24 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: my teenage son lacks motivation

It’s actually a very common profile, especially for boys, and especially for those who haven’t really experienced failure

Russell Hemmings.
22 Apr 2016 | 12:00 am

My 16-year-old son, whose exams are approaching, is just not motivated, and makes excuses to not study. His teachers say he’s bright, but they agree he’s a lazy student who always tries to get away with doing the minimum. What can we do before it’s too late?

It’s actually a very common profile, especially for boys, and especially for those who haven’t really experienced failure. Your son is probably one of those students who is very intelligent and could outshine others, but believes it’s enough to pass, rather than to pass well.

Nagging is usually counterproductive, and teens tend to be able to tune out and turn you into white noise after a while, so let’s think more ‘carrot’ than ‘stick’. Try and set aside some quality time with him so that you can explain how you feel and give him the space to respond.

Ask him what his hopes are for the future. Get him fired up about the things he dreams about pursuing as a career. Look at university courses that really interest him and explore what that means in terms of securing educational success.

Work backwards from that point to show him how what he achieves this year will affect all of that.

Once you have opened up the discussion, work out together the ways that you could practically support him in achieving his full potential. It might be that you help him plan his study with the most effective methods. Set targets along the way and build in small rewards, so that he starts to achieve success quite quickly and understands what it feels like to be motivated.

Try to achieve a good balance for him between high-quality study periods and times where he gets the opportunity to chill out with family and friends.

Sometimes, young people can appear nonchalant about success, because inherent in that is their subconscious worry about failing – in other words it’s easier to appear not to care, rather than have to deal with all of those complicated feelings when things don’t go well.

Deep down, I suspect your son cares very much. We all want to be successful and it’s often our fear that holds us back, so be as involved as you can, without placing too much pressure on his shoulders. Like most things when it comes to parenting, it’s a fine balancing act!

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Russell Hemmings.

Russell Hemmings

Life coach, and clinical and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist. More info: / 04 4273627 / 055 2867275.