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It can happen overnight. One day your child is pleasant, cooperative, and enthusiastic about learning. The next day. . . not so much. The parent looks toward heaven and says, “My child isn’t doing the work! Now what?”

How to Motivate Homeschool Teens

[Get Instant Help Motivating Your Teen with My High School Solution for Just $197]
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The Scourge of Unmotivated Teens

It happens with boys and girls, but not every child. It’s common but that doesn’t make it easier for parents to deal with. What do you do with a child who will only do the bare minimum and isn’t interested in learning?
 
Sometimes this may be a phase - as if the child is checking to see who is the boss, and what matters to Mom and Dad. If this is the case, then the solution is to wait until the phase is over. Bummer, I know, because it feels like nails on the chalkboard all day, every day. Sometimes it will last a couple of weeks, while the child (or parent) figures out what adjustments must be made. Other times the lack of motivation lasts for months - or even a year - until the child finds something that sparks their interest.

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Misery Loves Company

Cindy was devastated when her daughter became unmotivated at age 14. Her daughter had always been a driven perfectionist. But suddenly her daughter was no longer interested in piano or flute, and didn't enjoy any activity. Cindy was worried about her uncharacteristic sitting around on the couch all day. Finally, her daughter picked up a guitar for the first time. A few months later, she was helping the worship leader at church. When I spoke to Cindy recently, she hardly remembered those difficult times.
 
Another client had a similar concern. She complained that all her son wanted to do was eat ice cream and play video games. I was consulting with her in her home and I met her son. It was the exact way she described; he had no interests but the couch and video games. The mom was beside herself. A few months later, I saw her again. Her son had completely turned the corner. She forced him to take a speech and debate class as part of his homeschool and he suddenly discovered politics and debate. Now he is going 100 percent full speed ahead.
 
I had issues, particularly with my oldest child. At that time, his love of chess made it seem like he was wasting his life and doing nothing. He was sitting on the couch reading books about chess and playing that crazy board game for hours on end. At the time, I thought I would go nuts. Now, of course, I realize he was working on his area of specialization. When he played chess, he was practicing critical thinking, planning, and problem solving, which directly correlated to his future career as a computer scientist and engineer, but at the time it was horrible for me.
 
Other moms have gone through this and survived. Knowing doesn't make it easier, but perhaps it can make it more tolerable. I can also offer some possible solutions. Take what will work for your family.

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How to Cope with Lack of Motivation in Teens
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Assess Your Expectations

Assess the expectations you have in your homeschool. Sometimes when I consult with moms about this issue and talk to them at length, I find out that the child is overworked. If you are giving your child a classical education, particularly using a classical homeschool co-op, you may be at greater risk of having expectations that are too high. Regardless of your curriculum choice, look at the schoolwork you are expecting.
 
Is the level of work too high? Is the number of hours too great? How many hours would it take a normal child working at normal speed to get that amount of work done? How long would it take you to complete all the assignments, if you were doing them at a normal speed? Is your child expected to work longer at school than your spouse spends at work?
 
The opposite may also be true; your expectations may be too low. When kids are bored, it's hard to get motivated to do anything. If your child is working with younger siblings, is gifted, or if you are using curriculum meant for younger grades, then they may be at greater risk of boredom. Homeschool co-ops and multi-age curricula are wonderful for homeschoolers much of the time, but parents still need to assess even wonderful tools. If something isn’t working, you need to find out what is wrong before you can fix it. As you are planning classes, I encourage you to consider this sanity saving checklist: 7 Point Sanity-Saving Checklist for Planning Your Homeschool Year

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Raise Real Adults

The teen years are challenging because you are trying to raise adults, not children. It’s an awkward and strange time for a person to feel like an adult half the time and be immature the rest of the day. You want your child to have experiences in the world so they can learn to cope with the situations they will face as an adult. Without experiences as a teen, they will feel insecure as an adult. With the encouragement to become an adult, your child will also learn to act like an adult.
 
My sons each obtained a meaningful job at about 14 years old. This is one of the benefits of homeschooling. You have more flexibility to incorporate employment into your school day. We did school four days a week, allowing the fifth day for them to spend working. Is there something your child has been saying he wants to do? Can you find a situation or a mentor that can help?
 
Some parents have confessed that, while their child wanted to get a job, they couldn’t allow it because they didn’t have time. Without meaningful activities, teens may work on school more slowly because they are bored and frustrated. Avoiding unique opportunities can add to the problem. Therefore, one possible solution might be searching for meaningful, real adult kind of work. Some parents work from home and start to include their children in the work activities. Others encourage work-related activities or seeking mentors.

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Learn to Motivate Your Teens By Discovering What They Love to Do!

How to Cope with Lack of Motivation in Teens
The High School Solution will walk you through the keys to discovering your teens areas of passionate interest. Click or order - $197 for lifetime access!
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The Specialization Solution

The problem may have something to do with a child’s lack of specialization. Young people need something they are good at. They want to be known as "the kid who..." Adults ask each other, "Where do you work?" or “What do you do?” Children want their own thing so they can grow up. The problem is that young adults may not have much exposure to the world and haven't stumbled upon a special interest yet.
 
The solution to a lack of specialization is exposing children to a wide variety of experiences and subjects through a liberal arts education and plenty of time to do new things. I must confess that it can take a long time before something new clicks. Many people suggest speech and debate or political organizations as your child’s first attempt at something new. These activities give them an opportunity to speak their mind and argue (without arguing with their parents) and it can improve their sense of self.
 
Look carefully at lack of specialization as a possible cause. Parents often miss important clues about their child’s interests. One way to identify specialization is to pay attention to what annoys you. You can use your annoy-o-meter to recognize specialization that may be hidden below the surface. This article will help you learn more about Delight Directed Learning for Homeschool Students.
 
Give your child more input on their activities and involvements. Perhaps they should quit Boy Scouts – or not! Instead they may want to quit their sport club. Would your child prefer acting or computer programming instead of the activities you have encouraged?

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Cause and Effect Strategy

When I had toddlers, I spent a lot of time thinking about natural consequences. I wanted to provide real world, cause and effect reasons for my children to behave. Using the same strategy, try to brainstorm ideas that will have a direct cause and effect result in your teenage children. The key is a simple if-then statement presented in a matter-of-fact way.
 
Effective suggestions:
If you text while driving then you are not mature enough to use my car.
If you are too tired to do school then you are too tired to have friends over.
 
Ineffective suggestions:
If you don’t do your work then Mom will throw a fit.
If you don’t sit down, then Dad will go ballistic.

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Unleash the Long-dormant Source of Motivation in Your Teen

Delight Directed Learning Book by Lee Binz
This Coffee Break Book will answer all your questions and get you unstuck. You can find all 40 of my homeschool high school books on my Amazon author page.
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Top 10 Tips for Slug-Slow Teens

When the problem rears its ugly head, sometimes there’s a sassy attitude or angry outbursts. Not always. Some teenagers remain pleasant and generally cooperative, but do everything in a uniquely slow-as-molasses way, with a seemingly complete lack of motivation. I believe this is the leading cause of hair loss in homeschool moms.
 
Plan ahead to deal with your slow-as-molasses teen with these 10 suggestions for dealing with dawdlers. Parents need to make sure to keep expectations reasonable and find balance between active and seated work. Teens need to get enough sleep, so they are alert for their homeschooling work. Developing your plan in priority order, with a backup plan, can help.
 
Each child works at a different speed. Even when working together on a subject or project, individuals do not work at the same pace. Some are goal-driven and eager to finish quickly. Others are perfectionists, methodically plodding to get it right the first time. Both are good characteristics, but only in moderation. As you work with slug-slow teens, you need to recognize the value of their personality characteristics, while shaping and molding their behavior so they don’t get lost in their personality quirks.

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Dealing with Slow Teens
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High Quality Problems

Motivation problems can occur even in wonderful children with great attitudes. My son was always pleasant and cooperative. I remember when he was a terrible two and didn't want to be in the shopping mall. He simply sat down and said, "No thank you, Mommy." He was so obedient and sweet as he politely refused; he was the same way at 14 years old. However, a teenager sweetly saying, "No thank you, Mommy" to a math lesson doesn't work as well. And at that age, they are too big for you to pick them up and remove them from the situation.
 
The problems you have faced (along with many others) may be better problems, or on a completely different plane, than the problems many other parents face. Knowing that your problems are good problems rather than bad problems will only help a little. At the core, it is still a problem that causes stress and anxiety. Knowing you have a good problem isn’t a solution, but perhaps it’s an encouragement.

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Facing Serious Difficulties

Not all problems are high-quality problems. I’ve been around the block a few times, and I know not everything is perfect for homeschool families. Sometimes problems are huge and horrible. What younger parents may not realize is that teenagers can make their own decisions. When they act independently, sometimes they make enormous, horrendous decisions. Worse still, sometimes the consequences of their actions are life-altering.
 
Not all such problems are drug related, but that is a significant and growing issue. Before you face these problems, while your child is still young enough to listen to reason, consider including a health class unit study on pot. While legal in many states, marijuana does have serious negative consequences, especially for teens.
 
Act now, while your child is still living in your home and you can impact their choices. Seek counseling or outside resources if needed. You may find encouragement from Parenting Today's Teens with Mark Gregston. He offers some free resources, including regular podcasts and articles. His free book, Developing Rules & Consequences is a good starting place.
 

If you have progressed beyond a few bad choices and your teen is making ridiculously bizarre or unsafe decisions, place the blame squarely where it resides … with the teen. Then make a conscious decision to evaluate for common yet significant teenage issues. Evaluate for serious problems such as depression, drug or alcohol use, pornography, gambling, bullying, or gaming. We love our children and have worked hard to protect them, but we also live in the real world. Read the 59 warning signs of drug abuse that all parents need to know.
 
Homeschoolers aren’t immune from the culture and, like a communicable disease, we need to know the symptoms. Wishful thinking and effective fervent prayer can’t prevent independent-minded teens from making bad choices. They have the freedom to make their own decisions, no matter how bad those decisions may be.
 
Be aware that internet or digital addiction is like a new drug hazard for this generation. The free video series, Critical Technology Boundaries for Children and Teens includes a six-hour online workshop to help parents to understand tips and strategies for setting effective tech boundaries. The workshop includes three videos with handouts and audio downloads (so you can listen in the car). It is a new world for teens and technology, making parenting that much more challenging. Like brushing their teeth and eating vegetables, we need to instruct our children to make healthy choices with media, too. Read Technologic: How to Set Logical Technology Boundaries and Stop the Zombie Apocalypse.

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35 Reasons Why Your Child Might Not be Motivated

As I've worked with thousands of homeschoolers, I've developed a checklist of reasons why homeschoolers may be lazy, lackadaisical, or unmotivated couch potatoes resistant to learning. Many times, motivation is negatively affected by technology. We used to be told that technology would increase student participation and learning outcomes but now we see the opposite is true. Technology can make it more difficult to read, retain, and remain engaged. As homeschoolers, we need to ensure we have balanced technology in home education.
 
But technology is not the only reason for a lack of motivation. Look over this list of 35 reasons why your child might not be motivated. Open your eyes so you can see the unexpected. The cause could be a physical issue or medical problem. Your parenting could need tweaking or homeschool expectations need to be balanced. It could be one of the serious and life-threating causes that takes sometimes-stealthy discernment.
 
Remember that your homeschool goal is a general love of learning. You can't make your child love math or writing but you can help them not hate it. Don’t coddle them so they avoid their work but establish realistic expectations so they can retain their general love of learning.
 
Need more help? Check out the motivation section in my online resource, the High School Solution.

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How to Cope with Lack of Motivation in Teens
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Bottom Line ...

Right now, your teen may seem to be making a horrendous waste of God-given potential, destined to live the loveless life of a vagabond. In truth though, they aren't.
 
It's a phase.
It will pass.
It's not terminal.

 
Take a deep breath and look objectively at the problem. Identify possible causes and make a plan. Like other homeschooling issues you have faced, you will be able to work through this with prayer, careful planning, and support. If you need additional support, I would love to come alongside to help.
 
Consider joining my Gold Care Club, even if it is only for a month or two. You will be amazed at how quickly a knowledgeable and non-judgmental friend can help you dissect and remedy a difficult situation.

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Homeschool Mom
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