A different approach to teen motivation?

When a prospective Collegewise parent tells one of our counselors that they just need someone to “motivate” their student, we ask a lot of follow-up questions to learn more about exactly what that outcome would look like in the parent’s mind. The truth is that motivation and engagement are often happy byproducts of our work together, but motivating unmotivated kids isn’t an outcome we can sell or promise to deliver.

So, as a parent, is there anything you can do to motivate your student to take school and college admissions as seriously as you’d like them to?

School consultant and author Ana Homayoun shares some good advice in this Washington Post piece, “How to motivate older kids without using rewards, punishment or fear. (No, really.)

It might be tempting to dismiss her recommendations as being idealistic. Tactics like giving kids more autonomy or allowing them to set their own goals might actually seem detrimental if your student has consistently shown that school naturally falls towards the bottom of their priority list.

But science and some prominent authors like Dan Pink have shown that autonomy is more effective than control, that people who set their own goals outperform those who have goals foisted on them, and that knowing why you’re doing something helps you do it better.

If continuous pushing or prodding or outright nagging are frustrating both you and your student, maybe it’s worth taking a different approach to finding their motivation?

Here are a few past posts with Dan Pink’s advice, one on ditching the carrot-stick approach and another on how to praise kids effectively.