Only yesterday (well it was three years ago, but those particular three hardly count, right?) my son could smell a sunrise at 5am through wooden shutters and now he can’t wake up before noon.
Why do teenagers need so much sleep?!
Teenagers’ bodies are growing at their fastest rate since they were toddlers, and the hormonal changes taking place are huge.
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Another normal reason for seemingly perpetual sleepiness is a biological shift in the circadian — the Body Clock. During puberty, their normal sleep patterns shift to later, but school still starts at the same time. Meaning your teen will have had to force themselves to get up early, after struggling to get to sleep until very late. This is because they start to secrete melatonin later at night than they did in earlier childhood, which affects their circadian rhythms.
This makes it hard for teenagers to get the solid eight to 10 hours of sleep they need each night to function properly. This tiredness can cause mood swings and fatigue, which manifests as a disinterest in almost everything, alongside a lack of motivation, even for things they used to enjoy.
Mix it all into a bowl and you have the typical teenage personality. Disinterested as they have so little energy. Disconnected as they feel like you don’t understand why they have no interest in doing what you want them to do as they’d rather spend the little energy they do have on the things that please them. Like building relationships with their peers and exploring new activities.
So how can we motivate them?
Teenagers long to feel significant. If a task doesn’t directly link to their well being, they’ll struggle to find a desire to carry it out. For example, did your parents ever ask you to Hoover up and you couldn’t see anything on the floor? You’d complete the task half hearted and then wonder why your mum was fuming and felt the need to do it again herself. Teenagers see no connection between specs of dust on the floor and their personal happiness and well being.
Teenagers want to demonstrate to themselves and the world that they matter, and that they are capable of making a difference. Many of the problems teens encounter today is because their desire to be significant is ignored or diminished.
If the task contributes to the smooth running of their world, they understand that not doing it will have consequences. For example if your teen is assigned the task of emptying the bins and fears not getting pocket money if they don’t do it, they’ll be more likely to make the bins their priority.
My son likes to go to the supermarket on his own with a small list and pick things out for dinner. Not only does he feel grown up, but also like he's contributing to an important part of our lives. He’s also happy to cook if given a meal kit.
If your teenager understands the value of the task to them, you will have little problem motivating them to do it. But we must remember that teenagers do not regard “making their parents life easier” as being high value to them.
You could gently explain that you don’t have time to empty the bins and pick up all the groceries as well as work enough hours to cover the cost of the WiFi bill… that should help them see the link.
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