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The Gift of Internal Motivation

When people, especially the young, learn the difference between external and internal motivation, they become empowered to resist bullying and victimhood thinking—and to make more responsible choices. The Levels of Development (# 1 on a Google search) explains the difference between external motivation and internal motivation. Even very young children can understand these concepts.

Although technically all motivation is internal, being able to articulate something outside of ourselves that prompts or motivates will help us make more responsible decisions. Keep in mind that it is the effect of the Levels of Development—how people grow—that makes learning the levels (concepts) so valuable. Think of the Levels of Development as rubric or reference for making decisions in life.

Additionally, when people understand both of the lower unacceptable levels of the Levels of Development, they learn to understand that their choices affect how they are treated. “Miss Nelson Is Missing” is a classic story about what happens when young people are out of control. A short video clip about the book is available here.

A primary teacher shared with me the following: “I showed this video to my students when I introduced Level A. Then I showed it throughout the year on some days when the whole class chose level A. It brought them right back on track. You should see their faces; they gasp at what is happening. They say, ‘We don’t do that!'”

When teaching about the Levels of Development, bullying, or any other personal topic, remember that you cannot mandate such things as caring, desire, integrity, kindness, generosity, perseverance, or responsibility. These characteristics require internal motivation.

Tip: Prompt others to understand that they are responsible for their own decisions and actions. Teach the Levels of Development early so children know what is acceptable and what isn’t. Reference back to the levels as needed for reinforcement. This will empower them to make responsible choices.

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Dr. Marvin Marshall

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