Behavior and Motivation

When you teach youth a procedure, the expectation is that they will have the self-discipline to follow it (Level C on the Hierarchy of Social Development). This is external motivation where many of us live our lives most of the time. However, if a student does something that is anti-social because of a desire to fit in with a gang, then that incentive is external.

On my Levels of Development Poster (click here to view), Level C lists “Conformity” in yellow while “Cooperation” is in green. The goal of Level C is to have young people become aware of and resist the strong desire to fit in when the behavior is irresponsible.

When youth understand that their motivation is external—that is, to go along with some behavior that would be categorized as Level A or Level B—it is the first step in resisting unacceptable behavior so they can advance to Level D, which is internal motivation. The main point (and the one many people miss) is that Levels A and B refer to behavior. Levels C and Level D refer to motivation.

When young people learn the difference between internal and external motivation, their mindsets change. Understanding the difference promotes responsible behavior, effort in learning, self-discipline, and empowers young people never to become victims.