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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.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Resiliency: Putting The Past Where It Belongs

In a recent article about a five-year old kindergarten student suspended for bringing a toy gun to school, I wrote, “Kids are resilient and manage to turn out OK despite adult ineptitude.” I want to expand on that comment because the sad truth is that some kids don’t turn out OK. Some kids don’t bounce back quickly from adversity, the definition of resilient. It depends in part on how parents choose to handle the situation. Incidents might happen to a child, but parents decide how they choose to handle it.

They can keep the drama going, expressing their understandable outrage. This option is both common and perfectly natural. When our children have been wronged, we want to protect and support them. Maintaining anger is one way to demonstrate that we love and support our kids. Sometimes outrage is socially acceptable – even encouraged. Righteous indignation, however, has a price: it keeps the incident front and center, trapping the family in a painful past event. Choosing not to move on sentences everyone involved to additional pain and diminishes the child’s ability to develop resiliency. Resiliency requires moving forward.

Parents can address the incident decisively and move on. In the case I wrote about last week, the family appealed the school's decision and met with the superintendent who rescinded the suspension. That’s addressing the issue. That’s advocating for your child. That’s how to put the past in the rearview mirror where it belongs.

Addressing a problem and moving forward is very different from denial or refusing to deal with the issue. If the child were afraid to go to school or was having difficulty sleeping after an incident and the parents told them to “just hang in there” or told the child to “get over it,” the parents would be failing to deal with the problem. Under those circumstances, the past incident is still impacting the present and responsible parents take steps to alleviate the current pain.

Kids experience the world very differently from adults. In the Hopkinton suspension incident, I suggested that the school should be ashamed and embarrassed. I stand by those comments, but that represents my adult perspective. What struck me as an example of bureaucratic stupidity was possibly processed by the child as less significant. (If so….good for him.)

Kids learn from their parents’ behavior. When parents deal with situations decisively and effectively and move on – keeping the past where it belongs – they show their children how to be resilient.

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

Bob Sullo

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

Don't forget to get your copy of the revised edition of The Inspiring Teacher: Making A Positive Difference In Students' Lives.

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