Helping Unmotivated Teen Boys

It can be hard to watch teens, especially teen boys, lack the motivation they need to move forward in their lives. “Its whatever”, “I dunno”, seem to fill their lexicon of responses when parents and other adults attempt to motivate them.

Many people think that motivation is something you’re born with. Unfortunately, you can’t do a blood test to measure one’s level of motivation. And while the science of motivation is complex, including natural factors such as personality and temperament, motivation is a learnable skill set, which like any other skill, can be developed.

Avoid spoiling your teen.

Just because you can give them something doesn’t mean you should. When teens have repeated grandiose vacations and consistently enjoy access and ownership of luxury possessions, what else is left for them to experience in life? Ironically, the same desire, hunger and thirst that motivated many of their parents to succeed is what those same parents deprive their sons of, by not wanting them to “struggle” like they did. What many don’t realize is that “struggle” is what fueled their drive for independence.

Off Specific Positive Authentic Affirmation.

Teens know when they have a sub par performance. Adults telling them they did a great job when the teen and the adult knows that’s not true is not helpful for the teen’s self esteem or motivation. When you do affirm, make sure its specific, authentic and focused on the work your teen did to achieve the goal more than the innate trait they could have been born with. Dr. Carol Dweck’s research in this area is worth looking into. She suggests, instead of telling teens “I’m proud of you for making an A on that test. You’re so smart.” tell them, “I’m proud of you for studying for an extra hour last night. It sure paid off when you made the A on your test.”

Challenging the Negative Voices in their Head.

Some teens who have more melancholic temperaments can always see the glass half empty. This includes their future. Begin challenging the negative voices in their heads early, and you will have a foundation for challenging the fear of failure that will arise as they approach young adulthood.

Give them permission to not have it all figured out in High School.

Give them permission to fail and not be perfect. The truth is that most teens won’t really figure out what they want to “do with their life” until college. It is certainly wise not to dump a ton of money into a four year ivy league discernment process, but its important for adults to understand that with all the changes in the world of education, work and career, many teens don’t have enough information to make an informed career decision until 1-2 years into college.

Show them what real work looks like in the real world.

If you work from home, make sure you teen knows what is involved in running your business from home.Help teens to understand exactly what you did for how long to get where you are today? Too many teens see their parents behind a laptop, having business lunches enjoying a comfortable lifestyle without any clue about the work, labor and time it took/takes for them to be in such a position. As early as possible help your teen to see the unromantic aspects of your work and the education/training it took/takes for you to get there and stay there. m

Encourage them to get a job

Even if they/you don’t need it. Preferably a job working for someone else who you don’t know who will treat them like an employee and have normal expectations for them.You’ve got to have a hobby that YOU finance. You track your expenses and your sales.

Allow to work out school problems on their own first

Before getting involved, make sure you’ve tried to help them communicate through the issue first. Sometimes parents will need to get involved but don’t make that your first effort.

Drug test your teen

Marijuana is like a shop vac for a teenager’s motivation. It’s hard to make headway and do something meaningful with your life when you’re main focus is getting high. When the adolescent brain begins depending on Marijuana to deliver its daily dose of Dopamine and Norepinephrine (primary neurotransmitters associated with motivation and personal drive) it begins getting lazy. Ultimately, THC cannot over time do for the brain what it needs to do for itself.

Follow through on consequences.

Starting at a very young age teens learn if parents are serious about consequences. If you didn’t set and more importantly follow through on set consequences when they were younger, telling them you’re going to “kick them out” if they don’t have a job at 20 is unlikely and your teen knows that. When you enable them as a teen, chances are you’ll still be enabling them as a young adult and an older adult.

Reflect on your own motivations

Be aware of what it’s like for YOU when you deliberately allow your teen to go without something they want or you want them to have. What’s it like for YOU when your teen doesn’t like you? What’s it like for you to allow your teen to suffer the consequences of their choices and behaviors? WHat’s it like for you when your teen has a job knowing you nor they “need” the money? These are all factors that influence our decisions as parents and can possibly interfere with our deeper desire for our teen’s achieving independence.