Dear Teen Parenting Coach

Q: How Do I Motivate My Teen Without Relentless Nagging?

You know your teen is capable and smart, but her lack of motivation is tanking her grades. These four Cs will help get your teen back on track and allow her sense of responsibility and independence to grow alongside her ADHD coping strategies.

Q: “How do we get our daughter motivated to get her work done at school and outside of school? She almost acts too cool to be bothered by school work. She is a brilliant poet when she is into it but those moments are rare. She just wants to ‘hang out.’”

A: Parents can’t force motivation. But we CAN create strategies and structures to help identify goals and encourage ownership. When it seems our teens don’t want to be bothered or are “too cool” for schoolwork, there is generally some underlying reason getting in the way.

The formula is straightforward:

  • Establish clear expectations – academic and personal
  • Map out what it will take to accomplish these goals and a back-up plan if something gets in the way
  • Consistently use the daily routine/plan

But execution of this formula is rarely simple or easy. That said, most of our families see follow-through and independence improve when they follow these four Cs:

[Free Resource: Transform Your Teen’s Apathy Into Engagement]

  1. Communication: Have a conversation with your teen wherein you write, draw, and map out everything discussed to make it visual — the more specific and concrete, the better. Teens need to see their plans and thoughts – documenting helps with processing, and this way, everyone can remember what was decided. Some families choose to designate a facilitator.
  2. Clear expectations for home and school: Discuss not only what is expected, but also the reality of the circumstances. Talk through what meeting each expectation will look like, and create plans for how your teen might accomplish each task or expectation. Be sure to account for details such as varying schedules, environment, and obstacles. Talk about potential obstacles and how to address them (use an if-then format to lay out plans). Discuss what will happen should the expectations be met or not be met: whether there will be rewards, privileges, or removal of privileges.
  3. Connection to a motivator who can help ensure follow-through: Perhaps the goal is to earn better grades, earn more responsibility, or to avoid consequences — whatever the challenge, helping students to connect steps to their end goal or reward takes time, practice and patience. You need a neutral third party who can state clearly and simply: “Here is what you want, and here is how you get it.”
  4. Consistency: It is your responsibility to monitor progress, and consistently follow through with rewards or consequences. Students with ADHD and executive functioning difficulties respond best with immediate, clear, and consistent consequences. There is a sense of security that comes when a teen understands an expectation, and there is less room for the mind to wander or find a way out of achieving the expectation when they know the outcome.

[How Can I Make My Teen Care About School?]

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The opinions and suggestions presented above are intended for your general knowledge only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your own or your child’s condition.