Are you concerned that your teen isn’t making the most of his or her potential?
Or do you worry that your teen lacks focus?
Unmotivated teenagers cause their parents lots of stress and frustration.
During adolescence, teens often deal with challenges like peer pressure, bullying, school-related stress, etc. These issues can affect teens’ motivation by causing them to feel overwhelmed or lost.
Parenting teens is hard, and you’re not alone if you feel like you’ve tried everything to motivate your teenager.
This article explores the possible explanations for what’s going on with unmotivated teenagers. We’ll also explore what you – as a parent – can do to help.
Of course, there are times when unmotivated teens will need professional support. This is something that we’ll discuss toward the end of the article.
Let me start by asking this question…
Why does your teenager lack motivation?
It’s essential to understand what your teens are going through before concluding that they’re “unmotivated.”
Perhaps you even wonder if you are doing enough to keep your teenagers motivated.
So let’s take a closer look at these 8 common reasons for teens’ lack of motivation.
Reason #1: Your teen feels discouraged or overwhelmed
Growing up and developing into a young adult is a journey that has many ups and downs. Teenagers frequently feel overwhelmed, both in school and in their personal lives.
When it comes to school, the workload alone can feel daunting. Whether they’re struggling to focus in class or are unable to keep up with the work, your teenagers may be feeling distressed.
As teens get older, the material they learn in school gets significantly harder. At the same time, they become busier with extracurricular activities and their social life.
As such, most teens struggle to lead balanced lives.
Over time, self-doubt can arise in teenagers. On the outside, this may look like a lack of motivation, when the underlying emotion is actually discouragement.
Here’s where you can guide your teenagers toward understanding the power of focus and time management. Talk to them about which activities they could focus on and which to scale back on.
Of course, you should make it clear that you’re there to support your teens, but that they are fully responsible for their choices.
Reason #2: Your teen isn’t taking care of his or her physical health
Teenagers crave independence and want to make their own choices. Teens want to exercise their decision-making abilities in many areas, including their food choices, the physical activities they participate in, and when they go to bed.
Teens who consume sugary drinks and unhealthy snacks will have poor energy levels. The same thing will happen if they don’t exercise regularly.
Research shows that sedentary behavior can lead to anxiety, depression, poor mental capacity, loss of concentration, and even a decline in memory. Being sleep-deprived – which most teens are – doesn’t help the situation!
Considering the factors above, you can see why your teen might lack enthusiasm or seem listless. Proper diet, exercise, and sleep are essential elements for students who are motivated to give their best.
To help your teens lead a healthy lifestyle, you can try organizing family outings that involve hiking or biking. Even going for a walk as a family once or twice a week is a good start.
You can also plan healthy dinners. Remove junk food from your home and keep healthy snacks on hand.
And it’s vital that you lead by example in taking care of your own physical health!
Reason #3: Your teen feels like he or she is being micromanaged
Nobody likes to be micromanaged.
Statistics show that 59% of adults have experienced being micromanaged at some point in their working life. Of those who reported working for a micromanager, 68% said it had decreased their morale, and 55% claimed it had hurt their productivity.
Your teens aren’t your employees, but you may be treating them like they are.
Teens crave independence and being trusted to make their own decisions.
So if you talk down to your teens, it can result in rebellious behavior. They may start to act out and defy your instructions.
Be mindful not to control every aspect of your teenagers’ lives. If safety isn’t an issue, allow them to make their own choices as far as possible. Some relevant areas would be clothes, food, choice of friends, and when they do their homework.
The more control you exert, the more likely they’ll be unmotivated teenagers.
Instead, include your teens in the decision-making process as much as possible. This would be applicable when it comes to establishing rules and boundaries.
By doing this, your teenagers will be more likely to comply with those rules. This means that you won’t be forced to micromanage them, so it’s a win-win situation!
Reason #4: Your teen doesn’t see the purpose of what he or she is being asked to do
How often have you asked your teens to complete some chores or to stop using their phone so much?
And how often have your teens ignored your requests?
Teenagers won’t want to do these things if they don’t understand or agree with the reasons you give them.
You may think you’re dealing with unmotivated teenagers. But maybe they just don’t see why they need to do the chores now instead of later, or why they should stop using their phone when they’ve already completed their homework.
Focus on the intrinsic value of what you’re asking your teens to do, e.g. contributing to the family, becoming a more disciplined person, developing traits like commitment and perseverance.
Of course, it’s important that you periodically talk to your teens about what values matter to them. It’s also important that you appreciate your teens sincerely when they fulfill their responsibilities.
When your teens focus on the intrinsic value of what they’re doing – not just on the practical benefits they’ll receive – they’ll develop a sense of purpose. They’ll also find the inner motivation to do the things that matter.
Reason #5: Your teen doesn’t know how to prioritize
The concept of organization doesn’t just apply to items your teens own. It also refers to how your teens prioritize their tasks.
Prioritizing allows your teens to sort through everything on their agenda and decide how best to complete those tasks.
Teens who haven’t learned how to prioritize often feel like they don’t know where to start. They end up getting distracted instead, which causes them to seem unmotivated.
If your teens know how to create lists and keep track of events and deadlines, they’ll be less stressed. They’ll procrastinate less, and they’ll stay on top of their tasks.
According to research, people who finish their most difficult tasks first are more productive than people who start with their easy tasks.
Reason #6: Your teen feels forced into doing things
No one likes to feel pressured into doing things they don’t want to do – teenagers especially.
So don’t spend too much time trying to force your teen to behave in a certain way, or you’ll both end up feeling frustrated.
Many parents use rewards to motivate their teens to perform certain tasks. But if you use this approach frequently, your teens will become outcome-oriented instead of process-oriented.
They’ll start to focus on the benefits they’ll receive if they perform the task, rather than focusing on the intrinsic value of the task. This will result in long-term negative consequences.
What’s more, your teenagers are likely to become more unmotivated over time.
So what should you do instead?
Try having a problem-solving conversation with your teens. Understanding their perspective will help you learn what support they need. You’ll also learn how you can be a better parent to them.
Make sure to use active listening techniques when speaking with your teenagers, e.g. maintaining eye contact, paying attention to body language, asking clarifying questions. Your teens will be more willing to share how they feel if they know you’re really listening to them.
Reason #7: Your teen has a learning disability
Learning disabilities can hinder a teen’s ability to comprehend or retain information.
Simple equations may be challenging to remember, or basic grammar rules may cause confusion.
Here are a few common learning disabilities:
- Dyslexia. This is a learning disorder in which people find it hard to read. This is because of problems identifying sounds of speech and how they relate to letters.
- Dyscalculia. This is a learning disorder that causes people to have trouble learning math. These difficulties can include problems doing both basic and abstract math.
- Dysgraphia. This neurological condition makes it difficult for people to turn their thoughts into written words. This can also affect handwriting and writing speed.
A related condition is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is a neurodevelopmental disorder that leads to poor planning and time management, impulsiveness, a lack of concentration, disorganization, etc.
Reason #8: Your teen doesn’t have a mentor or coach
A mentor or coach is the little-known factor that enables teenagers to become successful and happy.
It’s hard for parents to mentor their teens. This is because teens often interpret parental advice as nagging or lecturing.
Having a mentor benefits teenagers as they navigate their educational and life journeys. Research even shows that teenagers with mentors experience higher levels of life satisfaction.
Finding someone to fill this role can be challenging because it’s rare to have a family friend or relative who can serve as a mentor. Few adults can fully understand your teen’s challenges and guide your teen effectively.
This is where a more formal arrangement – like engaging a coach – can help.
Professionals who can help your unmotivated teen
If your teenager lacks motivation or faces other related challenges, you might be considering engaging a professional to help him or her.
Professional support comes in many forms, each serving a different purpose.
Here are the professionals who may be able to help your teen, depending on what issues your teen is dealing with:
1. Therapist or counselor
Main objective: To help teens work through trauma or emotional distress.
A therapist or counselor can help teens work through emotions related to trauma, physical abuse, or other situations causing ongoing emotional distress.
2. Psychologist or psychiatrist
Main objective: To treat teens who have mental disorders and mental illnesses.
A psychologist can help teens who have emotional problems and provide treatment for mental health-related issues. This often involves some kind of behavioral therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who treats mental illnesses. Psychiatrists frequently prescribe medications that they think may help the patient’s condition.
Main objective: To help focused and driven teens improve in specific academic areas.
Engaging a tutor is a good option for teens who are already motivated and focused, but who just need some additional assistance in a specific subject.
Main objective: To equip teens with the mindset and tools needed to become motivated, focused, confident, resilient, and responsible.
Engaging a coach is a solution that many parents haven’t considered.
Coaches specialize in guiding teens who are going through a difficult time, who have a learning disability, who lack motivation, or who are struggling to overcome various challenges.
Coaches help teens to become more resilient, understand the importance of education, overcome a negative mindset, develop planning and organizational skills, etc.
So if your teens don’t have a strong sense of purpose, give up easily, frequently get distracted, or lack self-confidence and a sense of responsibility – then connecting them with a coach will benefit them tremendously.
A coach might be just what your teen needs!
To learn more about how your teen might benefit from coaching, read this article next. Or you can also click the link in the box below…
John Di Stefano says
I always enjoy reading your advice. I’m not a big fan of the videos though. I prefer reading what you have to say. Thanks for all of your excellent comments and advice!
Daniel Wong says
Thank you for your kind words and feedback!
As a mom of a beginner teenager I appreciate this. We are both new to this phase and it can be challenging.
Daniel Wong says
Hang in there!
SIMEON GODWIN ADADU says
Great mind, do formidable things.
Bravo! Daniel Wong keep it up.