#048 Best of 2022: Building Motivation & Stress Tolerance for Happy Teens with Ned Johnson

Show Notes


As parents, what we want the most is for our kids to lead happy lives. However, even though our hearts are in the right place, we sometimes struggle to say the right thing to help our children in moments of stress and crisis. This is especially true when it comes to parenting and motivating college-bound teens. Navigating these moments can be challenging, but my guest today, Ned Johnson, has some advice that can help. He’s literally co-authored a book on it – twice- and he has some great insights on empathy and validation, as well as strategies to help support your teen in an effective manner.


Ned Johnson is an expert in promoting success in teens. He’s spent thousands of hours tutoring college-bound students and helping them manage their stress and anxiety, as much as their academics. He’s also co-authored two books with William Stixrud, Ph.D., on the neuroscience behind motivating your kids and setting them up for success. So it’s safe to say, he has some pretty good insights into the subject.

Ned shares with you how to really motivate your student in an effective manner. This is something I know many parents are concerned about, especially with important future planning, standardized tests, and college applications on the horizon. Ned emphasizes how important it is to approach your teen from a place of understanding and to meet them where they are. If you don’t want your advice to fall on deaf ears, you’ll definitely want to hear what he has to say about engaging with empathy and validation.

In many situations, especially when your teen is upset, your parental instincts are going to be to offer solutions and try to make everything better as quickly as possible. However, what’s going to often be most important, is offering your teen the kind of support that they need. If you don’t know what they’re looking for in an interaction, ask them if they want to vent, brainstorm a resolution, or if something else will help. For more guidance, you should also be sure to listen to this episode, because it will offer a lot of useful neuroscience-based information and helpful advice. My conversation with Ned was really illuminating, and I truly learned new methods to help me navigate with both my clients and my own now young adult kids. 


  •   Why is it important to help teens feel a sense of control, especially in high school and the college-bound process
  •   Why putting more pressure on your high school student isn’t an effective motivation strategy
  •   A guide to responding with empathy and validation to get to a sustainable model of motivation
  •   A preview for Ned’s new chapter about helping your kids on their way to happiness

Meet Our Guest

Ned Johnson is an author, speaker, and founder of PrepMatters, an educational company providing academic tutoring, educational planning, and standardized test preparation. A professional “tutor-geek” since 1993 and battle-tested veteran of test prep, stress regulation, and student performance, Ned has spent nearly 50,000 one-on-one hours helping students conquer an alphabet of standardized tests, learn to manage their anxiety, and develop their own motivation to succeed

With Dr. William Stixrud, Ned co-authored The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives and What Do You Say? How To Talk With Kids To Build Motivation, Stress Tolerance, and a Happy Home. Ned is the host of the PrepTalks podcast: conversations with parenting and education experts. A sought-after speaker and teen coach on study skills, sleep deprivation, parent-teen dynamics, and test anxiety, and his work is featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, BBC, and many others.

Listen on…the Flourish Site, Spotify, Apple, Google, Amazon Music, Stitcher, or your favorite platform. 

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Links mentioned in this episode

Book: The Self-Driven Child

Book: What Do You Say?: How to Talk with Kids to Build Motivation, Stress Tolerance, and a Happy Home

PrepMatters Website

Twitter: @NedJohnson

TikTok: @theothernedjohnson

Instagram: @theothernedjohnson

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TheOtherNedJohnson/

Launch College & Career Clarity Course

Launch College and Career Clarity Facebook Community


[0:38] Introduction to Ned Johnson

[2:31] The importance of letting teens feel in control of their lives

[6:25] What’s really behind an apparent lack of motivation

[9:46] The value of validation

[15:20] How to offer helpful advice to your kids

[18:21] Why you should start with empathy (and not solutions)

[19:52] The strategy of reflective listening

[21:52] The low-down on happiness

[30:24] A reminder that suffering and stress are temporary

[32:27] Wrap-up

Access the episode transcript here.