HOW TO MOTIVATE YOUR TEENAGER
TEENAGERS MUST EXPERIENCE THE CONSEQUENCE OF THEIR BEHAVIOR
It’s often been said that your youngster’s teenage years are a time of storm and stress. I think while this is true, it’s only partially true. I think there is storm and stress in your teenager’s life all right, but I think the storm and stress is experienced more by you, the parent, than by your teenager.
Your teenager lives in a fantasy world. He lives in a world in which he will never have the pleasure of living again. He lives in a world where you, his parents, and not he suffer the consequence of his acts.
Let me give you an example. If your youngster decides not to go to school, he really doesn’t suffer the consequences of not going to school. The principal doesn’t call him; the school calls you. It is you who suffers the consequence. You, in turn, may get on his case because he missed school, and then you assume that getting on his case is a punishment. It really isn’t. He’s probably willing to endure your yelling at him in trade for a day off from school.
If, on the other hand, you elected not to go to work, you would suffer the consequence. You pay the penalty of not going to work. You either lose a day’s wages, or you have to deduct it as a sick day.
As adults, we experience both positive and negative consequences from our acts. Teenagers, however, mostly experience positive consequences from their acts no matter how they behave. Therefore, there is no motivation to change because the teenager gets what he wants (positive consequences), regardless of how he acts.
How do you change this? Well, the obvious way is to allow your teenager to experience the consequences of his acts. To do this, however, you must control the consequences. You must control the outcomes so that positive consequences are given only for good behavior, and negative consequences occur for bad behavior.
In doing this you actually allow your teenager to make choices. If he chooses to misbehave, he then also chooses a negative consequence. If, on the other hand, he chooses to behave appropriately, he then also chooses a positive consequence.
CONSEQUENCES MUST BE MEANINGFUL
There is a “law” in psychology that asserts that when a positive consequence follows an act, that act tends to continue; when a negative consequence follows a behavior, that behavior tends to lessen.
Now, if you were to apply this “law” of psychology to motivate your teenager, you would want to use positive consequences for good behavior and negative consequences for bad behavior. In doing this, you would strengthen good behavior and weaken bad behavior.
But before you can do this, there is a basic condition that must be met. That condition has to with the nature of the consequences. Simply stated, that condition is: The consequences used to change your teenager’s behavior must have some meaning or value to your teenager.
For example, if you decide to use a trip to the museum as a positive consequence for good behavior, you had better make sure that your teenager likes museums. Likewise, if you decide to send your teenager to his room as a negative consequence for misbehavior, you first should know that being in his room is a negative experience for him.
Remember that in order to use consequences effectively, the consequences you select should have either a positive or negative meaning for your teenager.