Feedback and Rewards

Ten Decisive Steps to Motivating your Delinquent Teen to Action

Briony Irving asked:



Everyone needs or deserve a push start. You got it when you entered college or university and if you never got it, then blaze a new trail and give your kid the push start they need in life. There are a number of ways to do this and you can use all or just one of the ideas listed below.


? Pay them to take an evening class and pass with credit or distinction or to enrol in college or university.

? Pay them to learn a new language or a musical instrument.

? Pay them to get A’s or B’s for a month, and when they get it, increase the reward until getting As and Bs become a habit.

? Pay them to study, then quiz them about what they’ve studied so you know that they didn’t cheat.

? Pay for them to read at least 2 books per weak and ask them to explain what they’ve read so you know they didn’t cheat.

? Pay them to participate in an extracurricular activity or to volunteer in a community organization – this usually gives them purpose in life and often straightens them out.


? Negotiate with to have an extra hour out at weekends if it is safe to do so (in exchange for whatever you want them to accomplish).

? Negotiate with them privileges to have a television in their room, having friends over or visiting a friend’s home, keeping a party at their house in exchange to accomplishing a task that you set.

? Promise and fulfil a family vacation if they accomplish a task that you set for them.

? Give them the birthday party they’ve always wanted or the gift they’ve always wanted in exchange for accomplishing a task or goal.

? Give them their own credit card or allow them to use yours or offer other incentives if they can demonstrate certain levels responsibility.



Nothing can demonstrate more to your teen that you are a fair person and that you are interested in seeing things from their point of view, than to meet them half-way on an issue.


? Negotiate with your teen to change something about yourself that they don’t like or change the way you do certain things in exchange for them to change something about themselves that you believe is negative or is of little value to their growth and development.

? Agree to go back to college if they will go and enrol in college.

? If they agree to save a certain amount of their allowances for a specific period of time – promise and fulfil the promise to give them the exact amount they’ve saved or double or triple it according to what you can afford.

? Promise to and fulfil that promise to help them with their work if they will become more disciplined.

? Show them that you care and are willing to meet them half way if they will put out some effort.

? If they are willing to take the initiative, praise them for it, however if they will not do that, then since you are the ones trying to inspire them to action, then you should take the initiative and let them know that you are prepared to give and take and work with them for their benefit. They will often appreciate this and will be willing to work with you.

? Preparing to meet half way is the heart of democracy and they will be learning this method of compromise which is necessary for all to function cohesively in society. You will thus be teaching them to be responsible, participative members of society.

? Meeting half way help both parties and fosters good relations and practices and both parties will feel like they are a part of a process that will lead to greater harmony, achievement and success.



The law of movement states that to every action there is a reaction. Nothing can motivate your teens more than to see you in action. If you want them to do something, then you do it first. If you want them to achieve greatness, then achieve it first. Motivate your teens through your action.


? Do something great. Set a goal to accomplish something that your teen will notice and appreciate about you and want to replicate, not necessarily the same action but a great action of their own.

? Project an attitude of positive optimism that can be rubbed off on your teen. If they see you continually motivated and optimistic and always moving towards a goal or action, chances are that they will want to follow you and they too will become motivated and optimistic. An optimistic person is goal oriented and can always achieve greatness.

? Pursue a worthwhile purpose or goal and inspire them to pursue their own. Motivate them towards a positive and rewarding cause.

? Start something and motivate your teen to start something of their own or to build with you by letting them know that whatever you start will go as a legacy to them should they start something of their own or build on what you’ve started. You’ve often wondered why the children of the rich are more focused, more likely to go to college and more likely to stay out of trouble. Well the answer is they are often motivated by what their parents have started and the legacy they will leave behind. They are inspired by who and what their parents are and want to emulate that. Success begets success. Success emulates success. Model success and our teens will want to model you. Essentially whatever action you want your teen to have a chain reaction from, whether it be charitable, voluntary, upward mobile achievement, educational success, discipline, morals or leadership skills, the essential action to get a chain reaction is to model whatever it is you want your delinquent teen to achieve. So, start something.



What is flooding the house? The principle behind this is that if the house is flooded, then everything within the reach of the waters will be saturated with water. Therefore flood your teen’s mind with tangible evidence of success or with whatever it is you want to use to motivate them to action.


? If financial success is the kind of action you want to motivate your teen to, then flood them with examples of young starters achieving financial success, through reputable means.

? If you want to inspire action where education is concerned, then flood your teen with inexhaustible evidence of the benefit of a sound education. Be creative when you do it.

? If you want to inspire positive social action, then flood them with good examples of successful social action.

? If its morality, then flood with examples of the benefits of taking the moral stance.

? If you want to motivate them to give up drugs and alcohol, then flood them with the benefits of having a healthy mind and body.

? If you want to motivate them to lose weight, then flood them with beautiful examples of the desired weight pattern you wish them to emulate.

? If you want to inspire discipline, then flood them with beneficial examples of maintaining good discipline.

? If you want to goal directed action, then flood them with the benefits of setting and achieving successful goals.

? Whatever action you wish your teen to take, flood them with successful examples of such action previously taken. Just keep flooding them with active examples and show them how they can benefit if they should take similar action. The issue with flooding is that they become saturated and start to look and feel and will eventually act like the examples they’ve been flooded with.



An emerging but by no means new paradigm is mentoring. To mentor mea
ns to guide and that guide usually translates into influence. If you can mentor your teen or get a leader or positive role model to mentor your team, then you are well on your way to motivatin
g your teen to positive action.


? The mentor must be an influencer

? The mentor must be a positive role model

? The mentor must be a motivator

? The mentor should be a leader

? The mentor should be a team-player

? The mentor should model successful attitude and behaviour and have a track record of success

? The mentor should be disciplined and trustworthy

? The mentor must be credible

? The mentor should be results oriented

? The mentor should be compassionate yet firm

? The mentor should have connections (whether community or religious based or of a higher hierarchy).

? The mentor should model positive social action

The success of the mentor is highly dependent on his or her ability to positively influence the teen to change, to inspire motivation for change and to interact with and engage the teen in mentoring opportunities. The key factor in this is to establish trust and guard that trust from early in the relationship. It is hard for a teen to trust an adult, especially one that he or she knows is trying to influence him to change, but if the trust factor can be settled form early in the relationship, then most of the mentor’s job would have been done for him.

Another key issue in being able to win the teen over to a higher motivated perspective is to be a friend to the teen while maintaining careful boundaries. If the respect and the trust is there and the boundary lines are clearly understood, then friendship makes the process easier, and the teen becomes more comfortable with any influence to change.



We have a saying here in Jamaica that two heads are better than one and that there is strength in numbers. This is even more so when we have delinquent teens on our hands. Networking can be a powerful tool in motivating support for families with delinquent teens as well as support for the delinquent teens themselves.


? Networking should be approached first from the perspective of the teen. As parents and guardians you can affect the action of your teens by facilitating troubled teen networking. Have teens in close geographical area with similar issues form support groups where they can voice their own issues and talk about the problems they have, the changes they want to make if any and their difficulty in coping with the expectation of their families, communities and country. Through this they can motivate and encourage each other and can come to a consensus among the group to try for change. They can also form accountability partners that will help them to become accountable with the decisions for change that they have made and any hindrances to pursuing or achieving such.

? Parents, guardians and interest groups can support this networking through facilitation and by pooling resources to hire professionals to work with this group, should they (the parents) find themselves deficient in fulfilling certain roles (not that the parents and guardians will shriek their responsibilities and obligations, but that they will have professional help to enhance what they are already doing).

? Parents, guardians and other interest groups should also network to form a special support group and think tank for and among themselves. Raising teens can be very stressful and trying to motivate the delinquent ones to action is a big job; therefore every opportunity should be pursed that can be beneficial to the process. They key to remember when networking is to offer support and find solutions.



In a previous book, Motivating Yourself To Success, Health and Wellness, I advanced the view that the environment within which one is accustomed to, can affect to a positive or negative effect, the level of motivation that one feels. I’d like to broaden the concept of environment a bit by not just relegating it to a particular local, but to a state of mind. The environment is essentially where one resides or participates in on a regular basis and this is normally a physical reality that is compounded by many factors.

Environment can affect the level of motivation to the extent that it facilitates a peaceful, comfortable and relaxing atmosphere which is often necessary for motivation. In my previous book, I put forward the idea that if one’s environment did not offer a peaceful, relaxing and comfortable atmosphere within which one can breathe, then the person seeking to motivate himself, should strive to create their own little space where they can retreat to for inspiration. This might be their room, a private spot in the house or even a park for a one hour getaway. This might still not be an option for many persons that are limited by space, mobility or responsibility and selling the idea to a teen to create their own space might not go down well with a teen that is not lent towards independence. The onus is therefore on the parent or guardian to facilitate that environment of a peaceful and motivating atmosphere.

Again where limitations occur at a physical location, the idea of the environment not being just a physical place but a state of the mind is advocated. What I basically mean is that your teen where they cannot find that perfect environment within which to creatively achieve can be encouraged through channelling their themselves, to create that perfect space within their minds. Channelling the mind to be at rest can be a great motivator and dreams that are often accomplished are first envisioned. If your teen can envision the perfect environment within their minds and set it as a future achievable goal then they will often find great peace in their present circumstances. Helping your teen to envision their own little heaven can be achieved through introducing them to books that take them to a world beyond their own that is beautiful and achievable.



If one can envision it, then there is a possibility that one can have it. It is highly believed that the positive or negative that you speak into a child’s life can become a reality through them living out your expectations. We have a thing in Christianity that is called naming it and claiming it or speaking it into being, and motivationists believe that whatever they believe or profess can become a reality. Science even corroborates that a highly motivated and positive attitude can affect a person’s mental state or physical condition for the better. The idea behind forecasting is a spiritual science.


? Whatever it is that you want your teen to achieve, speak it into being.

? Profess to them that they can and will achieve.

? Let them know of the high expectations you have of them.

? Let them know that you believe in them and their abilities. Even if the evidence belies this, speak positively in their lives.

? Tell them good things. Make good predictions about their future. They will often be motivated to achieve the very things you predict.

? Encourage them to dream about the type of life they would like to have in the future, to forecast it. They will often start making plans mentally and otherwise to achieve their life’s goal. Where they lack the initiative, it is your job to guide them as to the steps they should take to fulfil their dreams.

? Let them know that the more positive they are about their future, the more likely they are to succeed in accomplishing their goals.

? The key to motivating a delinquent teen to action is to motivate them by allowing them to see or forecast the positive results or benefits of change or action as opposed to in-action, laziness, indecisiveness, lack of direction and focus.

? If they can’t envision the future, then paint the picture for them and show them a be
autiful world where the sky is no limit as to what is achievable and possible and that it can all be theirs if they
just try.

? Even if there is no evidence of such according to their present behaviour, paint a picture of success for them should they change their behaviour.

? Let them know that setting and achieving their life’s goal is highly possible and will happen should they take the necessary steps.



Re-education is exactly what it suggests, re-educating our challenged teens with the desired information we would like them to have. Some might think that this is impossible as their personalities are already formed and they are already highly influenced by what they have inculcated through the various education media. This is not an impossible task however as our teens are highly impressionable. They can be re-educated with positive values and attitudes.

In choosing to re-educate parents can network to do this or they can change the atmosphere around their living environs.


? Change the type of general music that everyone listens to around the house if it is not positive. This can be introduced gently to the family by advocating an investigation of different musical genres to see if they can be influence to change their taste or for discussion at the table. The move to reshape the level of influence of one’s musical tastes can be a contest. It can be proposed that there should be test to see if one will retain or can change or add a new musical liking to their present ones by listening to a set of new positive genre of music.

? Change the type of discussions that you have around the dinner table. Start taking about national and social issues if you never used to do so.

? Ask your teen to read a column in a newspaper discussing an important subject and ask their opinion of it. Do this often.

? Ask their opinions of national issues.

? Buy books that you’d like them to read that are interesting and confront important social, moral or national issues and ask them to give their opinions of it. Let them know that their opinions are valued and appreciated.

? Have discussions at special family or social gatherings and invite the teens of the community or social group to discuss issues that confront them, and have them prepare for such discussions by researching.



The greatest challenge to teen achievement is negative peer pressure, and a big percentage of our teens are highly influenced by their peers, some negatively. Our delinquent teens are often the product of negative peer influence. The parent or guardian that wishes to motivate his teen to action should combat the negative effects of peer pressure by befriending the peer. If you can befriend the peer that is influencing your teen and in turn re-influence that peer, then you can help your teen in a two-fold way. You teen will see you influencing their peer and will often turn to you for some of that positive influence and their friend will also influence them based on your influence on their friends.


? Invite that peer over and get to know him or her. Even if you don’t approve of them, you’ll want to invite them over to first get a picture of the type of person that is influencing your teen.

? You’ll then want to engage them in conversation. Talk to them and question them.

? Be respectful and kind to them.

? Use some of the earlier strategies mentioned like re-educating. Invite them to give input in your family discussions. Ask them to read the same articles you’ve asked your teen to read and let them give their opinion. They will feel included and welcomed and will often responded by taking the time to read whatever it is that you’ve asked them to read. Of course it is taken for granted here that whatever you ask them to read will be wholesome, age appropriate and in no way harmful to them psychologically or otherwise, as your intent is to motivate towards positive change. The case is, even if you introduced the concept of subtly re-educating your teen and they were not receptive; when they see their peer being receptive to your ideas, they will be motivated to participate because they will not want to feel left out. The life of a teen is inclusivism and being a part of the group. If you can befriend the peer and influence them to influence your child then you’d have won back your teen and making progress towards focused goal achievement and success. It is very possible. All you have to do is believe and try. God bless you.


Successful, positive behaviour is a problem in all of our schools today and educational professionals are struggling to come up with ways to positively impact and motivate our students to right action.

Many strategies have been tried and failed and even where there are incentive programs that tries to reinforce positive behaviour, this often fails because the students are not sufficiently motivated by the tangibility of these programs.

Incentive programs in our schools and homes should be tangible. We live in a materialistic world and unless we are prepared to reward our delinquent students with rewards and incentive that they can touch and appreciate, their behaviour will not change.

You might say to reward on the basis of materialism is to encourage the behaviour. The reality of our post-modern era however, is that persons react and achieve on the basis of what they can see and touch, and on the basis of value. It is hoped that they will overtime learn responsible behaviour. What will be gained from a tangible incentive behaviour program is the fact that positive behaviour pays.


One particular school have a demerit system whereby students can earn demerits for positive or negative behaviour, poor or excellent attitude towards work and school. This program works for the minority who are easily scared but failed for those who are less responsible and are highly agitated and adventurous. The long-term effect of the program to some extent does not benefit the students who are more likely to be disruptive. These students are constantly getting demerits and will eventually lose any privileges for the rest of their school life; as a result they fail to phased or care about getting a demerit. An improvement of this system is suggested below.

? The system of rewards can be administered individually by a teacher or at the management level by school administrators. It is suggested that one or more of the following systems be adopted.

1. Students can be placed in groups with group leaders chosen. Each group can be assigned certain merits or currency (make believe money) per week. Based on the amount of merits or currency earned or deducted, students will be given rewards.

2. Currency or Merits can be banked, meaning that for currency or merits that were not used for one weak can be carried forward to the other week.

3. Currency or Merits should be awarded for excellent work, good behaviour or for any other necessary details that the institution requires. Examples of types of rewards that can be given are listed below.

• On a class level, each class can operate an incentive closet or goodies basket from which to reward each member of a group that had positive behaviour or work for the previous week. Things to include in the basket are: Typed class notes, Class Notes on CD-ROMS, Floppy Disks with class notes, Burned music CDs and movie DVDs with appropriate content (The School could subscribe to an online website where music and movies can be downloaded, they could easily burn these and give them to the students – copyright would not be a problem as they would not be sold). Note Books, Pens, Pencils, Floppy Disks, Blank disks or any other incentive or rewards deemed necessary for the class level.

• On a class level, the group with the highest level of currency or merits per week would get to listen to thei
r favourite music or music video at the start of the class. (Each class could be equipped with a radio and a TV/VIDEO/DVD)

• At the Institutional Level – An incentive shop should be operated where students can purchase things at the end of the month with their currency that they have not used at the class level or that which may have gained as extras. The shop would sell things like (with make the believe currency that the student have) New DVD movies, New Music CDs and Videos, New Games, IPods and all the little electronic gadgets that kids go crazy about and or other rewards.

• At the Institutional level also – the entire class or grade or school if discipline and good work can be maintained for a certain period of time – example one month – can get to watch a live movie at the school. A multimedia projector system could be set up where large groups can watch the movie or stage show.

• At the institutional level – a bi-monthly or quarterly concert could be held at the school if good behaviour and excellent work can be achieved for that particular period of one month or three months.

• An all expense paid class trip or school trip could be planned for the class with the highest level of merits or currency for a particular period of time.


The heart of any system or methodology to motivate teens that is delinquent or non-participatory is has to be focused, interactive and duplicable. The ten steps advanced in this book are decisive and should bring about successful results for those who embrace its concepts responsibly and seek to duplicate it. Our delinquent teens need to be motivated to action and this motivation is most effective if the caregivers are the ones to inspire the motivation in their youths. Be creative, responsible, enthusiastic and understanding as you seek to motivate your teen to optimal levels of achievement.

Have a successful, motivational teen challenge!

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