How to Motivate a Teenager

Sometimes it seems like teens are not motivated at all. They may not seem to care about their education or their future and may procrastinate when it comes to chores, homework, or other responsibilities. However, there may not even be a lack of motivation, but only a lack of motivators or inability to get motivated for the things that adults feel are important. 

This is common because most teenagers do not lack motivation and will be motivated to do the things that they want to do. They may like to hang out with friends or play video games and are sufficiently motivated to do so. They just do not have the proper motivation to do things like homework. 

There are exceptions to this. Sometimes a lack of motivation stems from mental health conditions like depression. If this is the case, then the best route may be to seek the help of therapist. In addition, you can check out more resources for teens at

Lack of Motivation as Resistance

Sometimes a teen will not be motivated because they are resisting authority. The motivation that exists may stem from resistance to the things their parents want them to do. They want power and freedom and may resist anything that comes in the way of that. 

If a teen feels powerless, they may want to avoid school or any responsibilities as long as you are encouraging them to participate in them. To a parent, this behavior seems inappropriate and out of control, but the teen may see it as a way to control their own life.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

What Motivates Teens

Everybody is motivated by something as long as there is no underlying mental health condition. However, this does not mean that a teenager is motivated to do the things that are best for their development or their future. 

If you look at the things a teenager does, then you can probably find out what motivates them. If they are doing nothing, then their motivation may be to do nothing in order to gain control or power. If they are only doing things with friends, but not keeping up with responsibilities, then their social life is likely a big motivator. Some things at school are potential motivators as well, but some teens need reinforcement of those motivators for educational success. 

 Arguing is not a Solution

Parents will often turn towards insisting that their teen does what they want, which can lead to arguments. This is not a good solution because it is common for teens to be motivated by the struggle in power. It is better to help the teen find a solution to the problem that is contributing to the power struggle. 

Parents are likely to get frustrated, but it is best to avoid arguments or giving into the feelings that develop when your teen resists. 

Developing Consequences

Instead of arguing with no healthy solution, you can try to set reasonable and clear consequences to negative or inappropriate behaviors. You can say what you want them to do using “I” statements instead of making it a command. 

Then, if the teen still does not cooperate, you can give them a consequence. They may act like they do not care, but as long as the consequence is something that they dislike, they will eventually care or change habits in order to avoid those consequences. 

Not all consequences are effective, but the ones that will motivate your teen towards healthy behaviors and habits. They should also teach the teen how to solve their own problems and to develop necessary skills for life. 

Sometimes, natural consequences are the most effective. Things like poor grades when not completing schoolwork or a loss of a job for not showing up can be the best consequences. While this can be hard for a parent, it may be beneficial to the teen’s development in the long run. 

You can even say that they do not have to do their homework, but until they do then they cannot have their phone or video games. This reduces the likelihood of a power struggle by letting them make the decision on whether they want to do their homework at not but provides the motivation for them to do so. 

Use Rewards and Praise

When a teen does something right, they deserve praise. Be excited for the things that they do and accomplish. Try to remain upbeat when trying new things or when you are around a resistant teen. Teenagers are more likely to respond to positivity. 

For accomplishments, you can provide rewards. If your teen passes a test or helps out a neighbor, reward that behavior. You do not have to punish them for poor grades, but rewarding good grades offers additional motivation for them to do well. 


Teens rarely lack motivation; they only lack motivation to do the things their parents want them to do. However, it is possible to give them motivators by offering rewards and setting strict consequences. You can also try to talk to your teen about the things that they care about and help them recognize motivation for doing well in school in order to get where they want in the future. 

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