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?

2 thoughts on “Getting teenagers to jump in

  1. I found this to be a challenging question as I had such conflicting views on this topic while raising my two children. I grew up in a small, blue collar town with four siblings. My parents did not go to college, in fact, my mom only earned her high school diploma when I was old enough to remember.Likely because they didn’t have time or money, my parents rarely were involved in our day to day activities. My siblings and I were not subjected to any pressure from our parents to participate or perform. College was not on our radar and I was actually (initially) discouraged from attending. Yet all five of us grew up to be happy, responsible, successful and involved adults and parents.

    So fast forward to my mothering years, it was a struggle to watch my kids (and me) get sucked into the crazy, hectic life of being a kid. I like to believe I only encouraged participation if it is what they wanted. I discouraged Honors classes in high school and would have been thrilled if my daughter decided to give up her all consuming swimming career. More than anything, I wanted my kids to enjoy their youth free from the pressures that surrounded them.

    In my opinion, motivation is intrinsic to a degree… but factor in the non-stop schedules that many of our youth maintain, and is it really a surprise that many kids don’t appear to have passion or motivation for anything beyond getting some sleep…

    Does it simply come down to are you a people pleaser or not? Does lack of motivation just signal rebellion? Have out of control hormones taken over? Is the key to motivation dangling the college acceptance carrot in their face?

    If there is a simple answer it continues to elude me… many of my friends with younger children would love to know the secret to lighting a fire and quite frankly, so would I!!!


  2. I know what you’re saying. My son played soccer from the time he was 4 on, and every weekend was consumed with games and away tournaments. By the time he got to high school, which is when we really hoped he’d play, he was completely burned out. We couldn’t “make” him play, and of course, we questioned whether we should have started him so young. It’s a very tough call. I think we can’t go too wrong if we follow kids’ leads and encourage them in the things that interest them.


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