Getting teenagers to jump in

To take the discussion of teenage apathy a step further, the big question is: How do we motivate teenagers when they just don’t care? As blog posters mentioned, sometimes it’s a matter of priorities, and sometimes kids are just overwhelmed trying to meet their responsibilities. Sometimes, a task seems overwhelmingly huge, and they put it off because they have no idea how to start.

I am grateful to my mom for a lot of things, but if I had to pick the biggest, it would be the fact that she basically taught me to fear nothing. I don’t mean risk-taking adventures; I mean going after whatever I wanted. I remember taking swimming lessons for the Seadogs in Pittsburgh. I truly hated those lessons because I could never get the speed everyone else seemed to have. I wasn’t good at swimming, and I didn’t like it – the perfect recipe for lack of motivation. One day, Mom showed up to watch me practice. The coach had just taught us a new stroke and asked, “Okay, who wants to go first?” Everyone looked at him. I glanced over at Mom and she gave me Mother Eyes that told me I better volunteer. So I did. And I was slooowwww. But that day after practice, Mom told me that she was proud of me for volunteering to go first and that I should always – always – jump right in when an opportunity presents itself.

I have lived by that philosophy ever since.

So what can parents say or do to motivate teenagers when they don’t like something or don’t care? What did your parents do?

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Do teenagers deserve the Apathy label?

For as long as I can remember, teenagers have been called apathetic. Supposedly, they don’t care about much.. well, except maybe themselves.

When I was a rising ninth grader touring my soon-to-be new high school, I was wide-eyed with wonder. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the biology lab and how my head spun with the possibilities of dissections and other smelly scientific pursuits. I remember my excitement over finally having my own locker. I remember the smell of the dirt, grass, and sweat when I tried out for the high school field hockey team. I remember my first Friday night dance, the first time I got into trouble in school, the first friends I made, and the first people I decided to avoid.

Outside of school, I was still a Girl Scout working towards the highest honors. I rode horses, read voraciously, went on dates, volunteered at nursing homes, attended church every Sunday. I think I had a full, well-rounded life as a teenager, and I actually cared deeply about all of the above.

Some argue that a busy life like the one I had can actually lead to apathy. According to recent statistics, 3 out of 5 seniors and approximately 50% of sophomores work a job outside of school. The argument is that students are too tired from their jobs and extra-curriculars to focus on their academics. If so, is this really apathy, or just misplaced priorities?

If teenagers are busy and engaged, why do we keep hearing that they don’t care or seem completely unmotivated to do anything? What is the truth behind supposed teenage apathy?