All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. (Walt Disney)
Parents ask, “How do I encourage my teen to do their homework, their chores (or whatever else you would like to fill in) without asking them.” I tell parents it is about creating self-motivation. Self-motivation is a powerful driving force for success and having our teen internalize that drive is an important priority. But let’s be clear, motivation is the desire to achieve a goal. The first steps are to clearly define the goals and the steps to achieve the goals. For adults this seems like a pretty easy task to accomplish and we often create goals, objectives and reach the goal and the level of success that we are motivated to achieve. However, that drive was something that we had to cultivate and work on. As parents it is a skill that we help our children to develop. To move from the extrinsic motivation provided by external sources such as parents to that of internal motivation where we are internally driven to achieve the goal based on our own desires, values, and personal mission statement is a skill that parents can encourage and develop in their children. Let me back up, because I know you may be thinking; what is intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?
Motivation can be both intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is often easy for parents to see and for parents, coaches, and peers to exert. Extrinsic motivation is having other people inspire you. An example is having a coach who yells at you at just the right time to run faster and you hear them and that yelling creates that extra push of motivation to cross the finish line and win the race. That is extrinsic motivation. It is having that cheerleader at just the right moment. Although extrinsic motivation is an effective driving force, we must be able to make motivation a part of our character and intrinsically push ourselves. In the above example, the teen is also exercising intrinsic motivation by consistently going to track practice, putting in the hours to be faster, and to train hard for their race. In this intrinsic motivation, no one is forcing the teen to go to practice, to train on their own. They have decided to do that on their own to reach their goal. The coach provides coaching, extrinsic motivation, and on race day that key moment arrives and the coach provides that crucial extrinsic motivation to bring the race home. It is a team effort. So how does a teenager develop that internal drive and become intrinsically motivated? To have intrinsic motivation teenagers have to be self-confident, believe in themselves, have social acceptance, and learn the rewards of motivating themselves. As parents we desire our teen to avoid the spiral of procrastination and instead be in the mode of moving forward, reaching goals, and achieving personal success. It can be done.
What are the easiest ways to help teenagers create intrinsic motivation? It begins with self-reflection, understanding what their values are and what is important to them. Next, it is writing a personal mission statement. Teenagers need to know who they are in the present and where they want to go. The personal mission statement does that. From a concise personal mission statement your teenager can write goals that outline a plan to achieve the success they want in the future. Writing out specific goals and then breaking each goal into manageable steps makes success a realistic option and creates personal excitement and intrinsic motivation for their future. Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are at work. Intrinsic motivation is the desire to reach the success they have outlined, while extrinsic motivation is that by writing goals and sharing their goals others will hold the teen accountable to achieve the goal. The two work together, but along the way when the daily drudgery of the steps to achieving the goal are setting in, your teen’s intrinsic motivation must be in place, a character trait.
To nurture this trait and to keep motivation going, have your teenager set a schedule. It is simple but it keeps the achievement of the goal on autopilot. You are more likely to keep going when your motivation levels are low if you follow a schedule. As a parent it is providing the right amount of extrinsic motivation when needed. So if you circle back to why won’t my teen just do his homework, why do I as a parent have to provide all the motivation? Ask yourself have you and your teen created academic goals and the steps to succeed to meet those academic goals. Are those academic goals reflecting their values and personal mission statement? If the answer is “no”, go back and complete those steps. You will be surprised that, as the responsibility shifts to your teenager being accountable for reaching their goals, you will provide less extrinsic motivation and just be the coach that encourages them to win the race.
Think about your favorite pro athlete. They follow a set schedule for success. They do not train when they want or eat when they want. They have professional trainers who help keep them motivated to be the best they can be in their sport. But those athletes also have the habit of practice and the desire to succeed. Each of our teenagers can light that internal fire by creating goals and schedules, and as a parent you fan the flames by encouraging them as they progress toward achieving their goals.