At the start of the school year, many parents are wondering about the best strategies to promote the motivation of teenagers. From primary school to secondary school, the academic motivation tends to decrease among young people. However, parents can play a protective role by getting involved in their lives.
We conducted a study which demonstrates that parental supervision is related to academic motivation during high school.
The Importance of Parent-Teen Talks
During adolescence, parental supervision changes as young people become more independent. Thus, the parents use different behaviors in order to obtain information on their friendships, their educational background and their activities. Among these strategies, parental solicitation seems to be the key to promoting school motivation.
The parental solicitation consists of taking the time to talk with your teenager on a regular basis. Several parents initiate a conversation by asking their child to sit down and tell them how their day at school went.
By giving adolescents the opportunity to express themselves, parents initiate exchanges that increase their independent school motivation. This type of motivation develops when adolescents go to school out of personal interest or because they independently endorse its importance. In other words, parental solicitation promotes adolescents’ desire to commit themselves personally and without pressure to their studies. Our results reveal that beyond what is said during the various conversations, it is the fact of taking the time to discuss with adolescents that increases their autonomous motivation.
Moreover, our study demonstrates that parental solicitation is not significantly associated with controlled school motivation. The controlled motivation refers to various pressures to go to school, such as obtaining a reward or avoiding a punishment. Parental solicitation therefore does not generate additional pressure for adolescents to engage in their studies.
Our study also showed that parental solicitation reduces amotivation, which is defined by a lack of motivation. In this case, the pupils feel that they are wasting their time at school and see no point in it. Amotivation is a precursor to dropping out of school.
Strategies for fostering harmonious discussions
In addition to initiating conversations on a regular basis, there are different strategies for meet the need for autonomy of adolescents and thus, promote harmonious discussions.
Here is some strategies :
Take the adolescent’s perspective and demonstrate empathy;
Allow the adolescent to make their own choices, within established limits
Be sensitive to their needs;
Be open to the adolescent’s thoughts and feelings, even if they are different from our own;
Explain to the adolescent why certain demands are made or why limits are set.
Teenagers can influence their parents
Scientists frequently study the different effects that parental behaviors can have on the development of their adolescents. However, parents adapt their behavior according to the characteristics of their children. It is therefore important to consider the dynamic nature of the parent-child relationship.
In this sense, in our study, we also wanted to examine the potential influences of young people’s academic motivation on parental solicitation. Thus, we found that the more adolescents have an autonomous motivation in the third or fourth year of secondary school, the more the parents increase their parental solicitation the following year. This highlights the fact that the relationship between parent and child is reciprocal, that is to say that the two people influence each other. By talking to their highly motivated teenagers about school, parents can feel competent in their parenting role and feel a connection with their teenager.
On the contrary, our results do not indicate any reaction from parents when their adolescents experience a low level of motivation. It is likely that discussions with teenagers who are not very motivated by school are more difficult and confrontational, which does not encourage parents to initiate more conversations.
Psychological needs, an avenue to explore
Every human being has three basic psychological needs : the need for autonomy, the need for competence and the need for belonging. Talking together could allow adolescents and parents to meet these needs.
As teens spend more and more time away from home, starting a conversation with them can show them that their parents care about them and that they want to know more about their experiences. In addition, frequent discussions may reflect that the relationship between parent and adolescent is warm and generally positive. If so, these conversations can make both parents and teens feel connected, empowered, and competent in their relationship.
Finally, it is important to emphasize that by initiating discussions with their teenagers and taking an interest in their experiences with empathy, parents can play a important role in the school career, but also to promote the well-being of adolescents.