Lostparent asks:

How can I get my teen to express his goals?

My son will turn 18 next month, and I feel I failed somewhere. He only wants to play on the computer, or xbox. Pays no attention to his grades, and never goes out with friends. He is introvert. He wants to be  a marine biologist, but he has bad grades because he is lazy, hates my husband, and thinks he will become a biologist without working for it. I don't know how to talk to him anymore. He gets defiant. He always has a reason or excuse, most of the time blaming me or my husband. How can I motivate him to work a littler harder and show he has inspiration for something?
Member Added on Jan 31, 2011
We have put together a list of chores (that he was already doing) and times these chores had to be done by (because this is our time, not his anymore). Homework is done at 6:30 at the kitchen table and I sat with him all last week. No tv, no computer, no games. He must earn privileges back. He did good all last week, had a better attitude, and got the computer back (his choice). Still no TV, or xbox. Now if he continues he can get others back. In addition, we want him to get out of the house more. So we told him an extra reward on the weekend would be to go skiing, or the mall, etc and we would pay for it. So far so good. I will try to keep you posted. He must get all A's this semester to pass. So pray for me that I will be strong to keep it going.
In Topics: Motivation and achievement at school, Teen issues, Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago



Allyn Anderson
Jan 31, 2011
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What the Expert Says:

Teenagers can become quite independent in their thinking and actions regardless of reality. However, it is reasonable to expect courteous behavior. Sometimes listing things that are going well and things that are not, and then asking your son to do the same, will help you focus on one are of particular concern. Both of you then identify only one thing from your lists to discuss (consider choosing one thing to change each week or every two weeks) --- yelling doesn't count neither does using the words, "you should." Talk in a neutral location. Allow each side to express the basic concern and state the desired action. For instance, I need help after dinner. Would you like to take out the trash or do the dishes? If argumentative behavior starts, stop. Restate neutrally what is needed. When time for after dinner clean-up arrives, restate the choice. If no commitment is shown, then verbally choose one and do it. Leave the other undone for your son to do. Don't fuss, but continue the "new" routine. For instance, you choose to take out the trash and leave the dishes undone. If you run out of plates and silverware, remind your son that dishes need to be done for the next night's dinner; if not, both you and your husband will need to go out to dinner, since there are not clean dishes. Do so if needed, and leave your son to fare for himself.

If your son doesn't begin to share in the responsibility of the household within the week, consider contacting a private counselor and working out a plan with that individual. Plus, since a computer, Xbox, cell phones, etc. are "elective" electronics, consider locking them in your trunk until your son takes a more active role in the family. Remember, from a teenager's perspective, he/she can't choose his/her parents, so "everything" you do may be perceived as old fashioned and something to "rebel" against. But, be patient and calm. When he turns 25, he'll begin to think you are really smart people again.  

If you can, encourage your son to find a part-time job or volunteer to work at an established business, such as a rest home, hospital, or landscaping nursery. (Your son may need help locating a place and will need your help.) Surprising how a little bit of physical work helps one rethink some of one's choices.  

Hopefully, this will help to get you started!

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Additional Answers (1)

CJA829 writes:
Hi Lostparent,

Transitioning, or about to, out of high school is a difficult time -for everyone involved. It seems like there may be several challenges on your son's plate, but I'll focus on your interest in motivating him towards what goals he has expressed.
Maybe you can start with finding any aquatic zoos, nature preserves or big aquariums that might be near you, or, if you're not near a coast, even organizations focused on lakes or river systems and offer to take your son. While you're there try to get a conversation started w/ one of the staff or see if there's an interesting presentation. Even contacting environmental/biology professors at your local community college or university campus could be a great source of information for you to find places or events to go that engage your son - or potentially find people he feels are like-minded and he might talk to with some prompting.
Clean ups and volunteering events, interesting places and aquariums places can at least give him an opportunity to meet other people, and he has a chance to talk to sources outside of you and your husband about the reality (and the fun) of being a marine biologist, and in general: attaining goals and finding a passion for something you do.
I feel like at events like shoreline cleanups and other volunteering opportunities there are people who are there because they love it or have a passion for what they're doing. It's a little contagious, and maybe it will get your son to reflect and act.
Below I also included a link to an article about teens and motivation.

I hope this helps!

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