How Do We Motivate Our Teenager?
We have a highly intelligent but unmotivated fifteen year old boy, and getting him to take school seriously is damn near impossible. No matter how many times we try to sit him down and explain the far reaching consequences of not taking school seriously, he just won’t hear it. The sad part, as I mentioned before, is he is highly intelligent and if he were to just buckle down and try he would be pulling in straight A’s. I think if I knew he was not all that bright I could handle the grades he is bringing home now. The question is how do we motivate him, and get him to see that his actions now will affect him many years down the road?
We have asked him several times what he wants to do when he gets older, and he has said since the age of seven he wants to be in the military, beyond that he has no real career goals. I am sure this is normal, but you would think he could at least throw out a few different ideas. He seems to only be interested in football, working out, video games, and television/movies. I do consider us lucky that he is into these things, and not doing the horrible things I was doing at his age, but I know he can accomplish so much more than his mom and I ever could have.
We have talked to him about joining the ROTC program, where he goes to boot camp over the summer and is officially enlisted at the age of sixteen. This way he is already two years in before he even graduates. Apparently the way the program works he is able to go to college without ever being deployed. If he enjoys the service he could become a lifer and retire with full military pension and benefits. I think this could be his best road to success. If it were up to me all my kids would join the service before they head off to college.
I want the best for my children, and the last thing I want for them is to endure the struggle and stress that we have to go through due to our poor decision making. I do not want them to be thirty years old living with regrets of missed opportunities. He is only fifteen and completely unable to see the big picture which I am sure is very normal. We have tried almost everything to punish him for his poor grades, but he just adapts to the punishment and waits it out. When his grades in math and science began to slip in 7th grade, we took his games away it motivated him the first few times but after awhile it didn’t do anything. What seems to light a fire under his ass is when we do not allow him to go to weight training. We hate to use this because this is one of his healthy activities. Like most parents I just wish our words would get through to him. You always want your kids to learn from your mistakes, to take your words of wisdom to heart and believe and trust you enough that they listen so intently and perfectly. Getting a teenage boy to see how his Algebra 2 and science grades now, can affect his status and financial life in ten years is not possible.
My wife and I disagree on what steps we should take to try and rectify this problem. I believe if he continues to bring home bad grades, and continues to show an “I don’t give an F” attitude towards school, we need to bring the hammer down on him. I remember reading or listening to a show one time on parenting. The speaker was saying when you run into major issues with your children you need to “show” them all the things they have that they do not need. When you take these things away such as TV, internet, and video game privileges they will be motivated to rectify the problem so they can get their privileges back. As I mentioned earlier we have taken away his games, and this motivated him, but he quickly learned if we take the video games away he still has the television, iPod Touch, and internet. He uses these as substitutes when one is taken away. In my opinion the only way to drive the message home is to cut him off from all of these things, until he is able to right the ship. Our goal is to get him to spend more time studying so his grades can improve, but if he is allowed to continue to have these distracters in his life, he will never make it a priority to do these things.
My wife on the other hand believes that if we resort to such tactics, it will set off a chain reaction of rebellion. She also feels that even if we took these things away, because of his stubbornness he will accept the punishment, and still refuse to do the work needed. I sure I did not properly convey her exact feelings, which I hope she will clarify in the comments section.
Nicole has always taught him since a very young age, to be proud of whom you are, to not worry about pleasing others, but to stick to what you believe to be right and wrong, and to stand true to yourself. These are all wonderful lessons, but this has backfired on us, as he sure does stand true to what he believes in, “I will never use any of this stupid stuff anyway so what’s the point” damn kid.