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Teen with No Motivation

Teen with No Motivation

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Teen with No Motivation

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Motivation: My teen is really struggling with motivation and I am concerned something is wrong. What can I do?


Teen behaviours are guided by their emotions, how they feel about a task will over-rule their logical thinking. Teens either like it, don’t like it, hate it, or sometimes just don’t seem to care at all.  What you are describing is a common struggle for parents of teens. If you are feeling alone with this, perhaps consider chatting with other parents on this forum. Understanding why teens behave the way they do will help you to manage your expectations. It might be helpful to learn a bit more about brain development during the teenage years.



It can be helpful to think about teenage behaviour as the fight, flight, and freeze response. Fight – they respond with lots of energy. Flight -they avoid.  Freeze - when they appear to not care at all. With this in mind, teens will often avoid a task when they feel there are too many obstacles. 


For example, a teacher is always asking a teen about their homework – it’s due, have they finished it, when will they submit it, are they falling behind? Teens won’t walk away from this interaction with a renewed drive, ready to complete the work so that they are not asked again (the rational thinking response). More often, they will respond emotionally - freezing or avoiding the homework. They may decide that the teacher is not supportive, so “switch off” and no longer want to do that subject.


This is an emotional response, not a rational one. This is where as adults we can help our teen to identify the barriers to completing the task - is it too hard, not the right day of the week, are they tired, or is it as simple as not knowing how to start (a common stumbling block!).


If we can help our teen identify their feelings and the obstacles in their way, then we are on track to getting them back to task and hopefully with increased motivation. Remember to be curious when helping your teen to problem solve, the barriers may seem obvious to you, but might not be to your teen.


This is a journey of learning with your teen- be patient and remember to continue to put effort into connecting with your teen. Praise their efforts, no matter how small, and show interest into the things that do motivate them- whether that’s their friendships, computer games or TV shows. Small gestures will go a long way!


Child & Family Professional, The Benevolent Society

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