5 Questions to Ask Your Teen to Motivate Them Without Annoying Them

Let’s be real: You asking your kid what they want to be when they grow up for the umpteenth time isn’t going to create a lightbulb moment. And asking them to share their feelings or limiting beliefs will probably get an eye roll.

So what CAN you ask your teen to connect with them and get them excited about their future?

mom and daughter
Here is how parents can help their teens with career ideas and direction. (Twenty 20 @EvgeniiaFreeman)

5 Powerful Questions to ask your teen

Here are 5 Powerful Questions that will surely spark new ideas within your teen and, hopefully, a sense of excitement and motivation!

The key to asking powerful questions is to frame them as empowering and open-ended. Powerful questions encourage self-discovery and an understanding of what is possible.

Powerful Question #1: What would you do after graduation if money weren’t a factor and nothing bad could happen?

We love this question. Sometimes teens get stuck on a specific career path because they think it’s the only way to “make good money.”  

Dozens of high schoolers have told us that they wanted to go into banking or finance — but when we dig into WHY they’ve decided on these careers, it’s clear money is the driving factor.

How can we help teens develop ideas about what they want to do in areas aligned with their personalities and interests? How can we help them realize they can make good money in a job they love?

By asking this first question and taking money out of the equation, you’ll understand what your teen may want to do with their life vs. what they think they should do.

Powerful Question #2: What would make you jump out of bed at 6 am on a Saturday?

Here is another question we love to ask. We’ve found it a less annoying, less ‘parenty’ way of asking a child about their interests and motivations. A child’s answer to this question will show you what they’re passionate about and what energizes them. And by understanding this, you may get ideas for careers that could be well aligned.

For example, if your child wakes up at 6 am to watch or attend a soccer game, they could find a career in the Sporting industry. And this isn’t to say they have to play a sport — they could work in marketing at ESPN, write for a sports publication, or perhaps even do development work on a sports betting mobile app.  

If it’s attending a Billie Eilish concert, the Music industry might spark their interest. Would they ever be interested in becoming a musician’s agent? What about a music/sound editor? Public relations exec?

The point is that everyone is motivated by something. And you can find a good job and career doing pretty much anything.

Powerful Question #3: If you could drop one thing in your life without consequence (a person, a subject, a class, an activity), what would it be?

In life, it’s just as helpful to be acutely aware of what you don’t like as what you do like.

High schoolers are often required to take classes they may find tedious or enroll in activities they may not enjoy (all in bolstering their college application). You must give your child a safe space to share what they don’t want — what drains them — because, ultimately, this knowledge will be precious when figuring out their career path.

For example, if they’ve always been bored in science class, perhaps going pre-med isn’t the best path for them (even if both their parents are doctors).

Kids must understand what drains their energy — because doing something that energizes them will be vital to finding a career they love.

When they answer this question, dig into the WHY. You may learn more about your child by asking what they don’t like than you would by asking about what they do.

Powerful Question #4: Who in your life seems to have the coolest job?

This is a fun question because it’s actionable, meaning that when your child tells you who they think has an incredible job, you’ll help them find a way to talk to that person.

Encourage your child to reach out to that professional on LinkedIn*, asking for 15 mins of their time to find out what they do.

The benefits of this little exercise are twofold:

  1. Your child will get a clear idea of what this job is like daily (maybe they won’t think it’s so cool after all — perhaps they will).
  2. By forging a new connection with someone they admire, your child is beginning to build their professional network.

Powerful Question #5: What would you go for this year if you knew you couldn’t fail or be rejected? 

Most teens today are overwhelmed with pressure and feelings of unworthiness & lack of confidence (thanks to the comparison game exacerbated by social media).  

Fear of rejection in teens is real and raw. But as many know, rejection is inevitable for everyone, especially the most successful. As parents, we need to encourage failure. Encourage rejection. Because on the other side of rejection is growth and redirection.

The best way to prepare for rejection is to be rejected. Over and over. To build up resilience.

After you ask this question to your teen, whatever their answer (whether it’s trying out for Cheer squad captain, asking the most popular kid to prom, or running for class president), encourage them to go for it.  

And prepare them to be just as proud if they fail.

More Great Reading:

Five Ways To Support Your College Student’s Career Development

About Julia Martin

Julia Martin is a Manifestation & Business Coach and the host of Dream Your Life: Manifest a Life You Love, a top ranking self improvement podcast with a global audience that spans over 100 countries. Prior to launching her coaching business, Julia spent over a decade in advertising & sales at Google and Twitter.

Read more posts by Julia

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