By Wendy Harron - April 30, 2014

Motivation: How to Motivate a Teenager!

Motivation: How to Motivate a Teenager!


Lets face it, when a teen first hears about Interactive Metronome®, you get the sighs, eye rolling, etc. It doesn’t sound appealing to them, and even if it did, they wouldn’t admit it. Teens can be a tricky population to work with, as they are striving to be separate from their parents and other adults. You really have to win them over.


It starts from the moment you evaluate them. Once again, take a moment to get to know them! It will help you out a lot, even from the first clap. Do they like sports? Are they interested in learning to drive? Is music and dance their thing? Video games? Just try to get an idea so you can make your conversation with them more personal. This will help in your treatment planning as well. I find that talking about the athletes who have used IM is a hit with everyone; you can go on the website to find out more about that. I will say things like, “I wonder if Vjay Singh was able to get that score right away, you are doing awesome!” Interjecting tidbits of positive reinforcement may be all it takes to start your working relationship with them. Also, I never talk about number scores during the first visit; that can be very discouraging. I show the parents where their teen should be, but don’t talk about numbers with the teen. I like them to work on beating their own score.


Internal motivation may come out naturally in the teen population. If you can provide feedback that links directly to their interest—better at sports, improved reaction time for driving, better at playing their instrument, improved dancing ability—you can reel them in pretty quickly. If they don’t feel a purpose, you may get a lot of flack or the “whatever” attitude. I like to use a leaderboard in my IM room. Kids write their first name, age and what “level” they are on (number of in a rows it takes to get 1 burst) on the board. They keep adding to their total each visit and it’s very motivating to see their totals climb. Some just compete with themselves, and others try to beat fellow users’s scores. It’s a simple, but motivating tool.


Some teens are also motivated to create their own exercises. We do “marathon” tasks where we set the reps in the thousands and they have to keep track of the reps ( say every 200 reps) so they can switch to another activity without missing a beat. I give them choices such as a computer task, complex motor task, manipulative game, etc. and they feel they are planning and in control of the task.


I try not to dwell on the negative. If they beat an old score, great! If not, we talk about how the task was more complex in some way or how distractions are becoming a challenge. Keeping things upbeat and positive will keep the teen on your side. I also never make myself the bad guy. They are making choices (although it is from tasks that I know are what I’d like them to accomplish) and they are being challenged by the computer…so, it’s the computers fault!


External motivation may also come into play with your teen. I have had kids earn video game time, a movie ticket, driving time and, yes, even money (albeit, from their parents). I’ve found that they also enjoy candy on occasion as well. Some of my teens are so hungry after school I tell them to bring a snack! Who says you can’t do activities such as tapping heels and toes while munching on a bag of popcorn? Or when they are peeling and eating a banana? It is good practice multi-tasking if you ask me!


Whether it is internal or external motivation that works for your teen population, this is your chance to make a very positive impact on a teen during an awkward time in their life. It is an opportunity for one-on-one time which they don’t willfully give to most adults! Take the time to build up their self confidence, work within their interests and give them lots of praise. These simple things have made teens much more positive about coming in for IM in my clinic, and hopefully will in yours too!


For more info on motivating children, check out some of Wendy’s other blogs.


Motivation and Success


Motivation: How to Motivate 7-11 year-olds


Motivation: How to motivate the very young

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