How to Motivate Your Teenager to Dream Big

how to motivate your teenager

When you read, “How to Motivate Your Teenager to Dream Big” did you feel a twinge of overwhelm?

Can you do something before you read further?

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Raise your right hand and say, “I will use this post for inspiration as I continue to do my best to raise my teenagers. I will not allow myself to have thoughts like, ‘oh no – something else to add to my growing list of things I’m NOT doing.’”

Choose inspired, not overwhelmed.

Even if we select one small idea to try with our teens, it can make a profound difference. Let’s not attempt all ten. Our shoulders would tense up and we’d burn out by the weekend, okay?

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Now that we have that out of the way…

I recently attended a workshop where Canadian technology and trends expert Amber MacArthur presented. She told the story of a frustrated Mom. She begged Amber to convince her teenage son you can’t make a living playing computer games.

Amber explained she couldn’t do that because you actually can make a living playing games. A solid living. Apparently one of the top gamers collects over half a million. Dollars. Per MONTH.

When we talk about encouraging our teenagers to dream big, this is not exactly what we have in mind, right?

so, how do we motivate our teenagers to dream big?

We want our teenagers to have goals. To find their career, their calling or a combination of both. We want them to find purpose and engagement.

Which comes more easily to some teenagers than others.

Some seem to choose their career path early on. They map out next steps including building a portfolio, volunteering in a related area and gathering references.

To many others, decisions about the future are much less clear. If your teenager needs a nudge towards dreaming big, here are a few practical suggestions to help you start.

How to motivate your teenager

1) nudge them out the door

It’s pretty difficult to dream big if you spend most of your time in a predictable routine within four walls.

Ever the pragmatist, John C. Maxwell writes:

If your teenager has not held a job yet, this may be a great place to start. Not motivated? You may need to limit any outpouring of cash, until said teenager realizes the value of employment.

My son’s friend told us the other day, “My parents are willing to pay Walmart prices for any clothes I want. If I want anything nicer, I have to pay the difference.”

[cue balloons and streamers for wise parents]

There are so many lessons teens can learn from having a job, and this might be a great place to start.

2) get practical

Are your teenagers hands-on learners? They may not naturally gravitate towards book knowledge or a traditional path of education.

For these kids, help them take practical ideas to the next level.

Watching our eldest launch his small business at age 14, has been amazing. He solves a keenly felt pain point for young Moms in particular. They ask, “How will I ever have a clean vehicle since my children smush goldfish crackers into the van carpet?” He brings the mobile cleaning to their driveway. Win-win.

I won’t be surprised if he starts a national franchise of Car Cleaning Teens one day. But in order to dream big, he had to first roll up his sleeves and get scrubbing.

Read for ideas on launching your own teenage entrepreneur:

3) send your kid to work with someone else

I love the premise of Take Your Kid to Work Day. Since I work from home, my kids try to convince me to let them shadow me – probably so they can stay in their pyjamas.

This work day is a great idea if your child is interested in following a path similar to Mom or Dad. But if she is interested in other fields, be creative and broaden your search.

Think about people in your circle and consider who might allow your teen to shadow them.

  •  a relative
  • a neighbour
  • a close family friend

A few minutes of brainstorming can lead to surprising opportunities for your teen. We realized we know a headhunter, an assistant to a bank president, a resource teacher, a lawyer, an electrician, a musician and a chef.

One of our teens recently shadowed my sister in her Kindergarten class. He convinced the children his name was Mr. Orange and connected well with the students using his quirky humour. It meant a lot to him that they still asked for him weeks later.

Ask your teen to learn a bit about a few unique jobs. Offer a prize for the craziest job they can find.

When you are out, discuss who would work behind the scenes to make our cities function. Who is responsible for traffic lights? Who determines where playgrounds will be built? What profession designs buildings and who oversees their construction? What would you study to create advertisements on billboards? Everyday conversations can inspire.

4) find events to inpire big dreams

This is my favourite challenge. Time to get creative and resourceful.

Search online and in local Facebook groups for unique opportunities to inspire your teenager. Our city offers:

  • local college events (ex. open houses displaying projects, drama/musical performances)
  • libraries (ex. author talks, graphic novel illustrator visits)
  • business networking opportunities (ex. local breakfast meetings, workshops)

Or look for an outdoor leadership opportunity like this one.

I took my son and his friend to a Dragon’s Den competition at a local college, called Unlock Your Big Idea. We watched 9 teams compete for three $10,000 prizes. After each presentation, the boys evaluated the quality of each pitch, the business plan and the viability of each product.

These lessons are not learned from textbooks.

If your teenager shows resistance to your most excellent ideas, remember – you gave birth to him.

5) connect your teen with a mentor

Know any older college students or young adults your teenager looks up to? Would they be willing to discuss their big dreams and steps they took to get there?

If they are a few steps ahead of your teen, they will still remember the weight of having to make big decisions about schooling and career paths. Their perspective is invaluable.

My friend’s son has offered to take my son on a personalized college visit. Tour a campus with a college artist or MOM? #nocontest

Conferences can also provide mentorship for teenagers. Research conferences together to determine if the investment is worth it. Eva Baker, teeange author at Teens Got Cents, inspires teens to reach financial goals. She shares her lifechanging experiences from attending a popular Financial Conference Expo in this article: Do Teens Need a Mentor?

Mentoring is a powerful tool to help young people take actionable steps towards their big dreams.

6) send them to another country

No, not permanently (even if it’s tempting on a rough day)

My friend Cassandra has launched GameOnCamps.com around the world. Each of her children have travelled with her to run sport camps in the Ukraine and India for underprivileged youth who have never had the opportunity to play sports. She dreams of scholarships and Olympic medals for these youth, especially the girls. Cassandra’s children are learning to dream big as they help their Mom change lives.

Many parents suggest every high school student should visit a third-world country before graduation.

Love this video clip from these parents of Switchfoot brothers and authors of Never Say No about helping our teenagers be “pushed to the edge of themselves.”

My friend Cassandra has launched GameOnCamps.com around the world. Each of her children have travelled with her to run sport camps in the Ukraine and India for underprivileged youth who have never had the opportunity to play sports. She dreams of scholarships and Olympic medals for these youth, especially the girls. Cassandra’s children are learning to dream big as they help their Mom change lives.

Many parents suggest every high school student should visit a third-world country before graduation.

Love this video clip from these parents of Switchfoot brothers and authors of Never Say No about helping our teenagers be “pushed to the edge of themselves.”

Research opportunities that would suit your teen’s giftings and budget. We are in the process of doing this with our teenagers. Some schools offer global trips for high school students, or you may consider a reputable missions organization.

Note to self: Get passports for our whole family so we are ready.

7) research inspiring stories of teenagers

Have a Dream Big day. Ask your kids to each find a cool story of someone who was young and learned to dream big. Share the stories as a family.

Ted Talks are a great place to start. Instead of watching a movie as a family, why not watch a few Ted Talks or read inspiring articles. Perfect for dinner conversation.

My personal favourite is this story about Campbell Remess who committed to MAKING one teddy bear every day to donate to hospitals. His mom tries to shoo him off his sewing machine to play X-Box once in a while! At twelve years old, he has already made 800 bears.

Here are some stories to begin:

Talks by Brilliant Kids and Teens.

3 Brilliant Inventions from a 12-year-old Scientist

Natalie Barne, age 18, works at Invisible Children

Adora Svitak, a prolific short story writer since age 7

Google Thinks These 18 Teenagers Will Change the World

8) follow your own big dreams as parents

When my children were little, my biggest dream was trying to squeeze in a 15-minute nap each day. That was not the ideal stage for me to pursue my dreams.

But now that they are getting older, there are more opportunities to pursue my dream of writing and serving other Moms. Here’s the back story to my recent “Doing it Scared” recording of my first ever podcast.

I’m keenly aware that my boys are watching this journey as their old{ish} Mom learns how to use WordPress, code in HTML, edit images and explore new opportunities. I believe I’m modelling dreaming big and doing it scared!

My fan club of man cubs is cheering me on with each accomplishment at Lightly Frayed, and hopefully learning to pursue their own dreams.

9) have adventures

Need to help your teenager expand their horizons? Find an adventure to go on together. Even an afternoon spent enjoying nature can energize us. Ideas to get you started:

  • Go ziplining
  • Go on a hike
  • Follow a geocaching challenge
  • Try a new sport

Spend some time looking down at the city from the highest point you can find.

Out of all these suggestions, this one is convicting me the most. Time to get outside boys…

10) foster learning

John Maxwell’s parents paid their children to read books they had carefully selected. And these books became family discussion points.

Encourage your teenager to read books that discuss living with purpose. Who better to write a book on this topic than John Maxwell himself? One book review states:

Maxwell gives practical guidance and motivation to get you started on your unique personal path to significance. Learn how to find your why, start small but believe big, and live every day as if it matters–because it does!

Maxwell’s 11-year-old son wrote him a note that said:

Dad, as I finished reading this book I have come to the conclusion that my attitude, more than anything else will determine my success in life.

His faith-based writing inspires teens to see beyond themselves. So when John Maxwell recommends a book, I listen.

He recommends parents give their kids these books:

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With four boys, I definitely understand how busy life can be. When I write these articles, I write them first to myself.

To remind me to pause and zoom out for a moment.

To take small steps towards an important goal.

I hope this inspires all of us to be intentional about preparing our teenagers to dream big – one adventure at a time.

And in the meantime, let’s start with getting them to pick up their socks…

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How to motivate your teenager to dream big!

This article originally appeared at LightlyFrayed.com.


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Karen Gauvreau
Karen Gauvreau would gladly squeeze her four-baby-body into a cheerleading outfit if it meant you knew someone was rooting for you as a Mom. She would cartwheel for your victories and offer a pep talk when you are getting pummelled. She wants every Mom to feel understood and valuable for their sacred role. And if she makes you laugh in the process, even better. You can find her over at Lightly Frayed, parenting four boys ages 5 to 16 with hope and humour {most days}. Catch her writing at www.lightlyfrayed.com,