© 2016 Inspired Resolutions

  • Brandon Joffe, LCSW

What to do with smart, unmotivated kids!


Conventional wisdom says to nag and attempt to convince smart kids who are not motivated to see that they need to build their study habits for the future. We ask them to do more work for the sake of work with the same pay (an A). Would you work harder for the same pay at your job just because someone said that you should? I know some of you, with your life experience and mature brains, are answering “yes,” but hopefully you get my point. If using reasonable warnings worked, I would be all for it. Unfortunately for most unmotivated, smart teens, it is virtually impossible to get motivated by imagining an obscure and theoretical future.

What if we started using these children’s gifts to help others? Rather than insisting that they do more work and learn more difficult materials, encourage them to use their gifts to help others. What if they taught a topic in class now and again? What if they were given the opportunity to tutor struggling kids for extra credit? In my mind, this hit two birds with one stone. I know that theoretically, it makes sense to teach them more concepts and push them, and I am all for trying that now and again.

I encourage parents to stop before it turns into a fight damaging the relationship. The fact is that, with most teens, insisting that they do something they are vehemently against doesn’t help. I am not saying they shouldn’t be in AP classes. I am just saying that when they are young rather than pushing them to do something you wouldn’t do in your adulthood, let's help them use their gifts for good. Give them responsibilities that they are more likely to be drawn to doing. I believe that this will result in the increased motivation for trying that parents and teachers are looking for.

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