Motivating Teens: 10 Tips

If you’re the parent of a teen with ADHD, do you sometimes find yourself frustrated that your teen doesn’t follow-thorough? Do you wonder how to get your teen motivated? Perhaps you find yourself frequently criticizing your teen? Are you tired of nagging? Do you argue too often?

In their book Smart but Scattered Teens, Guare, Dawson and Guare outline and develop ten principles to help you develop approaches to motivate your teen and support success, as well as minimize conflict.  Here they are, in brief (slightly modified):

1) Don’t assume that a struggling teen has the executive functioning skills of initiative, planning and organization, to easily do what is being asked. 

2) Recognize that you will likely have to explicitly, and incrementally, teach your teen executive functioning skills such as time management strategies, step-by-step approaches to tasks, and the like.

3) Understand that all teens have an innate drive for mastery, so, focus on opportunities for your teen to pursue objectives related to increasing independence.

4) Keep in mind that the long-term goal of independence needs to be balanced with keeping your teen “in the game,”by providing enough support to prevent failure.

5) Move from external control of your teen’s behavior to developing and encouraging internal control.

6) Work with your teen to develop ways to provide support or assistance that will not feel annoying.

7) In setting expectations, keep in mind your teen’s actual developmental level (with ADHD, this may be younger than the chronological age by as much as 5 years) and capacity to exert effort.

8) Provide your teen just enough support to be successful, but no more.

9) Keep support in place long enough for your teen to develop mastery or success.

10) When support is no longer needed, fade it gradually, not abruptly, so your teen can take over independently. 

In  Smart but Scattered Teens, Guare, Dawson and Guare develop these principles in detail and illustrate their application to many of the executive functioning skills teens need to become successfully independent.

These authors also suggest that sometimes, and for some teens, working with a coach may be an effective bridge to independence:

“We see the coaching process as a bridge to help students … strengthen the skills they will need when they may be stuck due to the realities of adolescence. … A good coach can help boost your teen’s skills and confidence levels because this individual has just enough distance from your teen …. Coaching is an ideal intervention for students who are underachievers due to weak executive functioning skills ….”

You might want to read their book. And, you can contact me for a free half-hour consultation to see if coaching might be the right support for your teen or young adult.

photo credit: David Castillo Dominici,

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