(Don’t) do whatever you want: how to help a teenager train his/her will power

May 08, 2019

«It seems, my daughter doesn’t have the any will power at all. I’m sure it isn’t the laziness, because she enjoys her her favorite pastimes. She can draw for a long time, read books, learn her dancing routine – you can’t easily distract her. But problems appear when it comes to her responsibilities and household chores. I can’t make her  stick to the timetable. During the daytime she just can’t begin to do her homework, and, after my multiple reminders, she would eventually start in the late evening and go on till almost 2 a.m. Obviously, we both suffer in the morning when it’s time to wake up. It’s clear that she would sleep in the daytime, engage in her hobbies and postpone important tasks for an uncertain period of time. We are going around in circles. She can break this habit, just with a little will power. She needs to do her homework right after coming back from school, then she can do whatever she likes and, afterwards, go to bed in time. But it’s just too difficult for her. I’m really worried about her future, the exams are coming, and then university, where no one can control or talk her into doing the things correctly. »

— Oksana, mother of 15-years old Sasha

The problem of will power among teenagers bothers many parents. In this particular age children become adults quickly and it’s harder to control them. Parents worry about whether their grown-up children can deal with plenty of responsibilities and school duties on their own, whether they will be able to perform well in the exams and if they are ready to enter adulthood.

Even if a child has successfully shown his/her leadership character traits in earlier times, the teenage years can thwart this. Mainly, this is connected with  physiological features. The body is developing fast, there is a whole new hormonal recombination, and this process takes a lot of energy. There is nothing left for anything else. That is why teenagers often experience apathy, low energy level, and literally can’t make themselves perform any tasks. This is true both for boys and girls. [1]  

Obviously, all parents worry about their children. They are concerned that abulia will stay with their child, that he or she won’t be able to enter university and will become dependent and helpless. This  inability to make decisions will lead to them to ending up in bad company. But you can work on teenagers’ abulia.  

In this article you will learn how to develop will power in a teenager. We’ll tell you, how to support a teenager and give you a few exercises which can be done by a child individually. We will also help you to defeat a teenager’s abulia once and for all.


  1. Тest: does a teenager have well-developed will power?
  2. How to train will power in a teenager: phycologists’ advice
  3. Exercises to develop will power in teens
  4. Problem solution – 7Spsy behavior modification technology

Test: does a teenager have well-developed will power?

  1. In order to understand whether your child has problems with volition, you can set a preliminary diagnosis with the help of this small test. It is based on the methodology of the psychologist Nikolay Nikolaevich Obozov. [2] Answer each question with “yes” or “no” and count the positive responses.   

    1. Is your child able to accomplish the work he/she has started, in which he/she is not interested taking, into account that time and circumstances allow stopping and continuing later?
    2. Is your child able to overcome his/her inner resistance easily, when something unpleasant needs to be done?
    3. If your child is prescribed with a diet, can he/she overcome food-related temptations?
    4. Is he/she able to wake up early in the morning, as planned the night before?
    5. Is your child able to overcome a fear of visiting a doctor or any other unpleasant task and not change the plan at short notice?
    6. Will your child drink unpleasant medicine which was recommended by a doctor?
    7. Can your child follow the day timetable or the plan?
    8. Is your child able to keep a promise which was made hot-headedly, is he/she a person of their word?
    9. Can an interesting TV-program deflect attention from urgent and important tasks?
    10. Can your child stop a quarrel and be the first one to keep silent, even if the opponent keeps on saying insulting words?

    If your answer for most of the questions was negative, probably, your child has ill-developed will power and it would be beneficial to work on it. It’s far more difficult to change an established behavior model in adulthood than in childhood, that is why the earlier you start working on it the better.

How to train will power in a teenager: psychologists’ advice

Teenager’s will power development is a task not only for themselves, but also for their parents. Due to their age, teenagers don’t have well-developed volitionary adjustments and it can be difficult for them to resist temptation or make decisions by themselves. That is why it’s crucial to realize that this is just temporary, to accept the situation and help your child to develop a sense of responsibility and train their will power.  

What do psychologists recommend for helping to train will power?

Set a personal example

Teenagers, as well as younger children, still rely on parents’ examples. Although during adolescence they can rebel against adults’ lifestyles and do anything not to relate to their parents, later their family’s goals will, most likely, move to the forefront and set the lifestyle of our grown-up child. That is why the best way to bring up your child is to examine your own habits.

Define your goal

According to the soviet psychologist L.S.Vygotsky, teenagers can be defined “not with an ill-developed will power, but with an ill-developed goal”. [3] Younger children can easily do something unimportant for them personally, just to make their parents happy, to get recognition or to avoid punishment, but teenagers are less willing to do so. They value personal goals and their emotional attachment. To achieve goals which have been set by him/herself, a teenager can show an amazing amount of will power. The problem is that he/she can’t always understand the rationale of a daily routine. For example, why study boring Math if you want to become a swimming instructor? The main task for parents is to help their child to find this sense, to connect daily activities with goals and/or find new goals together.  

Create a reward system

Unfortunately, not every single task we perform in our lives is for our ultimate benefit. We all have to deal with boring pursuits, which seem useless sometimes – and teens are not an exception. However, it’s easier for adults to find inner motivation for such tasks, while children and teenagers need an external one. We should concentrate not on the fear of punishment, but, on the contrary, positive motivation. Talk your child through a reward system. For example, it can be a small raise in pocket money for doing some “extra” household chores. It might be a pleasant gift for successfully passing an exam on a non-major subject. Adults also get bonuses for their good work – why not evaluate teen’s efforts using the same means? It would help him/her learn to appreciate good efforts.  

Let the child do nothing

It is crucial for a teenager to have free time which can be spent in private without adult interference. Even if it is with the computer or laying down on the sofa – nothing bad will happen. That’s the way their brain is rebooting, taking their minds off important tasks and restoring energy for further achievements. What is more, adolescence is a period of active internal work and self-exploration, which also requires time. While the child is doing nothing, there is constant processing inside, which would help to shape his/her personality, gain self-confidence, answer important questions and make decisions. This is how willpower is formed in teenagers.   

Exercises to develop will power in teens

Typically, if a teenager is brought up in a functional family and doesn’t have any developmental abnormalities, he/she will be eager to train will power, as it’s the way to prove “adultness” to parents.

In order to help with this, you can offer these exercises: [4]

  1. “I won’t”: you need to choose a bad habit and hold back from doing it for two months – that’s the exact amount of time needed to establish a new mental set. For example, you can try to avoid using junk words, putting one leg on another or surf social networks before going to bed.
  2. “I will”: in this exercise you need to choose a healthy habit and train it for the same two months. Going for sports training twice a week, waking up half an hour earlier or do your morning exercises every day – let the teenager choose a goal, which he/she is enthusiastic about.
  3. Strengthening self-control: the teenager should keep an eye on things he/she usually pays no attention to, on a daily basis. For example, make notes on how much time is spent on the Internet or the types of food eaten. It would not only help to train will power but can also raise the level of life awareness.

In order to follow successful accomplishments, offer the teenager the opportunity to make a special tracker and note in it all tasks performed daily – this can be a great motivation. For a start, choose just one exercise to train  will power and concentrate on achieving it. This gives more chances that your teenager would not slip off the chosen path.  

Problem solution – 7Spsy behavior modification technique

However, if you realize that teenager’s abulia has become a part of their lifestyle, and the psychologists’ recommendations don’t work, you should start working on changing the solid behavior model. The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is aimed exactly at this. It is the patented method of behavior psychology, based on the theories of famous psychologists I.P.Pavlov, B.F.Skinner, A.A.Ukhtomsky. The course of behavior modification can help to reveal mental sets which have led to dysfunctions of volition and change them to more positive ones. 

The work of 7Spsy technique is done remotely and takes 2 to 6 weeks. The teenager works individually at home, at any convenient time.. There is no need to miss lessons or explain to teachers about participating in the program. This activity is totally confidential. During the whole course, a professional psychologist will support the teenager via on-line chat, cell phone or an e-mail.  

As a result, the teenager will learn how to deal with difficult situations, which require solid will power. It will help to prepare him/her for issues of adulthood. And you will save plenty of time and nervous energy avoiding constant arguments and constant lecturing.

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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