13 tips to motivating teens

13 Tips on How to Motivate a Teenager

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 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 them to accomplish their dream goals in life.

In this article, we have listed down tips on how to motivate a teenager. Use this to encourage your teen to have a meaningful life and to create a connection between the two of you.

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 teenagers who like playing video games?

Yes… It’s called Esports!

You’ll find there’s a career for that just about every interest a kid can have!

Show Genuine Interest in Your Teen & Ask Them Questions

Motivating teens is not easy. But the most basic step is to get a solid foundation on what your teen’s passions may be, and then 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.

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

Watch a Ted Talk Once a Week

Yes! Ted talks are good for motivating teens. There are many educational topics available from TED — why not use them to your advantage?

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

Pick a Fun Event and Let Your Teen Organize it

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

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.

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. 

We know this tip on motivating teens require effort on your part, but it is 100% worth it in the end.

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. 

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 tell you how academics are invariably linked to reaching whatever goal your teen sets. Once they have already know what they want to happen in their lives, they will work really hard to achieve it. That even involves studying!

Hold Your Teen Accountable for the Goal

Remind your teen to remember 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.

Reinforce Their Sense of Achievement

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. The same tactic can be applied when motivating teens.

If you rarely acknowledge “a job well done,” or constantly criticize, there’s a risk that their motivation will slip away. This is one of the most important steps on how to motivate your teen.

You have to 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:

  • Signs of Initiative
  • Small Achievements
  • Milestones

Use Humor

This next step on how to motivate a teenager is quite unconventional. Why? Parents think that to encourage their teen to be better, they have to be strict and impose rules that their child should follow.

In reality, the stricter you are, the more your child will not listen to you.

The best way you can get them to trust you is to make every conversion lighter and inject humor as much as you can. 

Let’s say your teen failed a math quiz even though they really studied hard. Instead of pointing out that there may be something wrong in their study habit, break the ice with an academic joke to lighten the mood. Then share with them a similar experience you had in school. They will be more receptive to your advice.

Make a Reward System

Motivating teens through a reward system is quite effective. But you should be careful not to end up giving rewards to every single good thing they do because this may affect their psychological behavior towards getting something in the future. 

So how do you create a reward system for your teen?

Focus on the big things they need to accomplish. For instance, your teen is about to take the SAT. You can motivate your him to review for the test by saying that you will buy him an item he wants if he get a high rating on all 3 areas.

Allow Them to Rest

Teach your teen the importance of rest. 

Chances are, teens aren’t motivated to study or do anything because they feel like they have already overworked themselves. This happens a lot in high school because all of the subjects are cognitively demanding. 

You can bring your teen to watch a movie or eat in a restaurant to keep his mind off other things. Let him recharge. I promise, he would really appreciate it and he will get motivated to make you proud because of all of your efforts for him.

Share a Story

A good tip on how to motivate a teenager is by telling them a story, particularly YOUR story. If you have lived an interesting life, I’m sure you can share to your teen many interesting anecdotes about your failures and  successes.

Teenagers need to hear what you’ve been through when you are the same age as them. This will help them realize that their actions greatly affect their life’s path.

Explain That They are Responsible for the Consequences of Their Actions

To develop your teen’s sense of responsibility, you should explain to him that whatever the outcome of his choices are, he cannot blaim anyone for it. This way, when he fails an exam or he did something noticed by the school counselor, he knows that it is his own doing.

Once he realizes the impact of his actions, he would be enlightened as to what he needs to do in order for him to be successful. He would learn how to self-reflect and achieve his goals because he knows he has control of his life.


Actively motivating 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 them 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. Show genuine interest in your teen and ask them questions
  3. Watch a Ted talk once per week
  4. Pick a fun event and let your teen organize it
  5. Look for clubs, organizations or outlets that support your teen’s interest
  6. Develop a SMART goal based on what motivates your teen
  7. Hold your teen accountable for the goal
  8. Reinforce their sense of achievement
  9. Use humor
  10. Make a reward system
  11. Allow them to rest
  12. Share a story
  13. Explain that they are responsible for the consequences of their actions

Did we miss any tips on how to motivate a teenager? Have you tried other methods aside from this and were they effective? Let us know on the comments below!

5 1 vote
Article Rating
The following two tabs change content below.

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!
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments