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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.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Grandparents: Unrecognized Developmental Experts

In Chapter 3 of the revised edition of The Inspiring Teacher, I discuss the contributions of Lawrence Kohlberg, Jean Piaget, and Erik Erikson, major contributors to our understanding of human development. But there is less heralded group that seems to naturally appreciate the importance of the developmental process and accepting kids where they are:  grandparents.

I am not currently a grandparent, and don’t believe my status is about to change. In thinking about people I know who are grandparents: siblings, colleagues, friends, they are a widely heterogeneous lot. Yet…when it comes to their grandchildren, they share the following characteristics:

  • An abiding and unambiguous love and support of children;
  • An appreciation of children whether they are “above the norm,” “at the norm,” or “below the norm.” (It is true that grandparents are more likely to cite “evidence-based” findings when their grandchild happens to fall in the “above the norm” category and drop their “you can’t believe the statistics” position.)
  • An understanding that development is not linear: there are fits and starts. While school principals fret when kids score below expectations and school board officials understandably focus on the possible impact on AYP, grandparents generally believe that “They’ll be just fine. Don’t worry.” Any you know what? More often than not, they are right. In Brain-Based Learning & Teaching, research cited by Eric Jensen reports that typical students in a classroom – those without significant developmental challenges or handicaps – can vary by as much as three years when it comes to development. Grandparents accept that kids develop at different rates and don’t push the panic button unnecessarily.
  • Finally, grandparents may be exhausted after spending time with their grandchildren, but they typically spend their time with them engaged in hands-on activities involving the movement that enhances long-term learning and memory.

Piaget. Erikson. Kohlberg. Each of them giants who contributed significantly to our understanding of human development and offer suggestions about how to promote healthy growth. They deserve our thanks. One group that seems particularly adept at putting their ideas into effective practice is grandparents, experts in unconditional love and a reluctance to hurry the developmental process.


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

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