Teens with ADHD

How to Motivate an Unmotivated Teenager

Use the 5 Cs of ADHD parenting to support your child through motivation challenges. Here’s how.

“My 11-year-old is so frustrated with school and feels so little success that he has given up. He is so anxious and dysregulated all the time. Where do I even start!?”

“My son refuses systems of organization, and he’s insulted by my suggestions. He is 15 and knows he has ADHD, but he feels like he’s doing fine and doesn’t need help. I don’t know where to go from here.”

“What if my child won’t collaborate? I can’t get any buy-in.”

[Get This Free Download: 4 Secrets to Motivating Students with ADHD]

Motivation problems brought on by ADHD can create and multiply challenges for your teen in just about every corner of life. But these challenges, of course, also affect you. You might feel frustrated and fatalistic if you tried and failed repeatedly to motivate your unmotivated teenager.

But for teen motivation challenges (and any other parenting challenge, really) your primary goal as a parent should be to maintain a positive connection with your child, according to Sharon Saline, Psy.D. Without that connection, you won’t be able to work with your teen and foster a plan to move through the issue.

Saline advises following the 5 Cs of ADHD parenting to build a positive parent-child relationship and help your teen go from unmotivated to inspired.

  • Self-Control: What triggers your child’s motivation challenges? Knowing, for example, that science is a tough subject for your child can help you anticipate and avoid homework meltdowns and coach your child through other negative feelings as they arise.
  • Compassion: It’s all about setting realistic expectations for your child and meeting them where they are. Don’t try to solve all problems at once. Pick just one behavior/motivation challenge and focus your energy there.
  • Collaboration: Brainstorm the sources of your child’s motivation challenges, and have your child do the same. See where your child’s list overlaps with yours. This practice is both compassionate and collaborative, as you’re meeting your child where they are and working with them on a single issue.
  • Consistency: Support your child’s efforts to maintain motivation. Redirect your child toward their goals when necessary. We’re not aiming for perfection, but for consistency.
  • Celebration: Celebrate progress toward the achievement of the goal, regardless of whether it’s fully completed.

Lack of Motivation in ADHD Teens: Next Steps

Watch Dr. Saline’s ADHD Experts webinar, “Motivating the Unmotivated: Strategies for Middle and High School Students with ADHD,” for more tips.

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