9 Steps to Foster Teen Motivation

Co-authored by Renae Hintze

Can you remember doing something that you absolutely hated? 

Maybe you took an accounting class in college that you ended up withdrawing from, or maybe you spent years stressfully re-decorating a room in the house that you weren’t happy with in the end.

Now think of something you love to do. You may find it easy to jump from one to the other.

At this point in our lives, you and I have had enough experiences to know what we do and don’t like doing. Your teen hasn’t had those same experiences or opportunities yet.

As a parent, you can help them uncover those interests and passions and motivate your teen to accomplish their dream goals in life.

Figure out what motivates your teen:

1. Figure out what makes your teen excited

Questions to ask:

  • When your teen procrastinates, what activities are they procrastinating with? (What do they do instead of what they should be doing)
  • What do your teen’s extracurricular activities lean toward or revolve around?

If your kid spends all their time playing video games, don’t write that off. Instead, take note of the fact that they willingly devote hours of their time to something without tiring of it.

Think: Is there a career opportunity for people who like playing video games?

Jobs for Video Gamers

You’ll find there’s a career for just about every interest a kid can have. According to Shea Garner, these 7 jobs are just like playing video games.

2. Have them take a personality test

Personality tests are something I’ve suggested before, and I’m suggesting it again because they are a great place to start when developing life goals and career plans.

Take a Personality Test

The results of your teen’s personality test will help you get a better idea of how to start sculpting out their hidden passions.

Personality Type

On this particular test, make sure to click “Read more” at the end. Clicking this will show you more detailed analysis and explanation of your child’s personality type.

3.  Show genuine interest in your teen & ask them questions

Now that you’re getting a solid foundation for what your teen’s passions may be, dig deeper. 

Let them know that you are genuinely interested in what THEY are interested in. When you see them doing something, ask them about it. Find out why they’re doing it and how they feel about it.how to motivate teens

Just be careful not to push them toward something they don’t want. This will stifle their passion.

4. Watch a Ted talk once per week

Ted talks are full of educational topics — why not use them to your advantage?

Make it a weekly event that your child has to pick one of their choice. Take note of the topics they continue to pick and encourage a discussion on that topic. 

how to motivate teens

5. Pick a fun event and let your teen organize it

There are events for just about everything, you just have to find them!

Eventful.com is one place you can check to see what local options are out there. Look up some potential events for different things your teen may be interested in and show them these.

Have them choose one and then leave them in charge to plan the trip.

If your child likes the movie Transformers, or is very hands-on, they might get something out of attending a FIRST Robotics Competition and watching students compete with robots they built themselves.

6. Look for clubs, organizations or outlets that support your teen’s interest

Based on the “under-cover” work you’ve been doing, now it’s time to give your teen a chance to develop a true passion for something they’re interested in. 

Help them find an outlet. Talk to their counselor to see what is available at their school and check to see what is available in your local community. 

Potential outlets for your teen’s interests

Continue to foster your teen’s motivation:

7. Develop a SMART goal based on what motivates your teen

After your teen has indicated a clear passion, have them develop SMART steps to develop it into something tangible. 

What is a SMART goal? Here’s an example

how to motivate teens

The key here is to get your teen to AGREE to the goal they set. This shows that your teen is committed to their goal, and believes they can reach it.

It’d be a mistake here not to show you how academics are invariably linked to reaching whatever goal your teen sets. This chart of 2014 earnings taken by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics outlines the difference education makes in career paths.

Education vs. Career

8. Hold your teen accountable for the goal:

Hold the student accountable for their goals along the way. Remember to keep their end goal in mind during all of your conversations with them.

Your Teen: 

“I don’t want to study for my anatomy quiz.”


“Ok, but I thought we agreed that you really wanted to be a doctor? We both know you can do it, but you still need to build a foundation in science to make that happen.”

You can also leave reminders for your teen to help them stay on track — leaving a sticky note somewhere they will see first thing in the morning, for example, is a friendly way to encourage them toward reaching their ultimate goals.

how to motivate teens

9. Reinforce their sense of achievement

Have you ever finished a project at work only to receive a new one? 

Mind Tools talks about a manager’s position of recognizing their employees and says

If you give “credit where credit’s due,” fairly and appropriately, you will reinforce what your people know to be true, and encourage them where they have doubts. However, if you rarely acknowledge “a job well done,” or constantly criticize them, there’s a risk that their motivation will slip away.

This can easily be applied to your interaction with your student when fostering teen motivation. Be sure to acknowledge the different steps they take toward their goals to let them know that you support them, and give them a better sense of progress.

If you’re not sure how or when to celebrate different occasions, try to break them down into one of 3 categories:

  1. Signs of Initiative
  2. Small Achievements
  3. Milestones

how to motivate teens


To many parents, actively motivating their teens can seem like a big under-taking… and it is going to take a little effort on your part.

But if you can motivate your teen to reach their dream goals, they will be happier and better off in their lives.

To review, the steps for fostering teen motivation are:

  1. Figure out what makes your teen excited
  2. Have them take a personality test
  3. Show genuine interest in your teen and ask them questions
  4. Watch a Ted talk once per week
  5. Pick a fun event and let your teen organize it
  6. Look for clubs, organizations or outlets that support your students interest
  7. Develop a SMART goal based on what motivates your teen
  8. Hold your teen accountable for the goal
  9. Reinforce their sense of achievement

Did I miss any tips for teen motivation that you saw? Have you tried other method to motivate your teen and were they effective? Let us know in the comments below!

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!
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