Levels of Development

Both Internal and External Motivation are Part of Life

When it comes to motivation, many people believe that internal motivation is the only one that’s important. That’s not necessarily true. Both types help us live our life to the fullest.

The Levels of Development highlights both internal and external motivation. And it’s important to realize that we live our lives on all levels of the Levels of Development.

Rich Lowry, in his book “Lincoln Unbound” (2013), states that some people convinced Lincoln to run for the Illinois state legislature in 1832. He was just 23 at the time. This was certainly external motivation. I had similar experiences when a colleague suggested I become a high school principal. (At the time, I already had served as a high school assistant … >>>


Understanding Internal Motivation and Feelings

Very often, people don’t fully understand why they do or think things. Are thoughts, feelings, and actions driven by internal motivation or external motivation?

Let’s look at feelings and how internal and external factors affect them. Most people have a hard time untangling the sources of various positive and negative feelings and are prone to misunderstand their causes. In a classic demonstration of this, the current day’s weather affected how people being interviewed rated how well their entire life had been up to that point. They were more likely to characterize their whole existence as sunny when the weather was nice. Conscious awareness of this reaction, however, brought about an immediate change. When the interviewers called attention to the weather … >>>


Autonomy and Motivation

Autonomy is a key driver of human behavior in traditional American culture. The most successful people are autonomous and are able to handle stress successfully.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs referred to autonomy as the level of “self-actualization.” The  Levels of Development refers to this as Level D, Democracy—taking the initiative to do something that is right regardless of social pressures.

People who only reach Level C, (external motivation) on the Levels of Development will never be autonomous because they rely on external motivational sources such as seeking the approval of others and the desire to fit in and be liked by others.

Autonomous people realize that the inner satisfaction received by Level D (internal motivation) is far more … >>>


Stress Management for Parents

Most parents I know are seeking help with stress management. Between work and family, there is always so much to do. No wonder so many parents turn to rewards and punishments in order to get their children to comply. Unfortunately, using such techniques actually makes the parent’s stress level rise. If you want true parental stress management, you need to focus on responsibility, not outdated parenting models.

Here’s why.

Social scientists have determined that we accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have CHOSEN to perform it in the absence of outside pressure, such as a large reward.

While an incentive may get us to perform a certain action, it won’t get us to accept inner responsibility … >>>


Language and Thought Shape Your Reality

Did you know that language and thought shape your reality? In other words, change your words and you can change your life. Sound too simple to be true? It’s not. Studies have shown that changing how you talk changes how you think, and what you think becomes your reality.

The power and importance of language and thought and how it shapes your reality was reinforced to me years ago when I read George Orwell’s book 1984, which was written in 1949 at the beginning of the cold war. The book is about how the world of the future could be with Big Brother watching you.

In this classic book, George Orwell demonstrated the power of words, using the example … >>>


Lord of the Flies and Levels of Development

My blog of June 2, 2015 was on “Restorative Justice,” a discipline program being used by many urban schools because of the federal mandate to reduce the number of minority students being disciplined and suspended. I quote from an article about Restorative Justice: “The administration welcomes this ‘Lord of the Flies’ scenario.”

Here is little background about the “Lord of the Flies,” the title of a book that the article refers to along with information about the author.

William Golding was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983 for his novels that “illuminate the human condition in the world of today.” He will probably be remembered primarily for his first novel, “Lord of the Flies,” a dark and disturbing

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Bullying and Law Enforcement

I recently read a news article about a Pennsylvania teenager who was convicted of disorderly conduct after using his iPad to film his tormentors who were bullying him at school. The boy claimed to have been bullied for several months by a certain group of kids. Each time he complained to the school about the many incidents, he felt no one was listening since nothing ever got done. So he took matters into his own hands by creating a 7-minute recording of the bullying events.

But when he showed the school his video, rather than go after the bullies, the school administrators went after him, even going so far as to suggest pursuing a felony wiretapping charge!

While this story … >>>


Using Levels of Development with Kindergarten – High School Students

The Levels of Development (the first part of the discipline program of the Discipline Without Stress Teaching Model) can be used with Kindergarten to high school students.

The following comments come from a kindergarten and a high school teacher, respectively.

I had a particularly challenging Kindergarten class and taught the hierarchy. I was surprised how quickly my youngsters were able to pick up the language and were able to label situations as ‘Anarchy’ and ‘Bullying.’

We used the ‘Happy Face’ poster and discussed how Level A and Level B usually result in tears. We talked about what Level C and Level D are like in the hallway, in the bathroom, etc.

It was very effective. Kindergarten students were certainly able … >>>


Using the Levels of Development with Very Young People

The Levels of Development uses just four (4) concepts, or vocabulary terms, to describe two unacceptable behaviors (Level A and Level B) and two other terms to describe the concepts of external motivation (Level C) and internal motivation (Level D). The use of these terms leads to improved self-discipline.

Some primary teachers feel uncomfortable using the terms associated with unacceptable behaviors—anarchy and bullying. Rather than ignoring these negative concepts, young people are empowered when they can identify, articulate, and resist them.

The way to learn a concept is to have a way to describe it. This is the reason that one of the most fundamental approaches to … >>>


The Broken Window Theory and Levels of Development

James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling made the Broken Window Theory famous in their 1982 ATLANTIC MONTHLY article:

“The unchecked panhandler is, in effect, the first broken window. Muggers and robbers, whether opportunistic or professional, believe they reduce their chances of being caught or even identified if they operate on streets where potential victims are already intimidated by prevailing conditions. If the neighborhood cannot keep a bothersome panhandler from annoying a passerby, the thief may reason, it is even less likely to call the police to identify a potential mugger or to interfere if the mugging actually takes place.”

By the same reasoning, when a discipline problem is demonstrated in a classroom and if the teacher does not attend … >>>


Using A Butterfly Analogy to Explain the Levels of Development

Using A Butterfly Analogy to Explain the Levels of Development

The four levels (concepts) can be taught using examples from home, school, and/or personal experiences—as well as from stories and events around the world. Sharing examples of each level increases understanding and makes the concepts more meaningful and personal. Following is how a teacher introduced the concepts.


I began by reminding the students of the life cycle of a butterfly. They recalled that there are four stages of development: egg, caterpillar, pupa, and butterfly. We talked about how all butterflies are in some stage of this process but have no control over their movement through the process.

We then moved on to comparing the butterfly’s life cycle to >>>


Bullying a Cat

I had the pleasure of presenting two sessions at the annual conference of the National Middle School Association. The day after the first presentation, an attendee related the following to me:

I used your approach on my daughter last night. She had  often picked on our cat in a rather mean way and was doing so again. I ASKED her if she was bullying the cat OR being respectful.

After what seemed a long period of reflection, my four-year-old responded, “Bullying.”

I then asked her what we should do? After more reflecting, my daughter suggested that we get rid of the cat so that she couldn’t bully it any more.

The mother will not get rid of the cat, but … >>>


Using the Levels of Development to Resolve Problems

I had an experience with one of my students that I call, “Level D at the Beach!”  While on a field trip, I had an opportunity to use the Levels of Development  with a child who had shown a high level of integrity. I was able to help him recognize the fact because of the Raise Responsibility System.

I had another situation in which I was able to use the Levels of Development to help a child feel a bit better about her dealings with a difficult desk partner. I thought I’d share it because I think it’s helpful to hear stories of classroom experiences and because I want to encourage people to remember to use the hierarchy to … >>>


Bullying and Taking the Initiative

When students are standing around watching bullying behavior, they become accomplices. The bully wants to show off. A person on Level D of the Levels of Development—one who understands that democracy and responsibility are inseparable—will TAKE THE INITIATIVE in an attempt to disperse the crowd and remove a prime motivational factor for the bully.

How do you get people to WANT to take the initiative to act responsibly? I believe it’s done by understanding the relationship between the brain and the body—by communicating ideas so that positive emotions kick in. Only by tapping into positive emotions will young people feel that they WANT to do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do—regardless of peer influence. … >>>


The Levels of Development and the Police

When I again presented in Sacramento, California, one of the participants told me that he had attended one of my seminars in Sacramento several years previously and that he uses the Levels of Development in various situations—including those when he assists the local police. I asked Frank to share with attendees how he uses the program after arresting a youth and transporting that young person to the police department.

Frank starts by being proactive. He explains the Levels of Development of the discipline plan, and he then informs the person that it is the person’s choice as to how he/she will be treated upon arrival at the destination. Frank explains that operating on Level A or Level B will … >>>


Teaching Levels of Development

What are the most important things I need to understand before I teach the Levels of Development?

Keeping the four-part Discipline without Stress Teaching Model in mind, here are some critical understandings with regard to the Levels of Development:

• Levels A and B are always unacceptable. Choosing to act (either consciously or non-consciously) at these levels will result in the use of authority by the teacher.

• Don’t quibble with a student over determining whether a certain unacceptable action was at Level B or Level A. It doesn’t matter–both levels are unacceptable.

• Don’t get derailed trying to figure out WHY a student chose to do something that was unacceptable. Harsh as this may sound, … >>>