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Episode #68:

4 Ways To Motivate a Child or Teen Who Could Care Less

Listen to the episode on the podcast player above ⤴ or read the blog post on this topic below↴ 


As we approach the final months of the school year, do you find yourself caught between anticipation and anxiety?

You’re not alone.

It’s like being in the last mile of a marathon—exhausting yet exhilarating. Whether you’re orchestrating study sessions, managing extracurriculars, or simply striving to maintain daily routines, this time can test the endurance of any parent.

Today’s blog post builds on our previous conversation and addresses a pressing question I’ve been asked by many of you: How do you ignite a spark of motivation in young people, particularly those who seem indifferent about their end goals, such as achieving good grades?

It’s common to feel a disconnect as the school year winds down, especially when the enthusiasm we expect from our kids and teens doesn’t quite manifest. But fear not—I’m here to share some effective strategies that can transform this stressful period into a time of substantial achievement.

In last week’s discussion, I emphasized the importance of these final weeks for struggling students. I explained how a strong finish not only boosts academic performance but also enhances self-esteem, showing young people that they can indeed overcome challenges. It also significantly reduces the anxiety of starting a new school year.

However, the feedback from that episode highlighted a universal challenge: motivating someone else, especially a young person who may not fully grasp the long-term importance of their efforts now. This can feel like navigating through a thick fog of confusion and frustration.

But here’s the great news: You’re not in this alone. This post is packed with practical, actionable strategies that can turn the end-of-year crunch into a period of significant achievement for your child or teen. If you haven’t yet listened to episode #67, I encourage you to do so after reading this. It provides a clear roadmap for what needs to be done in these critical weeks.

But today, we’re focused on lighting that fire of motivation. You’ll leave armed with knowledge and confidence, ready to inspire and drive your young person forward.

Ready to turn the end-of-school-year struggle into a victory celebration? Let’s dive in and transform those academic frowns into smiles!

Unlocking Motivation: How to Inspire Your Child or Teen as the School Year Ends

As we navigate the final stretches of the school year, understanding the basics of motivation is crucial. Whether you’ve been a long-time listener of my podcast or you’re new here, you know I prioritize laying a strong foundation of knowledge. This not only informs but empowers you to effectively apply what you learn.

Understanding Motivation

At its core, motivation is the inner spark that gets us out of bed in the morning and drives us to pursue our goals. It’s the fuel for our actions and the engine behind our achievements.

Self-Motivation: This is about connecting directly with our own desires and ambitions. For example, an adult might motivate themselves to exercise by focusing on personal health goals or the satisfaction felt after a good workout. This type of motivation aligns closely with personal values and the immediate rewards that are important to the individual.

Motivating Others: The Challenge with Young People

However, the dynamic shifts dramatically when we aim to motivate others, especially kids and teens. Young people often have different values, priorities, and perceptions of what is rewarding. A parent might see the long-term benefits of education, but a teenager might be more focused on immediate gratifications like socializing or gaming.

The Gold Standard: Internal vs. External Motivation

Scientific research indicates that internal motivation—motivation that is driven by personal satisfaction and intrinsic goals—is the most fulfilling and effective form. However, sparking this type of motivation in young people can be complex. There isn’t an ‘easy button’ for initiating internal motivation.

Building the Bridge with External Motivation: This approach involves using external rewards to encourage desired behaviors, which can gradually foster internal motivation. For instance, offering extra screen time for every study hour might initially motivate a teenager to hit the books. Over time, as they see the benefits of their efforts—like improved grades or increased mastery—they begin to appreciate the value of learning itself. This appreciation can transform external motivation into internal drive.

Navigating Motivational Strategies

Navigating this requires versatility in your approach. You may find yourself wearing different ‘hats’ to effectively guide your young person:

  • The Psychologist’s Hat: Understand what drives your young person’s enthusiasm and what deters it.
  • The Cheerleader’s Hat: Provide constant encouragement and celebrate small victories to build confidence.
  • The Problem-Solver’s Hat: Create personalized plans and strategies that resonate with your child or teen’s unique personality and developmental stage.

Each role you play is instrumental in shaping their motivation from external prompts to internal drives.

Remember, your active involvement can profoundly impact your young person’s life beyond the classroom. The strategies I’ll share are designed not just for academic improvement but for cultivating a robust, self-sustained drive in your child or teen.

Stay tuned as we explore four effective strategies to ignite motivation and help your young person end the school year on a high note.

Strategy #1: Collaborative Planning to Motivate and Achieve

The first strategy to kickstart motivation for the final stretch of the school year is to engage in collaborative planning, or as I like to call it, “Strategizing Together on What Needs to Be Done.” This approach taps into the potent force of internal motivation by fostering ‘buy-in’ from your young person.

What is Buy-In?

Buy-in is achieved when your child or teen feels aligned with a plan because they’ve had a hand in creating it. This active involvement increases their likelihood of commitment and effort towards achieving the set goals. It’s about transforming goal-setting from a directive activity into a cooperative process that empowers your young person.

Creating a Partnership

Imagine sitting down together and discussing the upcoming weeks of the school year. When you ask for their ideas on how they can improve their grades or manage their workload, it shows that you value their opinions and trust their ability to devise solutions. This not only strengthens motivation but also changes the dynamic from one of enforcing rules to one of working together as a team.

Setting and Achieving the Right Goals

Together, identify achievable goals that are strategic and impactful. For instance, you might decide to focus on one or two subjects critical to their overall performance or tackle a significant project. Breaking these goals down into smaller tasks makes the challenge seem more manageable and less daunting.

Real-Life Impact

Let me share a story that highlights the effectiveness of this strategy. I worked with a teen who felt overwhelmed by the prospect of improving his grades in all subjects. We decided to narrow the focus to just math and science, which were essential for his college applications. Together, they developed a six-week plan with specific weekly objectives like completing certain assignments and preparing for tests. This collaborative planning helped the teen view his goals as achievable.

His mother supported him by providing necessary resources and celebrating each success, making adjustments as needed. This not only led to improved grades but also transformed his outlook on school and learning. By the term’s end, he had not only bettered his academic record but had also gained significant self-confidence and motivation.

The Broader Benefits

This approach to strategizing together does more than improve academic performance; it enhances life skills and strengthens the parent-child relationship. It shows that tackling educational challenges can be a cooperative, strategic, and fulfilling endeavor.

Strategy #2: Embrace the Power of a Joint Effort

Moving on to our second strategy to motivate your young person at this crucial end-of-school-year juncture: Make It a Joint Effort. In my experience, young people don’t appreciate being dictated to or talked down to; they flourish when they witness their parents actively participating in their efforts.

Beyond Oversight: Active Participation

It’s essential to understand that involvement goes beyond merely supervising their homework. It’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in their academic life. Whether it’s through offering words of encouragement, assisting with a complex math problem, or simply being present as they tackle their homework, your active presence is invaluable.

Transforming the Academic Experience

When you truly plug in, the impact on your child or teen’s motivation is both immediate and profound. They no longer perceive their tasks as solitary burdens but as shared challenges with someone who believes in their success. This shift is crucial during these intense final weeks of the school year.

A Real-Life Transformation

Let me share a transformation I witnessed firsthand. I worked with a middle schooler overwhelmed by her coursework and crippled by anxiety. Rather than imposing stricter rules, her mother chose to support her by being present. Night after night, they sat together, navigating homework and upcoming tests, and celebrating every small victory. This consistent support transformed her outlook on school from a source of stress to a source of pride.

The Power of Presence

The change was remarkable. This young student started to look forward to sharing her daily accomplishments, seeing these moments as opportunities for connection rather than stress. Her mother’s presence helped alleviate her anxiety, allowing her to focus and excel academically. By the semester’s end, not only had her grades improved dramatically, but her relationship with her mother had also deepened, founded on mutual effort and shared success.

Addressing Teen Resistance

It’s common for teens to show resistance to parental involvement, often appearing annoyed or dismissive. However, in the confidentiality of my office, these teens frequently express a desire for more parental engagement. They might struggle with showing it, but your involvement is incredibly meaningful to them.

The Takeaway

Next time your teen seems annoyed by your involvement, remember, it’s not a cue for you to step back but a complex expression of their struggle between seeking independence and desiring support. Your engagement does more than enhance academic performance—it fosters lasting bonds and instills values of cooperation, respect, and shared effort.

Why This Matters

Keep in mind, collaborating with your child or teen doesn’t just improve their grades—it empowers them with the confidence to tackle any challenge. This joint effort sparks motivation that not only helps them end the school year on a high note but also prepares them for future success.

Strategy #3: Make It Fun

The third strategy is to make it fun! It’s not merely about turning study time into game time; it’s about reshaping the entire learning experience to ensure it’s both engaging and enjoyable.

Transforming the Learning Experience

Why is this approach effective? Turning challenging tasks into fun activities fundamentally changes how young people perceive learning. Instead of seeing study sessions as daunting obligations, they begin to view them as enjoyable and rewarding opportunities. This shift in perspective can dramatically reduce resistance and increase energy, making your child or teen more likely to engage deeply and persistently.

The Role of Gamification

Gamification can play a crucial role in this strategy. Introducing elements such as challenges, competitions, or rewards makes achieving goals feel like an exciting game. For instance, you might set up a leaderboard for study hours logged or create a treasure hunt where each completed assignment reveals a new clue. These playful elements can significantly motivate your young person to stay engaged with their academic tasks.

The Impact of a Positive Attitude

However, the secret sauce to making learning truly fun lies in maintaining an upbeat and positive attitude. Positivity is incredibly infectious and can reshape your young person’s approach to their academic responsibilities. From my personal experience with my son, Patrick, maintaining a positive outlook was pivotal during his study sessions. As someone who is naturally optimistic, balancing this positivity to avoid seeming overbearing—while still being supportive—was key. Simple acts like sharing a snack, a smile, or a Star Wars fact (yes, we’re big fans!) not only made study times less stressful but also conveyed my belief in his capabilities.

Beyond Fun: Building Confidence and Belief

This strategy goes beyond just making academic tasks fun; it involves being a consistent source of positivity and belief in your young person’s abilities. By showing them that you believe they can succeed, you help them start to believe in themselves. This is crucial for building their self-confidence and internal motivation.

Embracing Fun as a Motivational Tool

As we move forward, keep in mind the transformative power of fun in the educational process. It’s not only about making learning bearable; it’s about turning it into a positive and engaging experience that your child or teen eagerly anticipates. This approach not only aids in improving academic grades but also empowers them with the confidence and skills to face future challenges, enhancing their motivation to end the school year on a victorious note.

Strategy #4: The Power of Repeating Important Messages

The final strategy for motivating your child or teen during the crucial end-of-year push, is to focus on the importance of repeating key messages. This approach is about more than just reminding; it’s about embedding profound life lessons that shape your young person’s habits, mindset, and self-perception.

Why Repeating Messages Works

Consistently reinforcing certain messages is highly effective because it helps these concepts become internalized. Over time, these messages transform into personal mantras that your young person can call upon when making decisions or facing challenges. This is especially vital during stressful periods, such as the end of the school year, when they need to tap into their internal resources.

Key Messages to Reinforce

  1. This is temporary: Regularly remind your young person that their current efforts are focused and short-term but with long-term benefits. This perspective encourages them to persevere through challenging periods, understanding that their hard work will yield rewards.
  2. You believe they are capable: It’s crucial to vocalize your belief in their abilities. When they hear that you recognize their potential, it boosts their self-esteem and motivates them to live up to your faith in them.
  3. Effort over outcome: Teach them that the value lies in the effort and what they learn along the way, not just the final outcome. This mindset helps alleviate the fear of failure and encourages them to engage in tasks, even when success isn’t guaranteed.
  4. Progress, not perfection: Focus on the importance of progress. Emphasizing that each step forward is valuable helps cultivate a growth mindset, reducing the stress associated with needing to achieve perfection.

A Real-Life Impact

Consider the example of a young teen who was paralyzed by the fear of not performing perfectly on her final exams. We implemented a strategy focusing on the continuous repetition of these messages, especially the importance of progress over perfection. Her parents actively reinforced these concepts at home, praising each small step she took forward. This not only alleviated her anxiety but also significantly improved her engagement with her studies and her overall academic performance.

By the end of the school year, she wasn’t just academically successful; she had also adopted a healthier approach to learning and a more balanced view of herself. Her story underscores the transformative power of repetition—these repeated messages profoundly influenced her mindset and behavior.

Wrapping Up with Repetition

As we conclude our discussion on motivation strategies, remember that the consistent repetition of empowering messages is not merely about academic success. These are life lessons that enhance resilience, boost confidence, and empower your young person to face challenges head-on. As you navigate these final weeks of the school year together, these repeated messages can turn a potentially stressful time into a sequence of empowering and motivational experiences.

Wrapping Up: Empowering Your Young Person for Success

Today, we explored some great strategies that can profoundly improve your support for your child or teen during this critical end-of-the-school-year push. Remember, the involvement and positivity we discussed today transcend beyond just boosting grades—they’re fundamental in building life skills, enhancing confidence, and deepening the bonds you share with your young person.

Dive Deeper with ‘The Comeback Kid’ Masterclass

If you’re eager to explore these strategies further and truly maximize the remaining weeks of the school year, I’ve developed the perfect resource for you. ‘The Comeback Kid’ Masterclass is designed to equip you with all the tools you need to help your young person finish the year strong. What’s great about this masterclass? It’s concise—requiring only two hours of your time—and packed with engaging, bite-sized videos. Plus, each lesson comes with a customizable worksheet, allowing you to tailor the strategies to fit your family’s unique needs.

Join the Masterclass

You can access this valuable resource by visiting I’m thrilled to guide you and your young person through this pivotal time, helping you both approach it with confidence and success.

I’m Here to Help

Finally, if you have any parenting questions or need advice on navigating the complexities of modern parenting, don’t hesitate to send your queries to I cherish your questions and often use them as inspiration for future episodes.