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  • Dawn Spragg

Speak the Behaviour

It’s so easy to remind teenagers about what they are NOT doing and to tell them why they are not doing it. They don't respect their elders. They don't know how hard you have to work to provide for them (and, in fact, they don't). They are lazy. They don't care. They are never going to amount to anything anyway.

These reminders don’t motivate teens. I repeat, they do NOT motivate. They are angry responses to teenagers who are not doing what we would like them to do and they are almost always met with additional angry responses or, at minimum, ATTITUDE.

Teens need discipline. Discipline is about teaching not punishing. So pause and ask yourself, what do you want your teenager to learn from this interaction, and how are you going to get your message out?

First, try to remember that your teenagers response (or lack of) is not personal. It's hard, I know, because it certainly seems like they are deliberately ignoring you/purposely refusing to do what you ask when you ask. (Oh yeah, I forgot to add they are rebellious and disobedient to my earlier list.) But it’s how that darn teenager brain functions now. Teenagers are easily distracted by the things that are important to them and they have difficulty prioritizing others needs. This is a teaching opportunity for you. They can learn empathy when you share how it feels when they ignore you.

Second, motivation does not come from negative and discouraging comments. If you keep telling your teenager what s/he is not doing, you aren’t making what you do want done clear. My encouragement to parents is to speak the behavior you want, not the behavior you don’t want. Instead of "you never clean your room,” try saying, "I would appreciate it if you would clean your room. (Stop rolling your eyes and thinking that would never work with your teen!) Motivating teens to respond comes from positive requests and positive reinforcements.

Motivation can also come from understanding expectations and the consequences of choices. So, you might also try saying to your teenager, “You have 2 choices- you can clean your room and then you will be able to ____________, or you can choose not to clean your room and then you will have to _____________. “

Learning that they have the power to be valuable and appreciated or that they have the freedom to choose, helps promote healthy brain development and keeps you in the motivating zone!

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