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Encouraging an Unmotivated Teen

Dwight Bain - Life Coach & Counselor

Have you ever wondered why so many students get close to the ‘finish line’ of a semester or even graduation and then fail to finish? Parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and tutors can be cheering for a student to push forward to finish strong and sometimes they just sit down and give up. You’ve probably seen it. A bright young person starts out with promise and potential and then halfway through a semester they literally run out of gas and ‘check out’ as it’s called because they completely lose the motivation to finish school.

Academic Atomic Bombs

When a student ‘checks out’ it isn’t because they don’t know what to do. You can tell them continually that they should be doing their homework, turning in class work, completing reports, and playing by the rules to get good grades and move forward with their academic career. Yet they won’t do it. You can beg, you can plead, but basically they stop doing the right thing to oftentimes doing nothing. Since schools reward behavior that is measurable, it’s like creating an academic atomic bomb that literally ‘blows up’ their grades, which can wreck a future transcript.

You may be thinking that this is an overreaction, yet many colleges and even prep schools look first at the transcript before they look at the person. If you have ignored, neglected, or abused your grades it will hurt your academic future. Yes, I know, schools and universities should look at the person. They should look at character traits or consider someone who is nice or likable, but the fact of the matter is they look at academic performance by looking at grades. If someone ‘checks out’ and gives up on trying to finish strong it will cost them, and if you are the parent or guardian paying for their future education, it will cost you too.

Fear of Success

Failure to finish isn’t limited to students in school. It can show up in many different areas of life. People who know they should send a thank you note for a kindness given and then procrastinate forever and never get around to it. Creative types with a good idea they believe would help others and maybe make a lot of money, but they just can’t quite get the paperwork filled out to file a patent; then next thing you know they see their idea on an aisle at Wal-Mart and kick themselves for not following up.

I wrote about this huge gap in people knowing what to do, but then never doing it in my book, Destination Success. Giving up before a big finish is actually driven by the fear of success because it’s not about getting the right information, the right facts, the necessary details. Nope, usually it’s more about the motivation to do what you know you should do. The fact that students fail to finish is in some ways representative of the adult world. Many people don’t do what they know they should do, and sadly many people suffer the consequences of missing out on a lot of joy in life because of it.

Finding the Energy to Finish

How do you motivate an unmotivated student? Start by dealing with your own frustration so you can think clearly about a strategic plan to guide your son or daughter toward the better life that education can bring. Here are the key areas I use to find a way to inspire a young person to get back in the race and find the energy to finish strong:

1) Insight
This often begins with the parent closest to the student because they already know so much about their personality, their character and their drives. The Bible has a verse that I pray every day, “If any many lacks wisdom, let him ask God and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5). Insight is to ask God to reveal the special gifts and abilities that your student has, and no matter how far behind they may be they have some talents. It takes insight to see it and then it takes courage to stick with it to light the fire of desire in the heart of one who may have given up.

2) Interests
Once you know which gifts, talents, abilities, or skills that you are looking for in a student, the next part is to help them see how those unique gifts could be transferred into something so interesting that they really want to show up and learn more. There is an old saying that the curious are never bored, which is true. When a student is inspired about pursuing something interesting to them, they can lose all track of time because they are fascinated with the topic they are studying.

3) Important
Once a student gets inspired to pursue the subjects that are interesting to them, the next element to add to stir up motivation is to discover what is important to them. What is valuable? What activities do they believe in? Everyone believes in something yet often haven’t taken time to explore to discover what causes or activities they are motivated to join.

4) Identity
When a student has figured out who they are, and what they enjoy doing, they are actually living out their purpose and having fun doing it! Perhaps the huge success of the Disney television movies, High School Musical, is because it shows what most students would like their school experience to be. At this level, a young person is totally excited about going to school because when they know why they are going it’s not hard to stay in the race. In fact, it makes it easy to move from a failure to finish to moving forward with a new dedication to finish strong.

*Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2009), To receive this valuable weekly resource, subscribe at www.lifeworksgroup.org.

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