How To Motivate Your Teen Throughout High School

How To Motivate Your Teen Throughout High School

You may be wondering how you can motivate your teen throughout high school, particularly year 12, in a way that suits their needs? Fear not! We have the answers!

Secondary school often marks the most stressful and troublesome times for the majority of students and can increase demotivation towards school work. The consequential results can affect more than just student grades but overall wellbeing as well. Luckily, we can provide some advice as to how you can keep your child motivated with their schooling and, in turn, bolster their marks. 

What is Motivation?

To begin with, let’s discuss what the concept of motivation is. According to educational and motivational scholars Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, motivation is when someone feels inspired to perform a task. We are either extrinsically motivated or intrinsically motivated. Essentially, think of motivation like a spectrum from non-motivation to intrinsic motivation. 

When we are extrinsically motivated, we have no drive to attempt a particular task outside of receiving a reward or to avoid some form of punitive judgement, i.e. giving your child a reward for good grades in school or punishing them if they do poorly. Intrinsically motivated people have this drive to complete a desired task either because of personal investment in the task or an inherent interest in the task, i.e. binge watching a new Netflix season because you want to know what happens next or restoring your father’s old 60s era muscle car to get the desired effect. With this information in mind, having intrinsic motivation is the key to true motivation. So thereby lies the heart of the questions – do our teens possess the capacity to realise true motivation towards their schoolwork? 

Being intrinsically motivated proves extremely difficult to achieve, especially in a school setting. Common research dictates that a student becomes intrinsically motivated when they achieve three aspects: competence, relatedness, and autonomy. In other words, students must be able to do something effectively, by oneself, and know what they are doing matters or at the very least is associated with their sensibilities. In turn, it is entirely possible for a student to fluctuate between motivational spectrum based on what activity they are doing. Your teen can be motivated in one subject but not necessarily for another. This is an important distinction to remember when it comes to assessing their grades and overall performance in certain subjects. 

Now that we have discussed what motivation is, let’s talk about several tips and tricks you can use to get your teen somewhat motivated and ensure that they are intrinsically motivated in school. 

If your teen is not motivated at school at all, attempt to extrinsically motivate your teen first.

You can achieve this by initially setting up a certain goal or reward system with your teen/teenagers. Goal setting is an effective method to make your teen motivated, as it gives your teen a sense of relatedness. Start with small goals and reasonable rewards, such as promising to take your teen to their favourite restaurant after attentively doing schoolwork for at least four weeks. If your teen fulfils that goal, set higher and higher goals with greater rewards.

When trying to extrinsically motivate your teen, remember the adage, teens respond to positivity more than negativity. You can even place cost effective boundaries, such as cutting curfew by a few hours depending on their marks or give more screen time, etc. Eventually, your teen will be extrinsically motivated with that reward scheme because they feel they are given a higher sense of  trust and responsibility . 

If your teen is extrinsically motivated and you want them to be truly motivated, communicate with your teen’s teachers who notice their behaviour and attempt to discern why they are not being intrinsically motivated. Then act accordingly.

If your teen is extrinsically motivated and not intrinsically motivated, ask yourself these questions: is your teen struggling with their schoolwork? Does he or she feel as if the schoolwork they are doing is not related to their overall life goal? How is the culture of the school – does it generally breed discontent towards schoolwork? Or are there any other societal factors that hinder intrinsic motivation? If your teen is struggling in school, spend some time helping them do work. Try to help your teen master a specific skill they need to learn in school.

If you are unable to do such a task, maybe consider enrolling your teen in tutoring. For example, at Maths Words Not Squiggles, we can more than coach your teen in mastering an English or Maths skill they are currently at odds with. We are more than capable of instilling a sense of competence and autonomy in your teen and ensure that your teen is intrinsically motivated. We have found that sometimes another person, such as a Maths/English tutor, can communicate with a child and help motivate them beyond what their parent can – I guess its the teenager in them wanting to rebel! As a matter of fact, we have a lot of school teachers enrol their children into tuition as they see how positively students respond to other teachers. 

If, however, your teen fails to be intrinsically motivated, you can talk to them about how most school subjects are foundational topics essential for their future career path. Alternatively, you can attempt to compromise – that is, to pass the subject they are not motivated in and drop said subject in years 11 and 12. This would only be applicable for non-mandatory subjects that your school offers.

Finally, your teen simply may not be intrinsically motivated due to a lack of praise or value with the task. Students are more receptive to positive feedback. If they feel their school does not give the positive feedback they crave, then they will look to you to provide that feedback. Be aware of your teen’s sensibilities, because they’re most likely trying their best to please you. 

To Conclude

Motivation can be seen as a spectrum and your teen can easily drift from non-motivation to intrinsic motivation. By implementing small goals, like reward systems, you can get your child motivated. Moreover, aspects such as communication and tutoring can further your teen’s motivation in schoolwork that may be outside your expertise. After all, parents and teachers are in this together!

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