Teens aren't always conditioned to see the future consequences of their actions. In fact, they tend to live in the here and now, concerned more with their current circumstances than planning down the road. That can lead to teens who are lazy and unmotivated, much to your dismay. If your teen doesn't seem engaged, whether it comes to schoolwork, sports, a social life or an eventual career, you'll need to understand his current motivations to put them more in line with his future aspirations.
Talk to your teen to find out what motivates him. In an article for Psychology Today, therapist Carl Pickhardt points out that while you can try to motivate your teen, the most effective method is through intrinsic motivation -- the motivation that comes from within. By finding out what's most important to your teen, you can create experiences that help him align his priorities. If he has dreams of going to college, for instance, you could tour campuses to get him excited. Or, if he has a certain job in mind, you could arrange for a job shadow experience to help him see the work that will go into attaining that career.
Give your teen responsibilities in which he can excel. It can seem counter-intuitive to give an unmotivated kid more jobs around the home and in the community, but letting him see that he can accomplish goals through hard work can help him become more motivated. Whether it's taking care of a younger sibling or pet or signing up for a volunteer position in the community, it can help your teen focus on the benefits of work.
Set realistic expectations of the level at which you want your teen to perform. If you expect him to get straight As, talk to him at the beginning of the school year -- not when he's failing at midterm. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development website points out that setting high expectations that your teen has to reach for is more effective than setting low expectations and expecting your teen to fail.
Remove potential distractions that could be derailing your teen's motivation. If he needs to work harder on schoolwork, set a timer where distractions like cellphones, video games and computers are off limits, suggests EmpoweringParents.com. It's a simple way in which you can assist your teen in staying on track.
Allow your teen to be affected by the natural consequences of his lack of motivation. It's tempting to shield your child from negative circumstances, but removing consequences only teaches your teen that he doesn't have to deal with the outcome to his actions -- or lack thereof. If he misses his part-time job, he'll get fired. If he skips class, he'll acquire absences and do poorly on tests and assignments. As he's affected by negative consequences, your teen quickly learns that he needs to put forth an effort to avoid them.