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Motivating your 15-year-old       Send a link to a friend

[FEB. 18, 2005]  Q: We have a very smart 15-year-old daughter. She has always been on the honor roll, an excellent athlete and just an all-around great kid -- until this year! Now she never studies. She doesn't even care what grades she gets. What can we do?

A: You're right to understand that when it comes to success, it isn't just a matter of how smart your daughter is or how much talent she has. If she doesn't have the desire to succeed, she probably won't succeed -- in school or in anything else! Many teens need a boost in motivation. Here are some ways you can help.

Talk with your daughter about what you've observed. But don't try to lecture her. Most 15-year-olds already think that they're smarter than their parents, and she'll probably tune you out.

Ask your daughter about her goals. What does she see herself doing in 10 years? Keep in mind that her goals for herself may be different from yours. Make sure they're goals, though, and not dreams. If she wants to swim in the Olympics but never goes to practice, she has a dream. Only if she takes action to make the dream a reality can she call it a goal. Talk about how her education will help her achieve her goals.

Give her these tips:

  • Have her list her goals. When goals are on paper, they seem more real. Have her post her goals where she can see them and suggest putting a copy next to the TV set. When she's about to turn on the TV, she'll see her list and she may realize that watching a rerun on TV won't help her make the team or pass the test.

  • Help your daughter visualize success. Successful people, from Michael Jordan to Albert Einstein, have all done the same thing. They visualized themselves being successful, seeing themselves in their mind's eye making the basket or solving the problem. Before a big test, suggest that she try to imagine herself sitting in the classroom, calmly looking at the test paper, knowing the answers and making a good grade. It won't replace studying, but it will keep her motivated to hit the books again -- and do her best on the test.

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  • Have her start every study session with the subject she likes least. If she hates studying foreign language vocabulary, have her get it out of the way first. Once it's over, the rest of the study session will seem more enjoyable.

As your daughter walks out the door for school every day, offer her words of encouragement. Say "I love you" and "I believe in you." Tell her that you know she will try her best.

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For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question to The Learning Advisor, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2005, The Parent Institute.

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free syndicated column available through The Parent Institute.

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