Education motivation: Helping your teen take school seriously

If you're worried about your teenager's apparent lack of interest in their schoolwork, you're not alone. Many parents and carers face this challenge as their children move through adolescence. However, there are some practical strategies that you can use to help guide your teen towards taking their education seriously.

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Understanding typical teen mindsets

It is not unusual for teenagers to struggle to prioritise their studies. There may be various reasons for this, such as social expectations, lack of motivation, or difficulty comprehending the significance of education. Alternatively, they may have more pressing concerns, such as fitting in with their peers or worrying about how to get someone to like them.

It's important to remember that your anxieties and priorities may be different from those of your child. You almost certainly have had a different school experience than your teenager has now. Perhaps you excelled academically, but your child may be struggling. While school and learning are important, there is more to life than getting good grades.

It's essential to remember that your teen is their own person, and they are still figuring out who they are and where they fit in the world. 

Teenagers tend to prioritise the present over the future. They are not very good at weighing short-term pain against long-term gain. As a result, when discussing career prospects and the benefits of investing in education, they may respond with eye rolls.

However, academic success is important for your teen's future. So, how can you motivate them to take their education seriously (enough)?


Talk to them

The most important thing is to keep the lines of communication open between you and your teenager. Encourage them to share their concerns and challenges related to school with you. 

You can start by asking them if there is anything specific they would like to discuss. For instance, "Hey, I noticed you seemed a bit stressed about school lately. Is there anything on your mind that you want to talk about?"

You can also share your own experiences with them and offer support. For example, "I remember when I was your age, I sometimes found school tricky. I'm here to support you if you need help or want to talk. How are things going with your classes and assignments?"

Try to create an environment where they feel comfortable talking to you without fear of judgment. Although it may be challenging, listening to their thoughts and opinions without being critical will help you find solutions to any problems they may face. Remember, providing your support and understanding will go a long way in motivating them to take their education seriously. 

  • Set clear expectations: Establish clear guidelines and expectations regarding academic performance, attendance, and involvement in school activities. Consistency is key in reinforcing these expectations.
  • Encourage goal setting: Help teens set realistic short-term and long-term goals related to their academic achievements. Breaking down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks can make them feel more attainable.
  • Provide resources and support: Offer tutoring, study groups, or educational apps to support your teen's learning process. Be actively involved with them in finding solutions to any academic challenges they may face.

It's important to encourage your teenagers to take responsibility for their education by allowing them to make decisions and learn from their mistakes. Remember that schools are designed to provide learning resources and set boundaries and consequences. It's best to let these take place and take a step back whenever possible.

  • Lead by example: Be a positive role model by demonstrating a solid work ethic and a commitment to lifelong learning. Show them your commitment to learning by taking courses yourself or engaging in educational discussions with your teen.
  • Encourage them: Help them to develop effective time management and study skills.
  • Celebrate their wins: Acknowledge your teen's academic accomplishments, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement boosts their confidence and motivation to take school seriously.

You might want to speak with their school if you notice your teenager persistently struggling or showing signs of academic disengagement. Do speak with your teen first, letting them know you're getting support for them - don't go behind their back, if possible. It may also be worth seeking guidance from a school counsellor or educational psychologist. Professional support can help identify underlying issues and provide tailored interventions. 

Do try to avoid getting too fixated on your teen's academics. Young people face so much pressure from different directions, so choosing this battle may not be worth it. 

If you are concerned about your teen or nearly teenage child's well-being, counselling can help. I specialise in working with parents and carers dealing with adolescent issues and can offer ongoing counselling support to work on these issues together. If you have a specific problem that you need help with, I also provide one-off parenting consultations that focus on finding solutions. Don't hesitate to get in touch if you need further guidance or support.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Lewes, East Sussex, BN7
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Written by Jennifer Warwick, MSc Psych, BACP Registered | Counsellor and Parenting Expert
Lewes, East Sussex, BN7

I am a BACP registered counsellor working online. I work with people who struggle to balance work, home and family life. People constantly rush, looking after others over themselves and are exhausted.

I specialise in supporting parents and carers as they navigate their child's tween and teenage years. Contact me for an introductory chat by phone.

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