3 Ways to Motivate Any Student
I have discovered two things so far on my journey, that we can only control what we give to others and what we accept from others.
Who we are and where we want to go (goals we set) determine what we do (priorities) and what we accomplish (how we perform).
As educators, mentors, and parents, it’s our responsibility to provide the students in our lives the opportunity to succeed by helping them create their own unique tomorrows and encourage them to become who they want to be.
It starts with a strong foundation of connection, resilience, and purpose. I always tell students one of the greatest things about life is that there is no one like you. Out of 7 billion people on this planet, no one else has your fingerprint. Our creator was very specific when he made you! To me that means you can do some amazing things in this world. You have the ability to do things in this world that no one else is even capable of doing because no one else is exactly like you.
Most of the time they look at their fingers and get this excited look on their face and nod their head thinking, “Whoa, that is true.” If we don’t help every teenager reach their full potential, we’re doing society a great disservice because the world needs to benefit from that special gift only they have.
To help lay that foundation, this guide gives you three ideas to boost resilience and performance in your students:
We’ll discuss how to build a genuine connection, how to build resilience, competence and confidence, as well as how to develop purpose and performance to teach students how to set the right goals. Before we get into it, I want you to think about these three areas and how they relate to your own life experiences. Ask yourself these three questions:
Who are the people that have made an impact on my life?
What obstacles have I faced in my life and how did I overcome them?
If I could go back and give my teenage self the best advice on how to find purpose and get to where I am today, what would that be?
Take the time to think about these questions because they enable you to reflect and set the stage to be more empathetic to your students.
Step 1: Build a Connection
Research shows that teenagers with close ties to family, friends, school, and community are more likely to have a solid sense of security that produces strong values and prevents them from seeking destructive behavior. When they’re connected to people or groups that promote a positive influence, it increases their sense of belonging to the world and being comfortable with who they are.
More “Chaz Jackson” specifically, when a teenager knows that they have an adult in their corner they’re more likely to make better decisions because they feel someone else wants them to succeed. When you create a connection, it helps them focus on their goals and increases their performance. Every student, like every adult, is dealing with some type of obstacle or challenge in their life.
It’s the thing they need help with the most and it’s how you can genuinely build a connection with any student.
To build a connection, identify that obstacle in their life or whatever’s holding them back, and use empathy to create a genuine and sincere adult to teen relationship.
When you show a student you’re looking at things from their perspective, they begin to trust you and WANT to listen to the advice you have for them.
As an educator or administrator, sometimes we think that young adults think at the same capacity as adults – and that is far from true. We may think it’s more difficult if that student has disciplinary issues, but the reality is that student needs your connection and advice just as much, if not more than, the “good” student.
Some examples of these issues or challenges can be stress, home life, academics, a bully, drugs, peer pressure, or feeling alone and misunderstood.
Think about a time in your own life when you were dealing with an issue (big or small) and someone stepped in to show empathy towards your situation. Did it make you feel more understood and focused to stay on track?
The #1 thing teenagers want is someone to understand them, so they can feel comfortable with who they are.
When they feel comfortable, they start thinking about where they want to go. This ultimately determines what they do and what they accomplish. Empathy is an incredibly valuable tool to connect with students. It is the most powerful tool to connect with anyone because it gains trust.
The important thing to know about empathy is that you don’t have to fully understand what they’re going through… but you do have to recognize the issue they’re facing and simply start a conversation with them: Help them understand what they’re feeling or going through is normal. Tell them a story or instance in your life when you felt the same way they do.
Make them feel understood. Let them open up to you first BEFORE offering any advice.
They may ask questions such as, “How did you work through it?”
If there’s a disciplinary issue, confront it after you show empathy. This can be as simple as saying, “Do you understand that I still have to discipline you for your choices/actions?”
Leave the conversation letting them know you’re there for them any time they need you. Also, the key thing is building coping skills, so the incident does not happen again.
This assists in overcoming problems they’ll experience throughout their lives. With every problem, we have to build solutions. For the next interaction you have with them, focus on resilience.
Step 2: Resilience, Competence and Confidence
Resilience is important for teenagers because the ability to bounce back from a bad grade, a bully, a family situation, or other experiences sets the foundation for long term success through adulthood.
Overcoming obstacles or hardships is about growth, change, and resilience.
You’ve probably heard of post-traumatic stress disorder, but scientists now know that a traumatic event or hardship doesn’t doom us to suffer indefinitely.
Some people actually get stronger and happier getting through an obstacle. As mentioned in last step, with every problem, we have to build solutions. This is called post traumatic growth and we can use that hardship as a spring board to unleash our best qualities and lead happier lives.
Here are the top four things that people say when they experience this type of growth:
1) I feel close to my friends and family.
2) I understand myself better. I know who I really am now.
3) I have a new sense of meaning and purpose.
4) I’m better able to focus on my goals and dreams.
These four things are exactly what we want teenagers to be saying as they navigate through difficult or stressful situations, while figuring out the type of adults they want to be.
But how do we make that happen?
In Dr. Ken Ginsburg’s book, “Building Resilience in Children and Teens” he discusses how to foster competence and confidence in a teen’s life.
Competence is the ability to handle situations effectively and is acquired through actual experience. How does a teen become competent? They must trust their judgments, make responsible choices, and face difficult situations.
When interacting, implement these three points:
Focus on their strengths and build on them.
Help them recognize their potential.
Communicate in a way that empowers them to make their own decisions and be proud of the results. Feeling competent builds CONFIDENCE
Confidence is the solid belief in one’s own abilities and teenagers gain confidence by demonstrating their competence in real life situations.
Students who experience their own competence and know they’re safe and protected develop a deep security that promotes the confidence to face and cope with challenges. They trust their abilities to make sound choices. Focus on these three points to help build confidence:
Get them to see the best in themselves.
Focus on qualities not achievements. For example, “You got an A on your math test and that’s great, but what got you there? Hard work, persistence, leadership. Let’s figure out how to use those same characteristics for other areas in your life.”
Help them recognize what they’ve done right.
Step 3: Purpose – Setting the right goals
Setting goals is a tool that will aid you in realizing what you aspire to become. When we find our purpose in life, it’s the straightest path to personal strength and perseverance. It leads to making better choices, which lead to more competence and confidence. We build an inner circle of meaningful connections and have a clearer focus on our goals and performance. We want students to get good grades, have positive friendships, and stay on track. What’s at stake if they don’t achieve these things? Is it disappointing their parents or losing out on the opportunity to go to college?
It’s probably both, but which one is more important to help motivate them now? To build competence and confidence, and create a successful future?
It’s important to coach our youth with goal setting. Chris Vanderzyden, author of “A-Z Blueprint for success,” gives an awesome acronym for goal setting: S.M.A.R.T.
The goal should be: 1) Specific 2) Measurable 3) Attainable 4) Relevant 5) Time Bound (Deadline)
How do you help a student find their purpose?
Well, ultimately that’s for them to explore. If you don’t do what you’re meant to do in your life the world is going to miss what you have. After building a connection and helping students with competence and confidence, that statement will resonate and empower any teen to find their own purpose and stay focused on the goals they’ve set.
Concentrate on these three points to help them do just that:
What’s at stake if they don’t set and achieve the right goals?
Encourage them to make decisions and set goals that make them proud, instead of those based on fear of disappointing someone else.
Ask them what’s ONE THING you can start doing this week that will help you achieve your goals and purpose?
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Fredrick Douglass
Also, we discuss more in detail about motivating students in my new book, Live, Learn and Lead Powerfully: A Teen Leadership Guide. I am proud to say it has successfully made Amazon’s #1 New Release List. God is Good!! Make sure you grab a copy!
Hopefully, you found this post informational, and it motivates you to grow more valuable to others. Also, I would love to speak at your next event, check out the programs I have to offer!
Lastly, always remember tomorrow is yours to create, and don’t limit yourself.
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