If you have insight and understanding about your behavior, but you don’t take any action you will not move forward. On the other hand, if you try desperately to change your behavior, but you don’t truly understand what is driving it, then you will not be effective or successful.
This is why I try to incorporate both of these things into my work with my counseling and coaching clients.
How does a person change?
This is a question I seem to be constantly asking myself, both for my benefit and for the teenagers and young adults I work with. The truth is that it can be very difficult and complicated to actually change our habits and routines. Even the simple ones.
Not only that, but if we are not intentional we can fall into some pretty negative habits. If you are reading this post, there is a chance that you and your teenager have developed some unproductive habits that you would like to change. In a minute, I will share with you a couple of helpful tips on making positive changes.
This year I am taking on a new 30 day challenge each month and they are all focused on improving my health in every area of my life. I am finding that this is a terrific way to make small, achievable habit changes that can build on each other (hopefully!). January was all about having a healthy body and February is about having healthy relationships.
It has been a mixture of challenges and success, but I am certainly learning a lot about myself in the process. So far, the most painful habit to change has been my addiction to sugar. I am still working on that one!
So, what does this have to do with getting your teenager up and moving?
Here are some tips on helping your teenager to find the motivation to make some lasting changes for himself.
1. Find the motivation
This might seem obvious, but it is incredibly important to identify the core motivation for doing the hard work of changing habits. This is also one of the key parts of the motivational interviewing approach that I use with teens. Help your son find a meaningful reason for him to make a change. For better or worse, teenagers are often focused on what is in it for them. You may also have to realize that his motivation may be different than yours. That is OK, as long as you can agree on the habit that needs to change.
At the beginning of each month I have been writing down my top 3-5 reasons why I want to change a certain habit. It helps me get clarity and serves as a great reminder when I don’t want to follow through with my plan. It is always helpful for me to keep my eye on the bigger goal in order to avoid the instant gratification in a given moment. This is a challenging, but important thing for teenagers to learn. Delaying gratification is definitely a sign of maturity and something that takes willpower and practice.
2. Track the habit
“What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter Drucker
In my counseling work, I will often encourage teenagers to track their behaviors. Sometime this is meant to gain some information and a baseline. For example, I will ask a teenage client to track their total hours of playing video games over a seven day period to see if it is more or less than they think. Often they will come back and report 30-40 hours of gaming and that kicks in the realization that this taking up a huge amount of their time. It might be worth looking at and making a change.
On the other hand, sometimes I will ask a teenager to track how often they are doing a new, positive behavior, whether that is journaling, practicing gratitude, helping around the house or just smiling.
If your teenager has the motivation to make a change for himself you can help him find a creative way to track it. There are an astounding number of smartphone apps that can be used to track goals, fitness and otherwise. I find that paper and pen still work quite well. 🙂
I have been using an amazing 30 day challenge template from this notebook to track my progress. I can check off each day of the month and have a visual of how I am doing. It is a surprisingly satisfying psychological experiences to check off a task. It just feels good!
3. Create incentives
We all need incentives and your teenager is no different. I often bribe myself to get certain tasks done and I certainly use incentives with my kids as well. This is where the Flip Band comes into play. I am always asking teenagers to consider making some positive changes, but I find that it is difficult to get them to follow through and also to track the behaviors. I love using technology, but even that sometimes fails to work.
I guess this is the blog post where I am confessing my addictions, including sugar and Kickstarter. I am somewhat obsessed with finding cool products on this crowd funding website and I enjoy everything about the process of seeing them created and delivered.
Recently, I found a super simple product called the Flip Band on Kickstarter and I couldn’t resist giving it a try. It is a nice looking silicone bracelet that helps you track the completion of one habit each day. Once you complete the task, you just flip the band and get that psychological reward. The band also serves as a reminder, either that you still need to do the task or that you were successful. I bought ten of them and I am going to use them for myself and my clients.
It is definitely a good idea to use some sort of incentive to help your teenager commit to making changes, whether it is related to school, health, finances or family relationships. Changing habits and routines is hard work, but it can be both fun and rewarding.
Here is a recap for you.
- Help your son find some motivation for making changes
- Assist him in tracking his current or new behaviors
- Create incentives together to motivate him to follow through
What have you learned about motivating yourself or your teenager to make positive habit changes? Click the buttons below to share your comments on social media.