Creating Motivation to Change in Teenagers

Once upon a time there was a lovely communicative child who had a great desire to please their parents and enjoyed playing with their younger siblings. One night they went to bed and when they woke up the next morning, to the parents horror, the child had turned into a teenager.

Whilst the parents knew that it was not a permanent state of affairs, they also know that they would have to wait for the period of puberty to be over before they would once again meet the child they had known as a child, and that when they would come to meet that young person on the other side, they would be older and different to the child they had known before.

Aside from the physical changes, hormonal changes and adjustments that happen in the teenage brain, the other significant change that parents find are the changes in how their child now acts towards them on a social level.

During teenage years, our young person is going to be testing the boundaries. They may form new peer groups and lose interest in the ones they had previously. The people that used to be able to influence them (including parents and teachers) may find that they now are unable to have the same impact when it comes to motivating the teenager.

This is often (though not always) coupled with an apparent laziness when it comes to taking the action parents really wish they would take. Whether it’s finishing an assignment or cleaning up their mess. Suddenly there is a sloth living in the house where once there was a sporty child!

As teenagers are seeking to move into adulthood, it’s important that the adults around them respect that they are in this transition phase. That may mean that you begin to talk to them slightly differently. That you ask their opinion more, share more with them about the challenges of adult life (within the realms of what is appropriate and not overwhelming). They need to get the sense that you now see them as on a level nearer to your own so that they can appreciate that you respect them. If you want to motivate them, they have to respect you first. However, this is something that you may want to consider your approach to carefully. This new respect is not a right of passage of becoming a teenager. It must be earned. So if you have certain behaviors or habits you’d like your teenager to change or particular tasks you want them to complete, trade with them. They will get more freedom or respect once they do X.

Keep the communication channels open. When there are opportunities to converse, take them as they may not always be open to telling you about their inner most thoughts. By taking the opportunities to converse as they arise you can ensure you find out about their current interests and you can then have a way to connect with them in the future. Typically it’s the throw away comment that they make just as you turn your back to walk away that is your ‘in’ to creating engagement. Keep yourself available to listen to them so that they know they can reach out to you when required. By having good rapport you have the opportunity to lead them towards the conversations you need to have to motivate them without resistance.

By Gemma Bailey

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