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Parenting Advice: Tips to Motivate Teens and the Psychology Behind Them

Motivation – it is what drives us and inspires us to do amazing things. The basic idea of motivation is simple but is difficult to understand because what motivates one may have no effect on another. Your form of motivation for yourself may annoy your teen. What works for one teen may not work for another. There are a few useful tips that can help you, but you need to understand the basic psychology behind motivation. Here are some tips to motivate teens and the psychology behind why they will work:

Ask Questions and Communicate First

You walk into the family room and find your teen sprawled on the couch playing yet another video game. Take a deep breath and, instead of imposing your own goals and means for motivation, take a look at your teen, ask questions, and communicate. Make new discoveries. Find out what he or she is passionate about, what does he or she enjoy doing? Ask questions and try to communicate first, you may find a way to help motivate teens simply by talking together.

According to, “Communication strategies should be different based on varying psychological types. For example, I hear from many parents about their sons who seem unmotivated across the board. They just hang out, play video games, and loosely engage in social media. This description fits what I label ‘Go with the Flow Boys’. Their main psychological driver is stress avoidance.”

For the “Go with the Flow Boys”, anything that causes stress or conflict is discomforting. They will not be motivated in the same ways as boys who crave attention and feel the need to stand out. Sometimes “Go with the Flow Boys” can be motivated by telling them that if they do something now (work, study, get a job, etc.) it will help them to be lazy or comfortable later on.

Give Them Control

How motivated are you to complete another person’s goal? Usually, we prefer to set our own goals and find ways to accomplish those goals in our own way. Telling your teen to perform a certain number of chores in a specific amount of time is another way of imposing your own goals on your teen. One source says, “Presenting acceptable choices or parameters to your child rather than trying to force them to follow your will, will give them a sense of empowerment, independence, and responsibility”.

Give your teens more control if you want them to complete things without a load of complaint. You can do this by providing a list of ten chores you need to accomplish, and telling your teen to choose five of them. Then, ask your teenager to schedule when he or she is going to do those chores on a regular basis – once a week, month, etc. You do not have to give them complete control – the house would probably stay pretty messy if that were the case. However, giving them more control over their lives and how they spend their time can really help to motivate teens.

Allow Teens to Fail

Coming to the rescue is our job as parents, isn’t it? In many cases, yes that can fit our job description, but that is not always the best option. Allowing your teen to fail is actually a great way to give them more control of their lives and to self-motivate. If you write that history paper at the last minute, what is to motivate your teen to do it the next time? says, “Give your son or daughter a taste of what happens when they blow off studying for a test. Let them know the disappointment of failing a class”. When they know what will happen when they fail to prepare or do something, then you will get results. When they know you are not going to bail them out every time, they will have more motivation to be self-sufficient, reliable, and dependable.

Encourage and Have Fun to Motivate Teens

Self-doubt is a big part of being a teenager. Sometimes the only way you can help your teen is to encourage and validate him or her. You will probably not receive much, if any, thanks for your hard work in cheerleading for your teen, but it does make a big difference. According to, “People do better when they feel better. There’s nothing like getting a compliment for something you feel good about or being affirmed for who you are to improve motivation”.

Think of your teenager as an adult. He or she is a person and you cannot just make your teen do what you want simply because you want something done. Work on using humor, bets, deals, collateral, and other means to help motivate teens to accomplish the things you want to be completed. Then, help them understand what they want from life. This will help them get to know their own methods of self-motivation so that when they leave they can stay motivated even without you around to help.