Activities to Motivate Teens to Do Work

by Lora Mathews

The Greek philosopher Socrates once remarked that "Youth now love luxury. They have bad manners and contempt for authority." So for thousands of years, humans have been complaining about lazy teens and trying to make them more industrious. Fortunately, if you use the right methods, you can get your adolescent to do something other than text or play video games.

Make a Deal

Seal the deal with your unmotivated teen.

Because teens frequently demand to know why they should do something they don't want to do, give them a reason. Identify a benefit for your teen, perhaps a privilege or relief from a detested task. For example, you might say to your son, "Let's make a deal. If you keep your room clean and your laundry put away this week, you can use the car on Friday." Alternately, offer your daughter the use of your coveted leather jacket if she'll take her little sister to gymnastics class and clean the garage. Find out what your teen wants and barter for the behavior you desire.

Make a Bet

Place a bet on your teen's success.

Don't use monetary incentives, but you can add a playful element to the mix as a way of motivating your slacker. You can try this with a history project that's taking too long or a yard full of leaves that keeps blowing around while the kid you told to rake them texts his friends. For example, say, "I bet you a game rental you can't get that finished before the news comes on" or "I bet you an apple pie you can't finish by the time Dad gets home." Set it up in reference to an impending event, not a clock and, if it's working, feel free to text your husband to tell him to be 10 minutes late because your kid's almost finished with her project!

Be a Coach

Encourage your teen by being her life coach.

You don't need a whistle or a set of pom-poms to be your teen's coach, but you do have to think like one. Coaches pump up their players, make them feel strong and powerful. Talk to your kid about the problem, but do it like a coach. Ask about her goals for the next year, then inquire how she intends to make that happen. Coach her through the process of thinking about it by encouraging her ideas with praise such as "I'm glad you've thought about this. Getting a part-time job is a pretty good plan. Have you decided what kind of job would work for you?" Ask leading questions instead and listen to her try to solve the problem instead of baiting her with the answers you want, such as "Should you see if the Kemps need a sitter?" The point of the coaching activity is to get your teen thinking about how working will get her what she wants.

Do You Want Fries?

Sometimes life experience is the key to some serious motivation. If you've tried praise and incentives and it's not working, get tough. Because your child wants to know what's in it for her to do her schoolwork or find a job, show her. Encourage her to get a job in a fast food business. She'll confront entry-level hours, the rude customers and fast-paced, unforgiving working environment. This will teach her what will happen if she doesn't buckle down and work toward some serious goals. Be lazy about school and responsibilities, you could be stuck working in a such an environment as an adult. An object lesson in priorities has never been so clear.

About the Author

I hold a B.S. in Elementary Education and Education Administration. Having completed seven years successful classroom teaching experience at the second grade level in public education, I am an expert in my field of primary education.

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