Advice Column, Tween & Teen

The Un-Motivated Teenager

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  • Category Advice Column, Tween & Teen

An unmotivated teenager can be frustrating for parents and other authority figures such as teachers. In addition, the teenagers themselves are likely to suffer adverse effects and consequences due to this state of being. It has been said in jest that teens are very motivated but only at doing what they want to do. Nevertheless, when it is your teenager that is un-motivated and seemingly not interested in anything it can become an extremely distressing and stressful time for the entire family.

The de-motivated and un-motivated teen commonly emerges in the academic arena first, or at least this is where the most stress emanates.  This is because school and school-related activities such as studying for tests, completing homework and  assignments takes up the majority of the teenagers time. However, other areas where one can see an un-motivated teen are social activities, sport and home/family commitments.

Sometimes, the terms un-motivated and underachiever are used interchangeably and creates much confusion. However, there can be a clear distinction between the two which is measurable. When one looks at underachievers one has to determine the gap between their actual ability and their results at school. Their actual ability is easily measured by IQ and scholastic testing. This is an important aspect to look at as there are many facets to the discrepancy. It sometimes happens that people like parents and teachers assume that a youngster is very bright, but upon examination discover that they have very high verbal abilities, however this is not matched by their non-verbal abilities resulting in lower grades in various subjects. The true underachiever, is when a youngster is measured to be gifted or have high cognitive abilities as measured by an Intellectual test but this is doesn’t translate to their  academic achievements at school.

Why do some teenagers have no motivation?

The reasons for an unmotivated teenager vary and include some of the following:

  • Low self-esteem;
  • A teen’s peer group has no ambitions and the group may promulgate an attitude that it is  “un-cool” to care about school marks and achieve good grades;
  • Does not care about the consequences of their lack of motivation;
  • Has psychological difficulties such as depression and anxiety or other worries;
  • Does not respect authority and not being motivated is a way to rebel;
  • Is under too much pressure from parents and teachers to achieve;
  • Parents want their teen to achieve their ambitions and not what the teen is interested in;
  • Parents are too strict or too lax with expectations;
  • Pre-occupation with family problems;

What to do if you are concerned about your teen’s lack of motivation?

The psychologists at the Sandton Psychology Centre in Johannesburg suggest the following:

If you are concerned about your teenager’s grades it will be prudent to have an educational assessment if your teen has not previously undergone an assessment.  A full assessment will determine your teen’s learning style as well as any strengths and vulnerabilities and what can reasonably be expected from them academically. In addition, a good educational assessment will also look at a teenager’s emotional well-being to evaluate whether there are any emotional difficulties that are hampering their progress or motivation.

A career assessment may be necessary if the teen does not know what he /she is going to do with their future, as they may feel “lost” and therefore un-motivated to reach their academic goals.

Psychotherapy and counseling may be beneficial in terms of helping adolescents with their motivation. In addition, study skills and addressing learning styles will be beneficial in helping youngsters. (Learning styles are determined by educational assessments).

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