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November 2012 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Manhattan Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family / Teens

Inspire your teen

Dear Dr. Karyn

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Dear Dr. Karyn,

While my daughter tries a little at school, my son seems completely disengaged and uninspired. I have tried everything to motivate my kids, and I’m feeling really anxious. Since you work so much with teens, what have you learned that helps to inspire teens (especially boys)?

Dear Parent,

Strategy one: be the inspiration

Try to be honest with yourself. Are you an inspiring person? Do you love your life? Do you love who you are? Are you happy with how you are using your gifts? Inspiration is powerful and contagious. Spend time with an “inspiring” person and most of us just feel better, energized, and more alive. The key to inspiring our kids is that we ourselves need to work on inspiring ourselves first. We can preach about being inspirational, but without living it our words are flat, and our teens will tune us out.

So how can we tap into our own inspiration? Be clear about what it is you want to do this year and what character traits you want to work on in yourself. Just last Monday, I decided to dedicate a full day for my dreams and goals for the remaining part of 2012 (I don’t do that nearly enough). By the end of the day, I was fully energized, focused, and excited for this fall! It helped clarify what I need to say “yes” to and, more importantly, what I need to say “no” to so I can protect those goals.

Remember that kids and teens love to see their parents love their lives. Your inspiration will be contagious for them!

Strategy two: talk about dreams (not goals)

Most teens (especially boys) do not like the word “goals” (it reminds them too much of school). This is one of the key reasons why my popular leadership event for teens is called “Dare to Dream” (and not “Dare to Set Goals”). Many people have dreams — it’s the big picture — the snap shot for how they want their lives to turn out. Goals are more specific and too often teens associate goals with a specific subject in school. So try asking your teen about his dreams, such as: “What are some of the dreams you have in your life?”

Ask him about his dreams related to traveling, volunteer work, family, or money. Try to bring up school and career dreams at the end. And while many teens have dreams, some may not (they may be afraid to allow themselves to dream). If so, simply be patient and bring it up again with them in a few weeks.

Strategy three: surround him with inspirational people

One of my favorite books is called “The Power of Focus.” In this book, the author talks about the importance of surrounding yourselves with inspirational people, movies, biographies, and books.

So tune into what your teen is interested in. What movies does he like to watch? Who are his role models? Can you get the biographies (TV or video) of one of his role models sharing about their lives’ journey? Or do you have aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, or other people in your life that your teen would find inspiring? If so, try to facilitate them spending time together. Something this simple could be all it takes to ignite his inspiration.

Updated 7:00 pm, October 28, 2016
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