How to motivate your capable but disinterested teenager. 1) Re-calibrating the Relationship

11th Sep 2017

Motivating a teenager is a perennial problem and one that gets to the heart of the constantly evolving parent/child relationship.

As the Head of a school with children across the entire age range I’m fortunate to see the real impact of developing human psychology through the formative years of one’s life.

Little children are eager to please, hands shoot up at the merest suggestion of a question and they cannot wait to show off to their teacher just how much they are enjoying the lesson. By the time children reach the latter years of a Prep or Primary school they are developing a healthy scepticism but the enthusiasm for school usually remains robust. Equally the relationship between parent and child at this age is still very much top down with rules and procedures enforced from upon high.

The start of senior school, aged 11, will usually herald the start of a new phase of the child’s life, one where they are learning to be independent and individual. As a parent we are slowly introducing them to more responsibility and our expectations of their ability to cope in different settings increases.

As they approach puberty children develop their own identity, they rebel and start acting like little adults, albeit without the years of experience to call on to ensure they make the best decisions all of the time. It is this phase of life which I’m interested in for this series of blogs because it is often the period of time that sees the most conflict between parent and child and certainly the point when most parents say to me they are starting to lose control of their teenage child.

The main reason for this is that our parenting approaches often lags that of our children’s development, that is to say children at this age are changing so quickly that parents struggle to keep up. Children are becoming young adults and so the means of influencing them needs to reflect this change in psychology.

Parents may not realise that the strategies they used to employ a few years ago – reprimanding, telling and occasionally shouting – will simply not work when dealing with a young adult.

How many of us would expect the teams we manage to do well if we treated them like five year olds? How many of us would resort to raising our voices to deliver higher levels of engagement and motivation?

This series of blogs will present a few ideas to help bring about increased motivation in your teenage child and hopefully set them on a path to future success.

The next three articles will provide some actionable tips and hints in helping you engage your disinterested teen, starting with the importance of empathy in the parent/child relationship. 

(Taken from the book by Denis Bumgarner)