A simple way to motivate teens to be more responsible
(Inside: Motivate teens to thrive even when they are tangled in the normal struggles of being a teen. Here’s a simple way to encourage and motivate your teen.)
Are you struggling to daily motivate your tween or teen?
The milk sits out – again. The clothes are scattered across the bathroom floor – again. The online grade book displays a zero – again.
It’s frustrating because you know the things your tween/teen is choosing to neglect will always be a normal part of a human being’s daily responsibilities: your kids will forever have to pick up after themselves, complete work for their career, and file their taxes. It’s important they learn to complete responsibilities even when they don’t feel like it now. Grit is a valuable life skill.
Yet, in trying to teach this, you hate how much it feels like you’re fussing at your tween/teen. And you see your child not responding – the approach isn’t working.
I hear you. I’ve been there too.
I had such a discouraging parenting season with my middle schooler, I checked out a stack of parenting books and plowed through. My solution ended up being super simple. I’ll save you the reading…
Motivate teens: recognize the root of the conflict
It wasn’t that my 13yo didn’t know what to do, but rather, that we were like passing ships when it came to me sharing daily expectations and my teen expressing what best sets him up for success. We needed to figure out a better way to communicate.
Motivate teens: operate from a place of hope
Also, I needed to adjust my attitude. Before I even approached my teen, I reflected on what I know from 20+ years of teaching high school: teens want to thrive. They do. 100%. They just can get lost in peer pressure and hormones and impulsive decisions and procrastination and shutting down. I knew my son wanted to succeed, so I shifted my temperament and chose to operate from a place of hope.
Join this community of moms raising tweens and teens: get monthly inspiration here.
Motivate teens: try a new approach to communication
My son and I agreed that things needed to change, already a hopeful start. So, I asked him to list his daily responsibilities. We examined his agenda and made some adjustments.
We then decided our communication would be through the list: he checks off the tasks as he completes them and that’s how I see his progress. We’d discuss any issues at the end of the day. One time. That’s it. We’d set up a routine, boundaries, and a new form of communication – things were already looking up.
Motivate teens: honor the boundaries you just set up by sticking to them
And because I really needed this checklist to work, I listened to what the parenting books1 said about the importance of setting up routines and boundaries, then honoring them by sticking to them. You hold those boundaries using what Dr. Henry Could and Dr. John Townsend call “reality consequences.” (Boundaries with Kids, page 58)
This means, that I needed to use the logical rewards and consequences that result from my child’s actions to help him learn about the realities of life. In “real life,” choices we make don’t come without some sort of outcome, whether that look likes a result we are looking for (reward) or one we are not (consequence). For example, I get to my job on time because I like my paycheck (reward), and I switch my laundry because I don’t want it to get moldy (consequence).
Specifically, I wanted my son to better understand the importance of the “work before play” reality. If he peers out his window before school, he can see the line of cars driving past filled with people on their way to work. If they consistently do their jobs, they get their reward of coming home to walk their dog or watch television with a paycheck in the bank. Of course, the reality of continually skipping work would be the loss of that paycheck. My son understanding when to implement the “work before play” reality is a life skill – and “his job” (school) was a perfect time to practice.
So, we decided (him unenthusiastically) that just like all those workers he daily watched drive by, he needed to finish his checklist before he got to play his video games, something that highly motivates him. If the checklist wasn’t done, I wasn’t going to get mad about it – I’d simply hang onto his gaming devices, and we’d try again tomorrow. We did our best to stick like glue to that routine.
(Side note: I’m not a fan of taking away activities that surround him with positive peers like co-curricular activities or youth group.)
The checklist gives your teen control
By the end of week one of the checklist, I could already see a noteworthy improvement. I had stepped back and tried hard to hold my tongue, while he stepped up and got through the list his way. I could see that with this new strategy, he felt more in control.
Was it perfect? No part of raising kids is flawless, and yes, I had to let some things go, but we both liked this framework of routine and communication.
We know how hard consistency can be in parenting; however, I found checking in once at the end of the day much more manageable (and enjoyable) than asking 1.1 million times if that flip grid for band got turned in.
Do we use this checklist forever?
Please, no – just to get over the hump. The goal is always to raise independent teens.
Praise your teen’s effort big-time
And then this is the best part: we praise our teens a ton. We notice all the effort they are putting in and tell them so, as much as possible. Ignore the eye roll, they are letting it soak in. They crave words of affirmation like we all crave chocolate cake.
Save time – grab the checklist here!
Mom-friend, because I know how valuable your time is, I made a downloadable checklist for you. The checklist covers the basics in:
- Morning routine, including making sure everything is ready for the day
- School routine, including verifying assignments are done
- Other healthy habits, like exercise and reading, and being creative
- Picking up and helping around the house
It’s a one-page, printable is with realistic, healthy, and manageable expectations for tweens/teens. It’s also in word document form so you can tweak it to fit your child exactly. Grab the checklist and as a bonus, you’ll get monthly(ish) encouraging raising tweens and teen emails. They’re free and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Momma, you’re doing a great job raising your tweens and teens
We all know there’s no magic formula to raising tweens and teens, and sometimes kids just make poor choices despite our best parenting efforts. But we also know that hearing each other’s stories of tangible ways we found a parenting win can be a great starting place when we’re trying to nail down our own solution.
Maybe this checklist-solution will land your family at the end of the rainbow. Or perhaps it won’t…yet an introduction to the idea might spark a conversation where your teen eventually says, “Mom, I have an idea that I think will motivate me better than the checklist…”
And that’s a win for everyone.
Motive Teens Sources:
 The parenting books that impacted me the most with their research, experience, and stories of when you’re trying to overcome a parenting challenge, connecting expectations with rewards and consequences that you see in real life were (affiliate links):
Have a New Kid by Friday: How To Change Your Child’s Attitude Behavior & Character In 5 Days (Dr. Kevin Leman)
Parenting Your Delinquent, Defiant, or Out-of-Control Teen: How to Help Your Kid Stay in School (Patrick M. Duffy, Jr., PsyD)
Join this community of moms raising tweens and teens
You just dropped one kid off at practice, picked up another, and are trying to decide what to make for dinner. Your days are filled with work, parenting, and waiting for password reset emails.
You are parenting tweens and teens.
It’s an amazing life-phase, but also challenging in unique ways. In it all, you’d love a little encouragement to help you laugh, grow in faith, see parenting hacks, get ideas to connect with your kid, and celebrate the awesome momma you are.
I got you, friend. Sign up for Empowered Moms and Kids monthly emails and get encouragement in your inbox geared for someone exactly in your life-chapter. It’s totally free and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Read the full motivate your teen to thrive in school series…
As a high school teacher for over two decades, I love, love, love watching kids learn. It’s okay if there are struggles in their educational journey. Not just okay – normal, even. We just keep stressing the importance of education and giving them the tools for success. And then we encourage our kids and love them well.
I hope you enjoy these articles.
Help Your Kid to Thrive in School Series
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PARENTS
Parents, Help Your Kids Thrive in School By Asking These 4 Questions
Why I’m Not Freaking Out that My Struggling Reader Has Low Reading Scores
A Mom’s 1st Day of School Wishes
Moms, You’ll Better Enjoy the End of the School Year Remembering THIS
*My Teen Was Struggling In School (With Distance/Hybrid Learning), So This Is What I Did
Teen, These Big Reasons are Why You’ll Like Trying Hard in School
Cheryl is a mom of 3 boys, wife, speaker, high school teacher, and author of Empowered Moms & Kids. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is passionate about learning and teaching. On www.empoweredmomsandkids.com you’ll find inspiration and encouragement for moms raising tweens and/or teens. Read more in the “about” section of this page.
- Gifts for Moms: Presents that Moms Raising Tweens and Teens Will Love
- Parenting Regrets: 3 truths about “I wish I’d parented better.”
- 175+ Top Gifts For Teen Boys – Awesome Ideas You Will Love
- Teen, these big reasons are why you’ll like trying hard in school
- A simple way to motivate teens to be more responsible
- I Will Miss These Years of Raising Tweens and Teens
- 7 Powerful Reasons to Pray as a Family
- My teen was struggling in school, so I did this…