Motivating Your Teens

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
– Reinhold Niebuhr

On the parents’ end, much frustration is also faced. Hear from our staff, Stephanie Tan, who is also a mother of two — a 16-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter.

Stephanie, when her children were 16 and 14 years old (2006)

Qn: Do you find yourself unconsciously nagging at your kids? How do you apply “Positive nagging”, i.e. effective, amiable reminders?

Stephanie: It is quite difficult, actually — I see them as reminders, my children see them as “nagging”!

Qn: What has worked for you as a parent, and what has proven to be “unworkable”?

Stephanie: Prayer works! Also, taking time to explain to my children that principles need to be upheld while methodologies are negotiable, living out what I preach, and being willing to wait for a change in heart and mind.

It is not enough just to motivate my children in their weak areas, but also in their areas of strength. My daughter, who is good in her studies, once lamented, “There’s no motivation for me to do well since you don’t seem to appreciate my academic results!” By this, she was referring to a material reward for doing well.

I thought long and hard about this and eventually concluded that while we celebrate our children’s successes, I would have to impress upon them the following mindset from time to time:

Stephanie went on to share her own experience as a mother in applying three biblical principles.

Walk the Talk— Reminding without words

The approach my husband and I take stems from our desire to exemplify the values and habits we believe in. For example, both my husband and I are avid readers; we both spend many hours reading and browsing at bookshops. Needless to say, our kids grew up loving to read. But there can be exceptions— tidiness, for one, never caught on with them! An even more important value we hope our children will catch is our belief in God’s Word, which governs all our walk and talk with our children.

Learning, Serving & Praying together

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 instructs parents to teach their children to love and obey the Lord and His Word. This command presupposes that we, as parents, know God’s Word for ourselves first. It helps that I was my children’s Sunday school teacher for many of their primary school years. My husband and I also participate in an ongoing inductive bible study. Once a year, our family makes it our priority to attend a Christian seminar to continually refocus on God. On a more regular note, despite many failed attempts, we managed to restart a Sunday night family devotion. It’s been two months and we are still learning many practical lessons from the parables of Jesus— praise the Lord!

We also pray very often as a family— not just before meals and before bedtime, but we also regularly bring our needs and thanksgiving items before the Lord. This has taught the children the need to depend on God and to turn to Him for guidance and strength.

Family mission trips and serving the Lord as a family also help to nurture a lifestyle of serving.

Leaving the Result in God’s Hand

There are certainly areas in which I reckon I have failed in motivating my children despite setting an example and doing it with them! Coming back to the issue of tidiness, they tell me, “Mum, we have a different standard! As long as we can remember where we keep our stuff (no matter how messy), it is tidy enough!”

This seems to be a losing battleground! Nagging has certainly proved to be less than effective.

Our standards also differ in what constitutes “sufficient time” for studies or how it should be done. Doing homework in front of the TV while chatting online, while blasting music all at the same time — I have to conclude my children are different from me in their ways of studying! So long as the work gets done, I learn to meet them halfway— close my ears, eyes and shut the door of their bedrooms!

After all, parenting is like discipling our own children, as described in 1 Corinthians 3:5-7:

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

Only the Lord can change our children’s hearts and minds.

Reinhold Niebuhr summed it up beautifully:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

A Final Word

In a conversation with my kids, I asked how we as parents have fared in motivating them. And my children attributed the source of motivation to God— not us! Humbling but true, and what a relief, really!

Motivating Your Teens

In The Shoes of a Teen

In our ministry to young people, the word we often hear from them is “sian”, which means “boredom” in Hokkien. How can young people be bored when there are never-ending activities in school, countless courses to take, and unlimited entertainment options? The reasons vary for different teenagers:

“It’s a daily routine and it’s very boring.”

“Lazy lah.”

“No mood to do things.”

Probing deeper, many young people know the significance of studies, homework, exercise, doing household chores, spending time with the family, etc. Christian youths by and large know the importance of spiritual disciplines such as bible reading, prayer and evangelism. Yet, however needful and important such disciplines appear to be, our young people are generally lacking in motivation.

Through a Parent’s Eyes

As parents, we have to frequently nudge our children out of this unmotivated state, although this may be met with much inertia.

“Busy lah! I’ll do it at my own time.”

“I grown up already, know how to think. Don’t need 24 hours nagging.”

“Please don’t pressure me. I’ve got enough stress in school.”

“Aiya, like no freedom.”

“But I don’t like to do it.”

A recent photo of Stephanie and her family (L-R): Joel, Stephanie, Claire, and Stephanie’s husband, Timothy

Stephanie Tan, Executive Director of SYFC

posted on March 24 2016