Low energy. Boredom. Only interested in electronics. Motivating teens can be a struggle in the best of times, and restrictions and social distancing make things worse. It may just be a phase, but you’re concerned. What’s a parent to do? Here’s some insight:
Everyone is motivated
Everyone is motivated, but some teens are less motivated than others or motivated by different things. If your child seems like they’re not motivated, look at what they’re accomplishing and assume that’s what they’re motivated to do. If they’re playing video games all day, then they’re motivated to play video games all day. As a parent, you likely want them to do something else. In that case, playing video games means resisting to exercise control over you.
Don’t Argue About it
Sometimes teens are motivated by the power struggle with their parents. Your job is to find other ways for the child to solve the problem that’s causing the power struggle. When you yell at your child for lack of motivation, you’re giving their resisting behavior power. It’s normal to get frustrated, but yelling and fighting won’t solve the problem. That’s just giving your teen more power in the struggle.
Talk to your Teen
Get your teen talking about their interests and goals. Before you start the conversation, ask yourself:
- What motivates my child?
- What do they really want?
- What questions can I ask that will help discover and explore interests?
- What are their goals and ambitions?
Step far enough away to see your child as a separate person and observe. Then have a conversation and listen—not to what you want the answers to be, but to what your child is saying. Respect the answers, even if you disagree.
The goal is to influence your child to do something they aren’t motivated to do or explore, so get to know them well enough to figure out what their own desires might be. As a parent, you want to strengthen their skills in defining what’s important to them. You want to help your child define who they are, what’s important to them, and what they’re going to do to make those things happen. Our responsibility is to help our kids do that, not to do it for them. We need to stay out of their way enough so they can figure out who they are, what they think, and where their own interests lie.
Sometimes lack of motivation is a larger issue. The best way to determine if your teen’s low energy is reason for concern is to talk to a therapist. Counselors have the skills to get your teen talking and can diagnose and treat depression, grief, behavioral disorders, or anxiety from change.
Reach out to LifeStance Health if you need support. Our therapists can formulate a plan to remedy any issues and get your teen moving. Contact us via the link below for an in-person or virtual session.