Hello again! Welcome back to the second email of our ‘Straight A’s’ email course!
Today we’re talking about a REALLY IMPORTANT topic – motivation. Specifically, why your teen isn’t motivated and how to turn this around.
It’s crucial we tackle this topic early on for two reasons.
Firstly, if your teen isn’t motivated about school or studying, there is absolutely no point in me giving you a single study tip. Your teen won’t do anything with it. Secondly, being motivation-deprived is BY FAR the most common thing holding high school students back from reaching their academic potential.
So yeah, it’s pretty important we get your teen motivated to study before we do much else.
There are a few teenagers who struggle with studying who are motivated, but they are a minority group.
It’s much more likely that you’ve tried everything you can think of to try and motivate your teen to study harder and to achieve the results you know they could get.
Have you nagged until you’ve almost gone hoarse?!
Well, all is not lost…
First, we need to look at things from your teen’s point of view.
Since the age of 5 your teen has trotted off to school. For such a long time, it’s just been this thing they’ve always had to do.
It’s what everyone does. They don’t know anything else.
But the days of coloring in and fun and games at elementary school are long gone. High school can be stressful and a lot of hard work.
Now they’re questioning the point in it all – "but why do I need math?!" they cry!
And unfortunately, no amount of nagging will change this…
But why are we surprised our teens aren’t motivated? How often do YOU carry out tasks you see no point in?!
No one does anything that doesn’t have something in it for them in the short and/or long term.
The same applies to your teen and their attitude towards school.
If they don’t see the point in it, your teen will never be motivated to get good grades.
Motivated teens know WHY it’s important to THEM that they get good grades.
Teens who are determined to get the best grades possible can tell you what they want to get out of school.
It might be that they know what they want to do when they finish high school, or maybe they just have an idea of the general direction they want to take after school.
Sometimes it can be as vague as "I know I want to go to College", and that’s completely fine. It’s a reason to do well at school, and so voila, you have motivation.
In stark contrast, when you ask an unmotivated teen why school is important to them, they’ll simply shrug and say "I dunno", in that mumbly teenage way…
To you and me it’s more than obvious why it’s important to get good grades at high school. But when you’re 15 and have no clue/don’t care about what you want out of life, it can be horribly unclear.
But still the fact remains. In order for your teen to want to go to school, to complete every assignment to the best of their ability, and to study hard for their exams, they need reasons to do so.
And good ones too.
They need reasons that mean something personal to THEM.
Reasons that will motivate your teen to get off the couch and over to their desk, even when studying is the last thing they feel like doing. (Being nagged at relentlessly is not a good enough reason unfortunately…)
Now, I’m not going to abandon you to figure out what the heck could motivate your teen on your own, so below are the three big ideas that your teen should be able to use to find a few reasons that will get them motivated about school and studying.
1. The career carrot
Back in NZ a couple of years ago, I tutored a boy in math in his second year of high school who knew he wanted to be a pilot.
He didn’t even like math particularly much, but it was him who had sought out tutoring, because he knew that getting good grades in math would be important to his future.
Knowing what he wanted to do when he left school was an instant source of motivation for him.
There was incentive and purpose for him to go to school every day and try his hardest.
So if your teen has their heart set on a particular career when they leave school, this can be a fantastic carrot for them.
The ideal thought process behind the workings of having a career carrot goes something like this:
I don’t feel like studying. But if I don’t then I might not do well in my exams. If I don’t do well in my exams I might not get into the College I want. If I don’t get in I might not be able to be a [insert desired profession here]! Eek! I’m gonna go study now!!
Works like a charm.
But what about the majority of high school students who don’t have a clue what they want to do when they leave school?! What can be their incentive for studying hard and getting awesome grades?
2. Leaving your options open
At the age of 17/18, we had no idea what we wanted to do with our lives.
In fact, I don’t think I decided on what university course I wanted to enrol in until September of my last year of high school. You could say that’s leaving it quite late…
And your teen might be in the same position right now – no idea what they want to do when they leave school.
Whilst this uncertainty and indecision can be stressful for some students, it really doesn’t need to be a problem.
The truth is, this is the position that most teens are in!
As I said, we certainly didn’t know what we wanted to ‘be’ when we were at high school, but – and this is the important bit – we sure as heck knew we didn’t want to keep working as a waitress and truck-loader for the rest of our lives! (Our part time jobs during high school…)
[On a side note – a great benefit of a part-time high school job is exposure to what life would be like in a mind-numbing job. Great incentive to do your sums!]
So our incentive for doing well at school was simply that we didn’t want to close any doors before we figured out what we wanted to do. We wanted to keep our options open.
Thanks to our parents, we knew that doing well at school was the best thing we could do to keep our options open – so by the time we did figure it out, the world would still be our oyster.
When the time comes for your teen to make a career choice you want them to be able to take their pick and not be limited in any way.
And the best way to ensure they won’t be limited, is for them to have good grades on their high school transcript.
3. Things change, and so might your teen’s mind.
So many people these days end up pursuing different careers to the ones they initially embarked on.
Maybe you’re one such person?
When you think about it, it’s really not surprising.
People change! Our ideas and beliefs change as we get older. What you wanted when you were 18 is very different to what you want when you’re 40.
I understand this very well already!
My area of tertiary study has now changed three times. (That’s really not supposed to impress you by the way, it’s merely a fact.)
I did my bachelors degree in Biomedical Science, then did a year of a masters in Bioscience Enterprise before I realized that wasn’t for me either.
Finally, after much research, thinking, and long discussions with my parents, I found out I could do law as a post-grad in Melbourne, which is where I am now. So it took me six years post-school to figure out what I really wanted to sink my teeth into!
Why am I sharing/boring you with this biography?
Because I was only able to change direction because I had good grades behind me. (Sorry about the self-trumpet blowing…)
Had I mucked around at school I wouldn’t have gotten into college to do science in the first place. And had I not done well in my science degree, I wouldn’t have been able to get into law school in Melbourne and be where I am today.
Your teen might be thinking that they don’t need straight A’s because they don’t want to go to college, but what if they change their mind and it’s too late?
What if they decide in a few years that in fact, going to college is exactly what they need to do to pursue whatever, but they can’t get in because they didn’t do well at school? What if they miss out on pursuing their passion because they were short a few grade points?!
You want your teen to be able to pursue whatever it is they want to at any time in their life.
Your teen needs to get this for themselves, which is where you step in.
Hopefully you can talk with your teen about what THEY want to get out of life – what they may want to pursue in years to come, where they see themselves in 5-10 years time.
They need to learn to think about the future. Or more correctly, THEIR future.
They may not find school terribly exciting right now, but if they understand the importance of it in terms of why it’s important to THEM, they WILL want to do get good grades. It’s that simple.
It doesn’t matter what position your teen is currently in. It doesn’t matter whether they know what they want to do when they leave school or not.
They just need to understand that trying their hardest at school now is the best thing they can do to set themselves up for THEIR future.
So – what reasons are going to motivate YOUR teen to get the grades they’re truly capable of?
With that question and everything else discussed I’ve hopefully given you and your teen a lot to think/talk about over the next two days before the next email.
I hope the discussions go well. Don’t forget to email me if you have any questions!
Motivation city here we come!
Clare & Chris (The Study Gurus)
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