by Emily Munger

How do I motivate my teenager to do well in school?

Sometimes, motivating a teenager can feel like a daunting task. High school brings new experiences, extracurriculars, and exciting opportunities that may cause motivation in the classroom to dwindle.

While many students are naturally self-motivated, others may need an extra push in the right direction.

As parents, it’s easy to see why it’s important to stay motivated through high school, but students may not see the big picture so clearly.

In order to effectively motivate your teenager to do well in school, it’s important to understand the reasons why motivation might be lacking in the first place. A lack of motivation can be the result of intrapersonal factors such as low self-confidence and fear of failure, or it can also be due to issues with comprehension or organization.

By understanding the reasons why your student experiences a lack of motivation, you can better assist him in achieving his goals and getting back on track. This way, you’ll also be able to support your student’s personal growth and help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The key to supporting your student to succeed in high school is to guide him as he grows rather than forcing it upon him. If your teenager feels forced, your efforts may prove to be counterproductive.

It’s important to be understanding and patient, as it is a stressful process for both of you. More than likely, your teenager is already overwhelmed with school. Stress from home will only exacerbate this feeling.

1) Be Involved

Although your student may hesitate to admit this to you, staying involved is a great way to show your support.

Be mindful of the line between being involved and helicoptering as an overbearing presence may cause a bit of push back.

Let your student know that you’re there to help and make yourself available as a resource to him. Do things like attend parent-teacher conferences and school events. Make a conscious effort to stay up to date and in the know.

As a parent, you play a vital role in your child’s education. Research has shown that parents who are involved in their child’s education yield various positive effects in both student achievement and development including higher grades and test scores, enrollment in higher level classes, improved social skills, and increased motivation.

2) Promote Healthy Study Habits

Encourage your teenager to incorporate studying into part of their routine.

As most good habits do, it may take time to see a noticeable change in your student’s study patterns.

In helping your student form healthy study habits, the best thing you can do is to be a supporter. Start small by encouraging your teen to meet homework deadlines or getting organized for the week ahead.

Motivate your teenager to study by encouraging him to do so rather than criticizing his lack of effort. You can offer positive reinforcement when you notice that there is effort present.

Acknowledge that your student is trying. Remember that your student is probably overwhelmed; take the time to sit with him or her to understand why. Help him identify the big picture and then break down tasks into smaller objectives. This will encourage your student to achieve one thing at a time, which in turn will motivate him towards accomplishing his goal.

3) Create a Healthy Home Environment

Success in the classroom starts at home. By fostering a healthy home environment, you can alleviate potential stress factors. For example, just by encouraging 8 ½ to 9 ½ hours of sleep every night, you will ensure that your teen heads to school well rested and in a better mindset to learn. A good night’s sleep can help fuel both the brain and the body, which is essential for growing teenagers.

Providing breakfast and healthy meals can also play an important role in your student’s success. Having breakfast in the morning can increase energy and even enhance concentration throughout the day. Healthy eating not only has a positive effect on your teen’s physical health, but it can also promote a better mood and improve memory.

4) Boost Your Teen’s Confidence

Ultimately, no matter how much you support and motivate your student, he or she is the only one in control of his or her success. You can encourage your teen to be confident in him or herself by showing that you have confidence in them.

Celebrate small successes and milestones
High school can be challenging, and your teen should be reassured along the way that he is accomplishing something great in order to build a better future for himself. Small victories along the way can help your teen understand the big picture and increase intrinsic motivation.

Stay positive

Remember that your student is going through a difficult time navigating through high school. You should be able to act as a light amongst negativity that your student may be facing in his or her life. While your child’s high school experience may become frustrating for you as a parent, it’s important to remember that it’s his journey. Your energy is contagious, so make a conscious effort to remain positive.

Show respect

Don’t discount what your teen is going through. High school can prove to be both physically and mentally exhausting at times. Respect his time and efforts. Be conscious of his personal life as well and play an active role in ensuring that his isn’t overcommitting.

Listen instead of lecture

Your teen should feel like he or she is able to talk to you without the thought of a lecture looming.

Communication is key. Encourage your teen to talk to you and practice active listening. Don’t listen to respond. Instead, listen to understand. Hear him out. He may not say it directly, but he’s asking for your help and guidance.

Use this as an opportunity to maintain a healthy relationship with your teen. Keep interactions conversational rather than an opportunity to reprimand. In doing this, you’ll build your student’s confidence in himself and in you.

Be your teen’s confidant

Establish trust. Your teen should feel like he or she can come to you with anything. Practicing empathy is a great way to encourage your teen to confide in you.

Don’t just sympathize with what he says. Instead, truly make an effort to empathize. Put yourself in his shoes. Try and understand what he comes to you with and let him know that he isn’t alone.

Avoid being judgemental or jumping to conclusions. Really take the time to understand his needs and determine how you can best guide him.

5) Take Mental Health Seriously

Pay attention to your teen’s mental health. Sure, maybe he’s not technically sick, but giving your teen a day to rest won’t be the worst thing.

Mental health affects our day to day lives and interactions with others. It controls how we think, act, and feel, and it can be debilitating.

Mental health days can actually work wonders in terms of getting your student back on track. Prioritize mental health to ensure that your teen is the best version of him or herself and take it seriously when he starts showing changes in behavior.

When mental health starts to deteriorate, your teen may not notice it on his own. As a parent, you know your child, and you’ll know when something changes.

Don’t brush off what appear to be minor concerns. Both in school and at home, you’ll want your student engaged, not just physically present.

6) Encourage Independence

As your teen nears the end of high school, you’ll more than likely start hearing things like “freedom” and “independence” and “Mom, I’m 18” quite often.

While this might be scary, try to remember that this is a good thing! High school is the ideal time to encourage independence because before you know it, he will be off to college on his own.

If you can encourage independence while your teen still lives under your roof, you can also set expectations and boundaries that your teen will hopefully adopt for himself.

The goal is to be there to catch him when he falls and help him back up before he learns how to do it on his own.

7) Start Talking About Your Teen’s Future Early On

Teenage years are the building blocks for your student’s future.

It’s a good idea to start talking about your teen’s future early to plant the seeds your student will need to consider.

The end of high school comes quick! You’ll want to make sure your teen isn’t stuck feeling overwhelmed and pressed for time during his or her senior year.

Instead, by planting the seeds early on, your student will be able to identify things that are important to them regarding their future, and you can help to make it a reality.

Set goals along the way

Teach your teen about accountability. Helping your student identify goals he would like to achieve and work together to figure out how to accomplish each one. This will give your teen a sense of purpose and instill motivation to be proactive rather than reactive.

Don’t wait until the last minute!

Set a plan with (not for) your student and determine a timeline.

Map out when your student will start the testing process, take a look at application deadlines, and identify important factors to your student in choosing a college.

The ways in which you support your student will help shape who he is as he navigates through life. Work together, communicate, and be the guidance that your student needs.

Want to help your student attain his or her college dreams?

We offer a variety of test prep and college counseling resources to help your student do his or her best while in high school. Contact a campus near you to learn more.