Motivational Techniques for Teenagers

In her book "Child Development," Laura Berk, professor of psychology at Illinois State University, said she believes that unmotivated teens develop learned helplessness, which means they believe they do not have the ability to succeed 2. Any success they do have, such as doing well in a school test, they put down to other factors such as luck or a teacher making a mistake. Motivating teens to succeed will boost their self-esteem and protect them from feelings of failure and depression.


According to educational consultant and author Bill Rogers, encouraging a teen gives him motivation to develop his strengths and succeed at school. In his book, "Behaviour Recovery," Rogers suggests using specific encouragement and praise such as saying, "You did a really well writing your book review, I really enjoyed reading it." Also, negative labels given to teens by parents and teachers can have a damaging effect because some teens won't bother making an effort because they believe they will fail 1.

Showing an Interest

Teens are more likely to feel motivated to succeed at school if their parents show confidence in their abilities and take an interest their school work and hobbies, according to Berk's book. You can also use their interests to motivate them in other areas. The Reading is Fundamental website has several tips to encourage teens to read, including choosing books that feature their favorite hobbies or TV shows, and letting your teen choose their own books at the library or book store.


Rewards, according to Rogers' book, can be a tool for motivating teens, and can give your teen a sense of purpose and achievement after completing a task. However, the BBC Parents website warns against using money because teens might think money is the only reward for hard work, and that you don't trust your teen to work hard without offering money as a reward. Instead, a reward could be something social and family-centered such as a meal out or a trip to the cinema.

TV and Computer Distractions

If teens watch TV or play video games, they'll need to strike a balance between, for example, watching TV and doing homework. However, when TV and computer use is used as a reward, teenagers are at an increased risk of becoming addicted or attached to them, according to the book "Child Development." It then will be harder to motivate teens to engage in other activities, such as reading and social events.