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How do I motivate a teenager to study?

by ines.wurbs@icloud.com

Especially as parents, we have the feeling that our teenagers are blocking their future. Frequent arguments, endless discussions, and countless worries are quite common with teenagers in the household. We often notice puberty in learning behavior. Teenagers often hardly learn on their own, although it would be important right now.

To help motivate your adolescent child to learn:

  • An authoritative parenting style
  • Interesting presentation of learning material
  • Parental engagement
  • Study groups
  • Presentation of the learning content 
  • Professional activities

7 ways to motivate a teenager to do school work

Success in school depends heavily on our continuous learning experience. When we are young, we then reap the fruits of all previous learning experiences. This means that the better experiences our children have in their school career, the less learning resistance there is.  At least they are easier to motivate than children with bad experiences.

These bad experiences can arise if, for example, we are missing important learning content. It can happen again and again that an important section of material is not correctly understood due to an omission or due to an unfortunate explanation of content. This sometimes makes not only the missed material “more difficult”, but also the material based on it.

Such situations cloud the learning success and experience of our children. Our children might make themselves bad about the following statements:

  • “I’m too stupid for that.”
  • “The teacher is after me.”
  • “You don’t need math in real life anyway!”

If our children have bad learning experiences, this does not mean that everything is pointless. All that is needed here is even more empathy and an extra portion of support from parents and teachers.

Allow teenagers to be as independent as possible

An authoritative parenting style has the greatest impact on our children when it comes to the motivation of any kind. Here, we parents must adapt our expectations to the actual abilities of our children. As a result, our children have already learned as teenagers to take responsibility for their behavior.

Authoritative learning support chart

It is best to build on this foundation. You can make decisions together with your children and, depending on their age, allow more and more freedom. But our children have to learn that first.

Difference between authoritative and overprotective parenting

Theoretically, the difference between parenting styles is not easy to see. In both cases, the children are “supported”. However, in overprotective parenting, much of the work is done for the child. The table below shows the difference between authoritative and overprotective.

Parents have trust and adjusted expectationsParents underestimate their children’s abilities
Goals are sought togetherGoals are chosen in the interest of the child
Problems are solved togetherProblems are solved by the parents
Failures are worked through togetherFailures are played down
Solution strategies are developed togetherSolution strategies are dictated
Pros and cons are discussedPotential hazards are highlighted
Challenges are soughtChallenges are avoided
Solution strategies are given if necessaryIf necessary, the parents will take care of the solution
Authoritative vs. Overprotective parenting style

If you have had an overprotective parenting style up to now, too much freedom would overwhelm your child. And finally, our children usually just let it go and avoid the difficulties. They then mostly choose the easy way or are simply overwhelmed with the possibilities.

That doesn’t mean that you have to plan and prepare everything for your child in advance. This should happen together, under your guidance. The more you do this, the less support your child will need. Even though they are teenagers now, they still need our support and control.

That doesn’t contradict itself if that’s what you’re thinking now. Support and control should be provided when necessary and appropriate. But where it isn’t necessary, give your children the freedom to work it out on their own and praise your child for the effort.

When our children notice that we trust them and that they get help when something is too difficult for them, that has a very motivating effect. Above all, if there is also recognition for it, it motivates even more.

How often is the internet used for school

Use of new media for learning

The internet and digital media now naturally play an even greater role. Do not demonize new media because you are unsure yourself or have read about the many disadvantages. The 2017 JIM study shows that young people, in particular, use the internet at home particularly often for school.

Make sure your child gets the information it needs. When the internet makes knowledge easy to access, that’s a great thing. However, it is an advantage here if your child gets support so that it can also find high-quality information.

Close coordination between school and parents

Teachers offer you a different perspective on your child. You see it in a different environment and under different conditions. It may be helpful for you to coordinate with your child’s teachers. After all, the teachers and the entire school also play a major role in motivating our children to learn.

If you are in a constructive exchange with your children’s teachers, you can only benefit from it. Also, because most teenagers have multiple teachers. This makes it easy to see what makes one teacher your child’s favorite and the other not. This can, of course, be due to the subject itself, but it doesn’t have to be. In this way, you can pick out what motivates your child at school and where it doesn’t work so well. So, you can try at home to transfer the methods of your child’s favorite subject or favorite teacher to the other not-so-popular subjects. 

It also gives you more feedback on your child’s learning needs rather than waiting for a grade. Pubescent are often not the most talkative towards us parents.

You could also convey to your children that education and school are important and encourage them to deal with the topic. But without creating pressure.

Of course, it is also a good idea to look for extracurricular courses or interest groups to deepen your child’s knowledge. Young people are usually a bit hesitant at first, but they are just as enthusiastic if the club, group, or whatever is right for them.

The corona pandemic in particular has shown that school is an important factor for learning success, but also for our children’s motivation to learn. You can read about that in this study.

Influences from classmates

Friends and classmates are especially important for young people. They compare themselves and partially base their self-worth on them.

Pupils benefit if they are well integrated into their class and also have friends who have similar values ​​to themselves. Once we have taught our children that hard work and ambition pay off, they often adopt these values ​​and seek out friends with similar ideas in this area.

Of course, classmates can also hurt your child’s performance. Especially if your child has little connection or is even bullied. This creates anxiety and hurts self-esteem. This makes it difficult for these children, in particular, to perform well and to develop a positive motivation to learn.

They don’t trust themselves, have few positive experiences, and may be afraid to go to school. The logical consequence of this is of course to avoid school. This can be directly reflected in truancy or poor performance.

Part-time jobs

Adolescents need to look for summer jobs or internships. It promotes academic and vocational learning opportunities.

These jobs also improve attitudes towards school and give our children new perspectives. This also increases the motivation to learn. However, these jobs must relate to school or the future profession. Furthermore, only part of the vacation or only a few hours a week should be taken up by the vacation job. Otherwise, our children are overwhelmed. So, the learning time and the will to learn could suffer.

In general, of course, the more practice-oriented you can convey the learning material, the more motivating it is for your child. It draws attention to your child’s goal.

If you want to read more tips about ambition in general, I have this article for you. 

Undisturbed work with the 10-minute rule

It’s a little trick that we as parents can use and is particularly useful for unmotivated teenagers. Chattering parents are one thing above all for our pubescent: annoying. That means they want peace from us. And we can use that to our advantage.

Agree on a task with your pubescent child for 10 minutes in which they should concentrate on the outstanding task and work on it without any disturbances/distractions. For example, they are not allowed to look at your cell phone, make phone calls, listen to music, or draw. Only the task should be processed – nothing else.

And in return, you promise your teenager not to bother you with it for the rest of the day. Let him/her set everything up and prepare. Mobile phones and other multimedia devices are locked up or something similar. This is important! 

Then let your child work. In most cases, with intensive work and concentration, a kind of motivation boost occurs after a few minutes. This means that they are driven by ambition and strive to complete the task on their own. If this is the case: Please let your child continue to work.

The trick doesn’t always work, but it does work about 75% of the time. Anyway, it’s worth a try. If possible, try not on the last day before handing in or before school work, but in good time before. This leaves you with other options.

How does teenage affect learning?

Above all, teenagers have one thing: excessive self-confidence. This makes them believe that they are omnipotent. And so banal things like learning are often simply not necessary.

It is a consequence of developing their perspective. While it may be exhausting for us parents, it helps youngsters better deal with the challenges of adolescence. This is how the first close and rewarding relationships develop with a few others. These close relationships provide teenagers with additional support during this exciting period of development.

At the same time, friends of the same age are becoming increasingly important to teenagers. In this environment, they can try things out and look for allies and confidants. Comparison and feedback with and from their peers is part of teen self-esteem. They help to position themselves in society.

Social issues and themselves are in the foreground. And since they think they are great anyway, learning is often neglected. However, the level of bias, self-centeredness, and values ​​they have acquired up to that point still have a major impact on how they cope with this phase.


Adolescence is full of challenges, hormones, and developmental spurts that pose great challenges for our children. As parents, we should try to prepare them as best we can and help them through it.

If we show trust, respect, and appreciation, it helps us a lot. We must teach them to help themselves and to be there for them when they need us. Even if they say the opposite to us or if we think: “You’re almost grown up anyway.”

No, they are far from that. But on the way there and that costs both sides plenty of nerves. Don’t give up, keep trying and get outside help if you need it. Teachers, study groups, clubs, or professional psychological help or learning aids are available for that.

After all, it is about the future of our children. Abandoning them now is not an option. But maybe take the pressure off (your pressure and the pressure on your child). Have a calm conversation in which you clarify possible goals. When your child has a goal in mind, it will be easier for you to start the journey to get there.

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