As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. The same is true for your teen. Though we may know what’s best for our kids (or at least think we do), we can’t make them do it. They have to want to do it themselves. In other words, they have to be motivated. In today’s article I share five tips to help your teens get–and stay–motivated.
1. Unique Drivers
What motivates you won’t necessarily motivate your kids. This can be a hard lesson for parents to learn. Moms and dads who were driven by pride, competition, curiosity, success, etc. just can’t understand why Jimmy isn’t motivated by the same things. They get frustrated, and often let that frustration spill over into their relationships with their kids. As hard as it is to accept, our drivers are unique. What makes me want to leap out of bed in the morning may not interest you in the slightest. We can bemoan the fact and wish it weren’t that way, but the far more productive approach is to accept it (and thereby let go of the frustration) and work to discover what does motivate your kids. Become the Sherlock Holmes of motivation and find the buttons that push them forward.
2. The Past Reveals the Future
A clue to your child’s motivational drivers lies in their past, for what motivates us once will more than likely motivate us again. When you think about your own life, about the things that drove you in the past, do you find a common theme? I know I do. What motivated me to become a coach was the same thing that motivated me to want to be a good father, a good husband, and a good friend. My drivers are consistent. Your teen’s are as well. Think back to what motivated them before (if you don’t know, it’s time to start talking with your kids about what makes them tick) and help them attach that same idea to whatever they’re after now. What worked once will work again.
3. The Four Levers
Four unique things motivate all human behavior. They’ve been called different things, of course, but in the end they come back to the same four elements: gaining pleasure, keeping pleasure, avoiding pain, removing pain. Everything you want, and everything your kids want, stems from at least one of these elements, if not more. They are the gasoline of goals. If your teen is struggling to make progress or is ready to give up, help them connect one or more of these ideas to the goal to re-energize their passion. Let’s say Jack is having a hard time with math and wants to throw his textbook out the window (been there, done that). As the parent, you can talk with Jack through the lens of each driver to help motivate him to stick with it. Gaining Pleasure: Ask him what positives will come from figuring out his math homework. Keep Pleasure: Ask him what good things he’ll be able to continue doing if he cracks the math code and earns a passing grade. Avoiding Pain: Talk with Jack about all the negatives that could result from failing. Removing Pain: Talk with Jack about his current struggles and how different life would be if he found a way to solve the problem and move forward with confidence.
4. Make It Micro
Big goals are intimidating, but small steps seem trivial. The former is very true while the latter couldn’t be more wrong. Everything we see around us came about through small, consistent steps. Buildings grow a brick at a time, and not with a snap of the fingers. Hopes, goals, and dreams are all a series of micro actions tied together with a string of determination. Teach this truth to your teen. Teach them that success comes from doing small things, day by day, and not through overwhelming leaps. Goals are the games of other people when you believe they’re built with superhuman moves. “I can’t possibly do that,” we say. But you can, and so can your teen. The first step to making that happen is to recalibrate their perspective on achievement, and begin to see success for what it truly is: inches, not miles.
5. Celebrate the Small
Don’t wait until your teen crosses the finish line to celebrate. Instead, recognize the steps along the way. This ties in with the tip above. You can’t talk about the power of small but reserve your applause for the final product. This doesn’t necessarily mean you throw a party for every snippet of progress your teen makes, but it does mean recognizing the wins, tracking the small gains, and offering encouragement in between the start and finish. It can be hard for us, as adults, to see the end game. It’s even harder for teens who haven’t yet developed the ability to think long-term. By keeping tabs on the progress they’re making along the way, you can keep their motivation going strong even when that finish is far into the distance.
Nothing happens until someone is motivated to make it happen. With the tips above in your backpack of tricks, your teen will have just the coach they need to set, chase, and achieve their goals and dreams.
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