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How to take the lead in your family’s educational experience [Free Webinar Recording]

How to take the lead in your family’s educational experience [Free Webinar Recording]

With a new semester already in swing, motivating your teen might be at the top of your mind. Last week, we covered common misconceptions of motivation, as well as what works and what doesn’t when it comes to motivating teens. If you’d like a refresher, you can read our previous blog post here.


Let’s jump right in.

The Motivation Toolbox: How to level up your student's motivation

Step #2: Focus on the subjects and activities where they already excel

The next step is to get creative about finding ways to link the things your student already loves to the subjects where they might be struggling. If their educational experience needs an upgrade, take some time to reflect on this question: What does your student love spending time on?

From there, have a conversation with your student to pinpoint the specific things that excite them about their favorite subjects or activities. What parts light them up the most? Do they love uncovering new storylines in their history class, or solving new problems in math? Or, do they love something that’s not even directly related to schoolwork, like the buzz of beating a new level in a video game?

  • Science of motivation side note: Some students might not seem interested in academics at all. This is usually because they can’t see the connection between learning at school and their natural self-interest.

    To change this, they need to see, read, and experience stories where learning and their self-interest connect.

    For example, think about who they admire, and you will usually find someone who worked hard, studied hard and became great at something. Help your student recognize and appreciate those kinds of stories.

Once you and your student are clear on the specific things that most excite them about their favorite academic subjects, start drawing lines between those things and their parallels in other subjects. For example, if they already love stories, encourage your student to study the lives of great mathematicians. If they love math, call their attention to the logical problem-solving that goes into writing a great essay.

In the case of other activities like video games, you might be worried that your student would rather play all day than do any schoolwork at all. But fear not—there is a way to turn this around. The key is to get creative with your student and brainstorm ways to make their academic successes feel more like the “epic wins” they love when they are playing. Again: find the specific things that light your student up, and carry them over to academics.

Step #3: Support them in uncovering their life’s deep purpose

This step is the crown jewel of your student’s motivation upgrade. In our experience, there’s no more powerful motivator for young students than a deep, profound sense of their life’s purpose. Once your student gains a clear sense of this, it can propel them to push through virtually any academic challenge.

Again, start this step by taking time to reflect on your student. What do you see as their unique genius? What innate gifts set them apart from their siblings or other kids their age? If you had to guess what kind of mark they would leave on the world if they unleashed their full potential, what would it look like?

Next, if you’ve never told your student about your answers to these questions, do exactly that. Your student will light up when you tell them all the great things you see in them. However, once you’re done, leave the door open for them to agree or disagree with your perspective (after all, only they can truly put their finger on what their purpose is).

Science of motivation side note: We like to ask students these three questions to help them discover their purpose:

1) If you could devote your life to changing the world in one way, what would that be?

2) What lifestyle do you want to have someday?

3) What fully absorbs your interest, so much that you forget to eat or do other basic things?

If your student seems reluctant to engage more in this deep conversation, give them some time and space to reflect on this alone. Let them know you’re open to supporting them however you can when it comes to defining their purpose.

Once their sense of purpose eventually clicks, chances are your student’s perspective on schoolwork will shift substantially. They’ll begin to see it as an investment that’s preparing them to bring their purpose to life—which will help them stay motivated even when school is at its hardest.

Wrapping Up: Your Student's Motivation is in their hands

At the end of the day, your student’s level of motivation isn’t up to you. Only they can tune into and activate their own deep sense of intrinsic motivation. However, by applying the practices you’ve learned in this guide, you can point your student in the right direction and support them in unleashing motivation that lasts.

Along the way, it will be normal and natural for your student to fail. They might stumble as they adjust to having more autonomy, still get distracted at times, or lose sight of their bigger purpose. If (and when) anything like this happens, remember that it’s okay. In the long run, your student will only benefit from you letting them learn how to fail and get back on track. (Yes, you’re there to support them, but you don’t need to direct their every move.)



Do you sometimes struggle to keep your kids (or yourself) motivated in school or life? We recently hosted a webinar with tips to help demystify the inner workings of motivation so you can help your student achieve their very best. Nearly all of these tips are applicable to you as a parent, too. Click here to view the webinar recording.



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