How many times do we hear “my son doesn’t want to do anything and couldn’t care less about getting decent grades etc. etc. What will his future be like if he goes on like that? What can I do to make him give a meaning and purpose to his life and to school and/or to anything else?” (or daughter, of course…)
These are only a few of the very frequent questions we get when talking with parents. And even though this is highly frustrating, it’s really important that you as parents do not force your teenager to do certain things. Even though you must be a role model for your children in life, always remember that they must follow their own path and must do it in their very own way.
They only need to discover what their values are in order to understand where they want to go in life. You cannot impose certain things upon them just because you are more experienced and/or you think you know what’s best for them. What’s more, teenagers tend to refuse any “advice” or value coming from their parents. This happens mainly because they are in that growth phase in which their brains are developing and they receive inputs from all sides, but they need to “discover” who they are all by themselves.
Adolescence is a time of great confusion and of great discovery as well. This is why teenagers must be seen as individuals, who have with their own sets of values and interests. Even though you cannot force your children to behave as you would like them to, thinking it would be best for them, your task is to teach them to be responsible and aware of their choices.
HOW TO MOTIVATE THEM WITHOUT BEING told to go TO HELL
1. Teach them (best if from an early age) how to think with their own head.
…make them discover by themselves what is right for them (obviously nothing dangerous should be involved) and never give answers to their questions. Instead, ask then “what do YOU think?” or “what do YOU think happened?” That way they can learn from their mistakes (life lessons).
2. Make them live in “action-reaction” mode
If they decide to do something, don’t tell them “look, I tried/did it when I was your age and it never worked”. Listen, wait – and we know it isn’t always easy – for them to live the results of their actions and then teach them that they have to bear the consequences. Should they be in a difficult spot, don’t offer a solution; instead, ask them what they think the solution is. You can also explain that there can be more than one solution, so that they can learn to assess the pros and cons.
3. Teach them that contributing is important.
Most of the time our kids grow up having their beds made and a meal placed on the table. Everything is so “natural” for them that often the importance of contributing to the world is overlooked. Show them videos on Youtube to make them discover what’s happening and how they, too, can become more aware of their actions. Make them contribute to something, for example helping others, learning other cultures and the related pros and cons. This helps you to grow with an open mind, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and being more motivated to do other things in life.
4. Teach them to communicate effectively and to make some compromises
You might think it’s too early, but learning to compromise and negotiate at an early age is very important. What you give, you receive. They can learn how to recognize and manage their emotions, or how to react calmly instead of violently.
5. Make them discover how important school is
For many kids going to school is a fact. Nobody ever asks: “why are you going to school” or “why do you have to study?” Ask your children what their passion is, what they need to put this passion into practice and what they need to develop it. If they want to become football players or lawyers, discover together what is necessary (in school) in order to become one. Maybe as football players they should learn a foreign language, they should be able to write, know geography and math and be able to communicate with people. If teenagers see the hidden value of the subject they are studying, they are more motivated. If school is simply a routine, a place where you have go without any further purpose, who could ever be motivated?
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