Sleeping for hours on end, beyond the eight recommended hours, or refusing to get up off the couch to help around the house are almost the hallmarks of a teen. Caring less about their schoolwork or extracurricular activities they once enjoyed may also become a concern for many teens. Their interests simply change, they may be struggling with depression, or they may have found other things that better pique their interest.
But at some point, it may become apparent that your teen is not just struggling with mental health concerns, but they lack the motivation they need to push past lazy behavior.
What options do you have to help motivate your teen? How can you encourage a teenager who simply doesn’t care about their grades or education? How can you determine which behaviors can be attributed to something else or whether your teen is lazy and lacking motivation?
Finding the right motivation for your teen
Every teen is going to respond to motivation that works well for them. What works for one of your teens may not work well for another. It might take time to find the right motivational solution for your teen. We’ve gathered a list of eight motivational tactics that might work for your teen.
#1 Help them get and stay organized.
In some situations, it might be that your teen is not completely unmotivated and lazy. He may struggle to follow through with tasks because he’s forgotten to handle it or because he’s not organized enough to fit it into his schedule. With everything that a teenager has going on in his life, it’s easy for him to get distracted and forgetful. It’s the rare teen that doesn’t need some type of help to keep up with their tasks, schoolwork, and other commitments.
The type of help your teen needs will expand beyond verbal reminders. These can be perceived as negative and even nagging. If your teen feels hassled and nagged about performing a task, he’s likely to feel even more unmotivated to tackle it.
Instead, work with your teen to establish organization methods that will help him learn to take ownership of his schedule, schoolwork, and other commitments. Many teens find that an app on their phone or tablet can help.
#2 Demonstrate the importance and value of follow-through
Ask your teenager a simple question, “Do you enjoy dinner every evening?” It may seem silly, but if you show him that getting food put on the table at the end of the day requires follow-through. You need to go to work to earn a living, plan for the ingredients you’ll purchase, get home, and prepare the meal. If you don’t do one of these steps, your family doesn’t get to enjoy dinner that night.
The same holds for the unmotivated teen. If he doesn’t get up, get dressed in clean clothing, go to school, and maintain good grade averages, he will not be able to get into college. He won’t be able to pursue any of his career or financial goals. Assign your teen tasks to complete around the house, with appropriate benefits and consequences defined. You may not be able to explain to him the purpose of learning, but you can help to teach him what it means to follow through on tasks even if you don’t particularly enjoy them.
#3 Let their voice be heard
Teens can be lazy. This is something that we all know. We also know that teens are constantly looking to have their voices heard and respected as they work towards independence. If your teen is struggling to keep up with your schedule and a heavy workload at school, let them be heard.
It could be that your teen has a few classes that are too much of a challenge right now. Or perhaps he feels that everyone around him has unreasonable expectations from him. You may not let him get his way on everything, he may not be able to drop algebra, for example, but there may be some room for compromise once you discuss it with his school counselors and teachers.
#4 Don’t be afraid to let them struggle and fail just a bit
If you give it some thought, there are good chances that many of your best life lessons came from when you were allowed to struggle and fail. Learning the value of follow-through and consequences can help even the most unmotivated teen see that he needs to make profound changes. It’s okay to feel discomfort and stress.
Your teen is better served learning this in high school than when he’s an adult with more responsibilities and no one to guide him.
#5 Set reasonable and achievable goals
If your teen is having a hard time at school or is struggling with addictive behavior, you wouldn’t be doing him any favors to demand that he fix everything right away. Set goals that your teen agrees are reasonable and achievable when you set for him.
Keep in mind that he may need additional help. Perhaps he needs a history tutor or individual and group therapy to help him better understand and worth through his struggles. What this looks like will depend on his struggles.
#6 Provide plenty of positive reinforcement
Teens can often feel that they hear nothing but negativity with a focus on everything that everyone around them thinks they are doing wrong. Don’t fall into the trap of talking to your teen only about the areas he needs to approve upon. Provide him with the positive reinforcement and praise that he needs to feel confident and good about himself.
#7 Lead by example and model the behavior you want to see
What are your follow-through skills like? If you are disorganized, skip work often, and demonstrate your lazy behavior, it will be a challenge to motivate an observant teen into action. Do your part to create the structure you need and the structure that your teen will benefit from. Demonstrate the behaviors that you know will give your teen the right impression and motivate him into taking his education seriously.
#8 Rewards, consequences, and finding balance
If it were as easy as bribing him, you’d likely take that route with your lazy teen. The reality is that rewards and consequences for achieving his goals are a much better route. This will help your teen to understand the value of working hard and getting the results that are expected from him.
Rewards could include earning an allowance, earning more screen time, earning time out with friends, and other important things to him. Consequences could consist of losing screen time, not being allowed to go out to spend time with friends, and other things that will help him to understand that not following through can result in situations he doesn’t enjoy.
The Bottom Line
How do you find balance with an unmotivated teen, perhaps struggling with his mental health or even facing troubles with addictions to alcohol, drugs, video games, and other vices?
Be sure that you aren’t ignoring any anxiety or stress that he’s feeling. Your teen may be under a lot of pressure, and it’s left him with anxiety and depression, which has resulted in him virtually shutting down. Don’t hyper-focus on his future, as worried as you may be about it right now.
Your teen today will not be worried about buying a car, getting a mortgage, or raising a family a decade in his future. Remember that your teen might need a fresh start in a new environment that will offer different motivations and the opportunity to learn new behaviors.
Helping your teen reset and refresh his unmotivated mindset can take several therapeutic solutions. At Help Your Teen Now, we can connect your family with the resources that will offer the most benefit. Whether that’s a therapeutic boarding school or an outdoor adventure camp. Help Your Teen Now is here to help families find their way back to normalcy.