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Help! My Daughter Is Very Immature and Unmotivated

Dear Your Teen:

My 16-year-old daughter is very immature and does not seem concerned about her future like her friends. She doesn’t put much effort into school, to the point that I still need to check if she’s completed her homework and turned it in. If I don’t and she gets a bad grade, she says it’s because she just isn’t as smart as her friends, even though she is.

She’s a very happy, capable, athletic, healthy girl who has no motivation to put her all into anything, except socializing. She’s on a sports team and does ok, but doesn’t put as much into it as she can. I’ve tried to discuss these issues with her, but can’t seem to get through to her. What can I do to help her?

ANSWER | Nicki Salfer

This is what we commonly refer to as “adolescent failure to launch.” Because today’s adolescents are being raised in a society that doesn’t promote independence, often parents have to guide their children in that path.

Teenage Immaturity

It is not just about talking to her. In order to encourage her, you must do more than talk. You should try to reevaluate the family dynamic and the way she earns rewards. The bottom line is you need to help this child become a healthy independent adult, and learn to motivate the unmotivated.

How To Motivate Your Teen and Build Independence

Here are some things to think about:

  • How does she earn money?
  • Have you had an independent educational evaluation to confirm she is capable of doing the schoolwork required of her?
  • What does she do to contribute to the family? What are her chores?
  • Are you and your husband on the same page? Is she hearing a united message?
  • Who is paying for her phone? For her car?

Create a Structure

With children who are not intrinsically motivated, it is vital for the adults in their life to set out a very structured plan for independent living. A structured plan includes the following components:

  1. A way to earn money for doing work such as chores: no giving her money without a detailed plan on how to earn it.
  2. A meeting with both her teachers and high school guidance counselors to set a realistic academic plan for her current studies, as well as her future academic transition plan from high school to college.
  3. A family meeting with both parents, to create a working contract that they all agree on.

You may benefit from a coach who will guide you through this process.

Nicki Salfer, M.A., M.S., is the chief executive of Learning Concepts.

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