Helps for Your Unmotivated Teen

Welcome to the "What's Your Secret Struggle Homeschool Mom?" guest post series. Today, Julie Polanco (who blogs at Julie Naturally) shares some tips and encouragement for dealing with unmotivated teens.

Does this picture of an unmotivated teen sound familiar?

He sleeps until noon and then raids the refrigerator. When you ask him about his algebra, he avoids looking at you. Then, he slinks off to his computer and disappears for several hours. You threaten to take his computer away, and his phone, and his Kindle, but some of his assignments must be done online. You feel depressed. You thought high school would be different.

Helps for Your Unmotivated Teen at


The first thing to do is address the relevance of his schoolwork, your attitude of respect towards him, and how much responsibility he carries. You can read more about these three R’s of motivation HERE. But, maybe you have given him choices and tried to make his schoolwork relevant. Perhaps you do give him space and respect his choices. And yet, he still seems unmotivated and maybe even lazy. If this is true, something deeper may be at work.


Addressing the underlying motivation issues

Destructive thought patterns

Some teens develop a negative view of themselves for various reasons. They may compare themselves to other academically talented teens and feel that they don’t measure up. Or, they may attempt to do their schoolwork and silently suffer because they are ashamed to speak up about difficulties.

Their negative thoughts might not be about academics, but about other areas of insecurity. For example, non-athletic boys may lash out because they feel weak and left out. These teens call themselves stupid, idiot, failure, weirdo, ugly, weakling, and more. Their negative, destructive self-talk causes depression and learned helplessness. They may say that they hate school and can’t wait until they finish. Unfortunately, we as parents sometimes contribute to this pattern by saying things like, “You’re never going to amount to anything if you don’t get going on school.”


Helps for Your Unmotivated Teen at


Entitlement attitude

Some teens aren’t very motivated because they suffer from an attitude of entitlement. For a discussion on how this can develop, click HERE. This teen frustrates us because we know she’s smart and could do so much more with a bit of effort. Yet, she believes that everything she does is wonderful, so rather than work hard, she does the minimum. Even though her personal stories include vivid, rich language, her school essays are less than inspiring. She gets all the answers correct, but she finishes way too quickly and you suspect cheating. Efforts to get more out of her leave you exasperated. You fear that her minimal effort will undermine her success in college.


Helping the unmotivated teen

While these two thought patterns seem very different from each other, both are based on teens believing lies about themselves. We must correct the lies. In the first case, we must address the lie that the teen cannot succeed at anything, that he will always fail no matter how hard he tries. We must teach him that he can succeed and that his worth has nothing to do with his abilities. In the second case, we must address the lie that the teen deserves good grades for doing nothing, that she doesn’t have to exert any effort to earn these rewards. This teen needs to understand that reward is tied to the effort, not some inherent specialness.


You can receive a FREE flow chart to help you determine the underlying cause of your child’s lack of motivation by clicking HERE.

Helps for Your Unmotivated Teen at
Julie Polanco is a 17-year veteran homeschooling mom of four challenging, artsy kids. She is a speaker, author of two books for moms—God Schooling: How God Intended Children to Learn and 100 Ways to Motivate Kids—and she is the high school botany instructor for Julie has been featured in several publications and blogs, including Autism Parenting, Today's Parent, Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Some Assembly Required, Homeschooling with Heart blog, and Alternative Health Guide. She teaches live middle school science workshops for her local homeschool co-op, and blogs at  Find her on Facebook and Pinterest.
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on this site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Life in the Nerddom.
Helps for Your Unmotivated Teen at
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