Do you feel as though you are constantly nagging your child? Do you have to twist their arm to get them to do anything? Do you think that your child is “lazy” or could be working harder in school?
When our children seem unmotivated, it can be easy to feel frustrated.
In teens, poor academic performance, underachieving, and low levels of motivation can be caused by many factors, including:
Experiencing too much stress or pressure (internally or externally)
Family dynamics or unresolved conflict
Poor habits of not completing tasks
Learned helplessness/enabling parents
ADHD or other attention/learning disorders
Low self-esteem/lacking self-confidence
Fear of shame, criticism, or guilt
Poor identity awareness/inability to conceptualize personal goals
Goals that are too high
When your child is lacking motivation, they are in a sense AVOIDING life. Through avoidance, your child momentarily suspends the negative experiences listed above. However, over time, this avoidant behavior strategy is a recipe for failure. The more your child avoids, the harder it gets to face the tasks and “do.” They are convincing themselves that everything will be okay-later. So, they turn back to their phone or video game and avoid thinking about the future, which reduces their motivation to focus on long-term planning, which only gets worse with time.
What can you do to help?
Don’t criticize or name call. Although it can be hard to not get frustrated, calling your child “lazy” or “stupid” can have a negative impact on your child and potentially increase the behavior you are hoping to change.
Speak with a psychologist or counselor.A psychologist can help you to identify the unique dynamics that are creating difficulties for your family. A psychologist can also assess for other factors (such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, or substance use) that may be negatively impacting your child’s motivation and functioning.
Strengthen your relationship with your child. When our children avoid life tasks, parents often fall into a rut of focusing on what their children are NOT doing right. Finding ways to encourage your children can be a great place to start. Setting small goals for your child and providing positive reinforcement is way to let your child know that they are an integral part of the household. Setting small expectations around the house lets your child know that a contribution is expected, they are part of the management of the house, not merely just living in it.
Celebrate strengths and encourage non-academic activities to share with your child. This can be another way to build a stronger relationship and help to foster self-confidence.
Please don’t compare your child to their siblings or other children. When children are avoiding overwhelming feelings, making comparisons only intensifies their insecurities.
Allow your children to complete tasks independently. Even though it can be difficult to watch, our children often have different ways of problem solving and completing tasks. If you set a small goal for your child, allow them the autonomy to complete the task, even if the path to the end result is different than you would have suggested.
Let your child make their own choices and then allow them to face the natural consequences that come with those choices.
At Metta Psychology Group, our therapists can help you and your child to better understand the breakdown of motivation, where it originates, and how to tailor treatment interventions to your specific needs.