Ever wish your students were more motivated? If you’re like most of us, you have tried an array of rewards and punishments to motivate kids. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t work. At least it doesn't work well enough. People (yes, even students) aren’t motivated from the outside so rewards and punishments only work to a point. We are internally motivated. That’s why it's essential to engage and inspire students to be motivated to succeed in school (and life.)

If you’re ready to move beyond the reward/punishment model and embrace a whole new way to understand motivation, I encourage you to come back regularly. It’s time to challenge the status quo and create schools and classrooms based on what really motivates behavior.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The New American Dream: Promising Children As Much Education “As They Can Afford”

When writing about internal control psychology/choice theory, I try to avoid politics as much as possible. Internal control psychology is neither “liberal” nor “conservative.” It’s neither Democrat nor Republican. I practice and teach internal control psychology because it accurately describes human motivation and behavior. It transcends culture and politics.

Despite my usual reluctance to enter the political fray, however, as an advocate of public education I have decided to share the following:

Speaking at a campaign stop in Virginia on June 27, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney said the following:

“I think this is a land of opportunity for every single person….And I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone has a fair shot. They get as much education as they can afford.”

If you suspect I might have made that up, check out the video yourself and fast forward to the nine-minute mark.

“They get as much education as they can afford.” What a chilling comment. I may have given up some of my youthful idealism, but I still remember growing up with the belief that “anyone can grow up to be president.” The key, we were told, was to study hard, get a good education. Opportunity was there if we worked hard. Education was the great equalizer.

A legitimate democracy and meritocracy only exists when every citizen has equal access to opportunity. I have always believed that access to excellent education is an indispensable component of that equation. According to Mitt Romney, however, children only deserve to get “as much education as they can afford.”

Oops. Guess I was wrong.

A strong public education is a cornerstone of democracy. The great American experiment may be drawing to a close if we decide to elect Mitt Romney as out next president. 


As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo
PO Box 1336
Sandwich, MA 02563

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Quality World Pictures: The Importance of Flexibility

In “Looking To The Future: A Strategy for Parents,”  I suggested parents ask themselves what they want for their kids when they are 25. If you are familiar with internal control psychology (choice theory), you know that we are internally motivated by what we want, what choice theory calls the quality world picture. To parent effectively – or to be successful in any other pursuit – it’s essential to have a clear quality world picture of what you want. There are times, however, when having a want that is too specific is counterproductive and leads to unnecessary misery. Let me explain.

Imagine you are a parent. If you have a quality world picture that your children are “happy, successful, and responsible,” there are multiple paths your children can follow that fall within those broad parameters. Having broadly defined goals for your kids allows them ample freedom and lets you feel a sense of satisfaction no matter what they choose to do as long as it is responsible and allows them to be happy and successful.

On the other hand, suppose you have a much more specific dream for your kids: you want them to become highly paid professionals. If one of them chooses to become a carpenter, or an artist, or a member of the clergy, you will be disappointed as long as you cling to your highly defined picture of success. (And, by the way, they will have to deal with being the child of a disappointed parent, not an easy role.) Imagine you want your child to become a cardiologist and, lo and behold, they become an internist! Because they choose not to live up to your highly defined picture, you have sentenced yourself to needless misery. (For those of you who think I’m engaging in hyperbole, the Summer Olympics are about to begin in a couple of days. I shutter to think how many families have been needlessly traumatized because a child failed to live up to a parental dream of being in the Olympics.)

For these reasons, it is often preferable to develop more loosely defined, fluid quality world pictures. As Dr. Glasser has mentioned on numerous occasions, what you put into your quality world is up to you. Parents, it’s only natural to want your kids to be successful. Give them a priceless gift by defining “successful” broadly enough that they can pursue their dreams and not feel as if they have to fulfill yours.

What I am talking about is not only true in parenting. It applies to other aspects of your life. About twenty years ago, one of my kids had a friend who father lost his job. He was a highly paid executive in a major corporation and he very much enjoyed living the life of a wealthy man. Because he had put aside some money, he was able to maintain his lavish lifestyle for some time while he looked for a new job. His quality world picture of a “good job” was so rigidly defined (including a prestigious title, a company with a reputation, and a salary commensurate with what he previously earned), he turned down several offers of work. All the while, he continued to spend extravagantly, even when his savings were depleted. Over time, he lost not only his money; he lost his wife and family. Because he was so consumed by a too specific quality world picture and was unable to make peace with a new reality, he nonconsciously chose misery and the destruction of his personal life.

Quality world pictures. They are a double-edge sword. We absolutely need them. They are the source of all motivation. But if we refuse to be flexible, if we refuse to accommodate reality, if we insist that everything be exactly as we want it to be, they can lead us down a path of endless misery.

As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit www.internalmotivation.net 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Looking To The Future: A Strategy for Parents

An article published by the Huffington Post on July 2, entitled “In Support of the Whole Child,” looks at the direction of public education. One line in particular caught my attention: “What do we want our children to be like when they are 25?”

For years, I have used some variation of that question with parents, especially when they are having difficulty with their kids” “What do you want your child to be like when he/she is 25?” While staying in the present moment is generally prudent and helps us live a more intentional life, there are times when we can get trapped by immediate distress. Parents in the middle of a problem – regardless of how “big” or “real” it might be – with their kid, are understandably in a highly emotional state.

 Choice theory (internal control psychology) teaches us that behavior has four components (acting, thinking, feelings, physiology) and changing one component necessarily changes the others. Brain-based learning suggests that all behavior is “state dependent:” when we are in the “angry” state, we only have ready access to our angry behaviors; when we are in a “frustrated” state, we only have easy access to our frustrating behaviors, etc. As any parent who has had a crisis with their child knows all too well, it’s really hard to simply “choose to act calmly and wisely” when you are in the middle of it all. Fortunately, there is a solution.

 By bumping things into the future – asking yourself “What do I want my kid to be like when he/she is 25?” – you are choosing a new behavior, one less driven by the unproductive frustrating emotion of the present. Your shift in thinking brings an immediate change to your actions, feelings, and physiology. You are literally freed from the shackles of your immediate discomfort when you fast-forward your thinking. You aren’t locked into the realities of the present. Rather than dealing with your whining, belligerent, or insolent present-tense child, you are can image her/him as an adult. What kind of relationship do you want with this young adult of the future? What do you hope they will be like?

As your brain instantaneously and non-consciously answers these questions and creates your hypothetical child of the future, ask yourself this question: “If this is what I want for my child when she/he is 25, what is the most effective thing I can do right now to help this dream become a reality?” When you return to the present tense, you’ll find you’ll be less bound by your frustration and more able to generate more effective behaviors to manage the current crisis.

When we are stuck in the “now,” we frequently rely on behaviors driven by the frustration of the moment. By venturing –even for just a few moments – into the future, you access the brain’s creative system and are unencumbered by your immediate concerns. By the way, I have used the same process with troubled adolescents, asking them, “What kind of relationship do you want to have with your parents when you are 25? Do you want to see them o the holidays? Talk to them on birthdays?” Even the most angry, frustrated, troubled adolescent generally acknowledges that he/she wants a better relationship with their parents when they get older. But locked in the anger of the present, they have little ability to access behaviors that will get them closer to what they want. Helping them imagine a more positive future is a first step in the process.

 As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.