Psychology of Parenting
Using Brain Science to Motivate Teenagers to Study

Using Brain Science to Motivate Teenagers to Study

It’s an age-old question: how can you get an adolescent to study in a way that doesn’t backfire? Motivation is mediated by a complicated mechanism in the brain.

Conventional techniques, such as simple positive reinforcement or punishment (fear conditioning), are only effective for a short time, if at all. They frequently backfire, leading in lower motivation in children. Learn how to genuinely encourage an adolescent so that they may acquire the proper motivation to study.

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Motivation & The Brain

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is linked to motivation.

When we have pleasant experiences, such as winning a video game or getting congratulated, our dopamine levels rise. Low dopamine levels, on the other hand, are connected with a lack of motivation and boredom.

A high dopamine level might result in increased motivation. It is the key to your adolescent’s motivation.

It is quite simple for dopamine levels to decrease during the adolescent years. So, before we raise them, we need to keep them from falling.

Stress & The Adolescent Brain

Dopamine’s adversary is stress. Even modest chronic stress might induce a drop in dopamine levels.

While children’s brains expand quickly during puberty and adolescence, their enhanced flexibility makes them vulnerable. The brain of a teen is more susceptible to stress.

Chronic stress, also known as toxic stress, is bad for everyone at any age, but it’s especially bad for teenage brains because it can induce irreversible abnormalities in brain development. Toxic stress can cause a smaller brain and harm to the brain’s learning, memory, and concentrating centres in severe situations.

Toxic stress during this time period also leads to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and drug misuse, which are common during adolescence.

Teenagers are not just more vulnerable to stress, but they are also more reactive and emotional.

As a result, teens might quickly lose desire to study and become upset in response to seemingly innocuous demands to complete schoolwork. In some ways, they can’t help themselves. During this time, their drive and emotional regulation are extremely weak.

How to Motivate Teenagers to Study

Here’s how to persuade a teenager to study and motivate them.

Reduce Stress

Stress not only does not motivate, but it can also harm your childrens brain development. The most effective thing parents can do to encourage their adolescents to study is to reduce stress in their life.

Unfortunately, one of the most prevalent sources of chronic stress for teens is their parents. You’ve already told your child a million times what they should do. More reminders cause your child undue worry.

Here are some of the chronic stresses you can avoid.

  • Stop fussing about schoolwork all the time.
  • Don’t constantly bringing up college to them.
  • Don’t penalise them for bad grades or failing to do their assignments.
  • There will be no more staying on their cases at all times.

Build Relationship

One of the most potent motivators is relatedness. It’s the sense of belonging and connection with someone who genuinely cares.

Teenagers that are unmotivated frequently have poor ties with their parents. Motivate them by repairing the bond and becoming a source of strength rather than stress in your teen’s life.

Creating a healthy parent-child connection is similar to building any other relationship. Would you want to be in a relationship where you are always being ordered around and mistreated, and where you are always on the wrong side of things while the other person is always right?


Trust and respect are the foundations of a good, positive relationship.

We are preparing our childrens to become adults. When you disagree with them, talk to them like adults and debate it with them.

A close, loving, and welcoming connection with one’s parents is the most powerful predictor of future success. It provides a solid basis for your teen’s future success.

Build Support

Teens who believe they have control over their activities are more motivated, according to Self-Determination Theory, established by psychology and motivation experts Deci & Ryan at the University of Rochester.

When children, especially teens, feel dominated or pushed to study, they are unable to be motivated. They must be willing to learn in order to be motivated to do so.

It may appear to be backwards, yet it is correct.

When teens are given the freedom to choose what activities they want to participate in, they will be self-motivated to pursue things that they value.

The goal is to assist them in internalizing the reasons for studying. Children, particularly teens, internalize the values of people to whom they feel attached.

“I need to study because if I don’t, I’ll be punished.”

“I need to study because learning is essential to my mother, and so it is important to me.”

Which is the most convincing reason?

However, in order to do so, you must first complete step #2, which is to rebuild a strong relationship.

Giving your kid a healthy feeling of control also implies that they will become accountable for things they should be responsible for. Schoolwork should be the duty of your adolescent, not yours. So put them in the driver’s seat and give them the reins.

The most significant incentive is autonomy. According to studies, even if you fulfil all of the other elements on this list, your adolescent will not be genuinely driven to study if he or she lacks a sense of control.

Help Master

According to the Self-Determination Theory, a sense of competence can boost motivation. When your kid tackles a job that is simple enough for them to finish yet complex enough for them to feel challenged, he or she will gain a sense of mastery.

Helping teens grasp their schoolwork may boost their self-esteem as much as their competence.

If a subject is too difficult, it will be difficult to be inspired to pursue something you are not excellent at. If your adolescent is suffering with schoolwork because they are underperforming, try hiring a tutor to assist them. Make sure the tutor is someone to whom your child can connect, since they will be able to encourage your adolescent via similarity.

If your childrens schoolwork is too simple, search for extra classes or resources for him or her to work on. In any event, include them in the decision-making process so they feel in charge of their studies.


Exercising is one method for teenagers to boost their dopamine levels. Physical activities can aid in the regulation of dopamine release in the brain.

Furthermore, exercise can boost adolescent mood and mental well-being. Exercise has also been linked to improve (growth mindset)d cognitive performance and brain plasticity. A higher mood helps connection building, and improve (growth mindset)d brain functioning facilitates the teenager’s mastery.

You can’t go wrong with some daily physical activities to improve (growth mindset) your teen’s health and drive to learn.

Motivate A Teen To Study

Motivation is difficult since the human brain is one of the most complex systems on the planet. Scientists are beginning to get a better grasp of technology as it progresses. As we learn more about how the brain functions, our parenting techniques should evolve as well.


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