established family routines.
When it comes to motivating teenagers, a consistent structure sets them up for success while providing the space they need as they exercise their sense of autonomy.
The secret to rewarding and effective family routines is to develop them with your teens. Work together to create a daily and weekly framework that’s acceptable to everyone.
Include important responsibilities like study time and chores, but don’t forget to make time for extra-curricular activities, hobbies, fun family times, etc. too.
Maybe your teen wants to cook dinner for the family every Sunday or do volunteer work one Saturday a month.
Such personal goals and interests are a fantastic way to motivate your teenager to excel in all areas of life, so include them in the family routines as far as possible.
I encourage you to start applying at least a couple of these 13 proven tips to motivate teenagers.
As you do this, your teens will develop the inner motivation needed to succeed, while also finding fulfilment in their various pursuits.
Since you’re reading this article, I’m guessing that you’ve been facing some challenges with your teens…
Have you been trying to motivate them without much success?
Or do you have ongoing disagreements with them over schoolwork, screen time, chores, family responsibilities, etc.?
If so, it doesn’t have to be this way.