It can happen overnight. One day your child is pleasant, cooperative, and enthusiastic about learning; the next day, they aren't. This can happen with girls or boys; sometimes it happens at a certain age. Don't feel as if you've done something wrong, because it's common. Motivation of teens, or lack thereof, can be difficult.
You might identify the problem when your child starts to resemble a slug. Slugs are soft, gooey, and malleable; you can wad them into your fist. Similarly, your child is not moving, even though they might still be sweet and pleasant.
Or you might have a snail — soft and gooey on the inside, but hard on the outside. They have a real edge to them that's impenetrable. There are many kids like this who are not letting their parents into their lives.
You might find your teen is more like the sloth — the one that hangs around all day moving in slow motion. They don't do anything other than eat.
Or there's the tortoise. This kind of teen is most notable when you have a younger child who seems like the hare in comparison. Although the tortoise is slow, they can win the race if they plod ahead.
What kind of behaviors does your teen exhibit? Often, they are slow as molasses or do the bare minimum. Sometimes they're couch potatoes, uninterested in everything.
Sometimes it is just a phase, as if the kids are checking in to see who's the boss and what matters to their mom and dad. When that is the case, the solution is to wait until the phase is over. But that can be difficult.
Motivation problems can last a couple weeks, until the child or the parent figures out what adjustments need to be made. Or a lack of motivation can last for months, years, or until the child finds something that sparks their interest.
When the child has a lack of motivation but a good attitude, it can be difficult to endure. You've raised them right and they have a great attitude, but you're baffled that they don't feel like doing anything. Frankly, this was the trouble we had in our home.
Or your child might have a lack of motivation and a bad attitude. Even in good families, a child can become slightly rebellious. Your child could be aggressively obnoxious about doing what they need to do.
A lack of motivation with behavioral problems might need to be addressed separately from school when it becomes difficult to manage. It might only be a phase, or it could happen randomly — a few days each month or only a certain time of year. Or this lack of motivation could become pervasive and last for months or years.
However it manifests in your home, know that you are not alone. Motivation problems can happen, even in happy, loving families. Your child could be a perfectionist who suddenly becomes a couch potato. One of my friends was devastated when her daughter changed like this at the age of 14. Her daughter had always been a driven, musical perfectionist; suddenly, she wasn't interested in the piano, flute, or music at all anymore.
My friend was worried about her daughter's uncharacteristic lack of motivation. She was sitting around on the couch much of the day. Finally, her daughter happened to pick up a guitar for the first time. A few months later, her daughter had practiced the guitar so well that she started volunteering as a worship leader at church.
One of my clients was concerned about homeschooling high school because her son was sitting on the couch all day eating ice cream. The entire time I spent at her house, her child sat on the couch eating ice cream and playing video games. I saw this client a few months later and her son had completely turned around; she had forced him to try and find activities he might be interested in and one of them was a class in speech and debate at a homeschool co-op.
He discovered speech and debate as well as politics and started going 100 percent full-speed ahead in their homeschool. He still was not motivated to do his math work, but 90 percent of the rest of school was taken care of by speech and debate and motivation wasn't a problem anymore.
We had our own issues, especially with my oldest child (who does have perfectionist tendencies and tends to be slightly sloth-like). He wanted to do everything perfectly and took his own sweet time. The love he had for chess seemed to get in his way because he played chess constantly.
Chess seemed like a waste of time since he was sitting on the couch most of the day. He played chess and read chess books for hours on end. It wasn't until much later that I realized he was working on his area of specialization and the logical thinking would one day help him become an engineer working on computer science.
Find out how to pull out the passions and interests of your teen. Read my book, Delight Directed Learning, to find out how.
Remember that you are not alone. Many parents must endure their teens' motivation problems and it can happen in a variety of different ways. It's not your fault.
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