If you’re like most people, you probably want to improve your life in some way. Whether it’s improving your decision-making skills, your relationships, or your job situation, the desire for change and life improvement is an important human urge. No wonder there are so many books and websites dedicated to personal and professional growth.
In my own experience and in working with countless others, I have found that once you implement the Levels of Development into your life, change and growth are natural byproducts. That’s because the Levels of Development essentially gives you a rubric for making decisions and living your best life. It’s one of the simplest tools to use to improve your life
One thing we could definitely use more of these days is social responsibility—that is, people doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. I’ve long been a proponent of fostering social responsibility in both children and adults. That’s one reason why I created the Levels of Development and have been sharing it with parents, teachers, and school administrators for decades.
But the Levels of Development isn’t just for children. The levels have great merit outside of the classroom and with adults. In fact, when people become aware of the Levels of Development, they become conscious of social responsibility in their own behaviors and in relationships with others.
I created The Levels of Development to help people of all ages understand the difference between external motivation and internal motivation. While it’s true that technically all motivation is internal, often external factors prompt us to take action. This is the case for both adults and children. Knowing why you’re doing something is important for decision making, acting responsibly, and ultimately reducing stress.
So let’s quickly review The Levels of Development. As with any hierarchy of levels, the most advanced or highest level is placed at the top.
No matter what the situation, you always have a choice and can choose your thoughts. These choices are a significant factor in determining your life. The sooner you become aware of this, the less stress you’ll experience.
Realize that regardless of a situation that cannot be changed, regardless of a stimulation that prompts emotions to erupt, and regardless of an urge or impulse, you always have the power and freedom to choose your thoughts and how to respond. The ability is referred to as choice-response thinking
Learning choice-response thinking—that you need not be a victim—may be one of the most valuable thinking patterns you can develop.
The Power of Choice
Choice empowers. Choice, control, and responsibility are so woven together … >>>
Fear is often negative self-talk about a perceived situation. You’ve probably heard that FEAR is actually an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. However, even knowing this, there are times when it is most difficult to think that a situation is not real. So rather than attempting to eradicate your fear, warm up to it.
Too many people have the mindset of “If I’m afraid, I can’t do something.” But the truth is that you can do it even if you are afraid; it’s just less comfortable than doing something you are not afraid to do. But if you do it a couple of times, you won’t be afraid to do it anymore, and it will become more and more … >>>
Here is a marvelously successful idea to stop bullying. You can use this approach to prevent bullying in classrooms, reduce bullying school-wide, and even stop bullying behaviors in homes. The key is to approach the motivation of bullying that prompts people to bully others.
Start with sharing the Levels of Development, which shows that choosing bullying behavior is operating on Level B—bothering/bullying.
Here is the procedure I used as a teacher. You can use this procedure in any circumstance to reduce bullying behavior or even completely stop bullying.
The Stop Bullying Procedure — Step One
Use a ruler or book and hold it flat so viewers see only the thin edge. Announce that it is like a teeter-totter or … >>>
This website is filled with examples of how the Levels of Development work in the classroom. As such, many people assume that the system works in a classroom setting with average, everyday students, but that it has little application outside the classroom. Nothing could be further from the truth! The Levels of Development can be used in numerous scenarios, including at-risk youth.
Consider the example of Frank Spino and how he uses the Levels of Development. Frank attended one of my seminars in Sacramento, California several years ago. He now uses the Levels of Development in various situations—including those when he assists the local police. I asked Frank to share how he uses the Levels of Development after arresting a … >>>
Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist? In simple terms, an optimist focuses on hope. A pessimist focused on doubt. An optimist thinks about the good that can be in a situation. A pessimist thinks about all the things that could go wrong in a situation.
Positivity (or what I call ‘conscious optimism’) promotes and induces responsibility in everyone, including children. A positive attitude, just like happiness, begins between the ears. Both are skills that anyone can develop.
In fact, the most important thing people can control is their state of mind. Is your state of mind more like an optimist or a pessimist? You really do have a choice! A state of mind is something that one … >>>
When people, especially the young, learn the difference between external and internal motivation, they become empowered to resist bullying and victimhood thinking, and to make responsible choices. The Levels of Development explains the difference between external motivation and internal motivation. Even young children can understand these concepts.
Although technically all motivation is internal, being able to articulate something outside of ourselves that prompts or motivates will help us make more responsible decisions. Keep in mind that it is the effect of the Levels of Development—how people grow—that makes learning the levels (concepts) so valuable. Think of the Levels of Development as rubric or reference for making decisions in life.
Internal Motivation Prompts Change
Additionally, when children learn both of the … >>>
Teaching impulse control for kids can be a challenge. If you want to become a more effective adult when working with young people, then give up the desire to control. Instead, hand over to the young the responsibility of learning to control themselves. This is important for every child but especially important for those young people who have repeated discipline and impulse control challenges.
The key to fostering impulse control for kids is to use the Levels of Development all the time so that it isn’t associated with corrective discipline. In fact, the more you use the hierarchy, the more young people will understand the difference between external and internal motivation. They will also become open to using the hierarchy … >>>
One of the most common questions I receive from people has to do with rewarding students. In fact, a common thinking is that it is necessary to reward students to do what you would like them to do. Additionally, most people still compare rewarding students with adults receiving a paycheck to do a job. But the two concepts are completely dissimilar.
For working adults, money is a satisfier—not a motivator and not a reward. Your compensation is a binding contract between two entities. “You do this task and I’ll give you this much money.” If either party fails to do their part, the contract can immediately end. Either you quit the job (if you don’t receive your income) or you … >>>
We all know that we have a bullying epidemic in this country. But few adults realize how bad it is in today’s schools. Did you know that approximately 160,000 students skip school each day for fear of being bullied? And over 70% of students say they have witnessed another person being bullied.
So what exactly constitutes bullying? According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, “Bullying is any unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time … It can include making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”
The life cycle of a butterfly not only fascinates but the life cycle of a butterfly in real life can serve as an analogy to the Levels of Development. Once young people understand the basics of building a hierarchy, then their physical growth can be compared to a butterfly life cycle. With this understanding, they become empowered to act more responsibly. Additionally, they reduce their stress and the stress of others with whom young people interact.
The four stages of the life cycle of a butterfly can be related to the four physical states of human development and the Levels of Development.
Began by reminding young people of the life cycle of a butterfly. There are four stages … >>>
Are you aware of the advantages and disadvantages of conformity and the importance of obedience?
Conformity and obedience are natural and necessary in any society. This is how cultures perpetuate their values and traditions. However, obedience can promote stress on the part of all concerned.
Here is an example: The parent requests or demands that the teenager makes the bed before going to school. The teen obeys. We would refer to this as Level (C) cooperation or conformity on the Levels of Development.
In a similar scenario where the parent expects the teen to make the bed each morning, the teen does so without being told. We would refer to this as Level (D) taking the initiative on … >>>
Always encourage children and students to look to themselves to solve problems, rather than relying on others. This is critical because many well-meaning parents and teachers too often do things for children that they could and should be doing themselves.
Never take on a young person’s problems if he or she is capable of meeting the challenge. The reason is that every time you solve a problem for someone who is capable of solving the problem without you, you are depriving the person of an opportunity to become more responsible. In addition, the person misses the satisfaction that arises from success.
As it has been aptly said, “If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some … >>>
I have heard of teachers grading student behavior. But I was thunderstruck when a parent informed me that a teacher was using the letters of the Hierarchy of Social Development to have students grade themselves.
When you ask children to grade themselves on their behavior, the inference is that this is necessary because they may behave irresponsibly. This, by itself, is contrary to the Discipline Without Stress model. Teachers should be positive and assume that students will act responsibly.
The Perils of Grading Student Behavior
We all know that on a grading scale the letter “A” represents the highest. Unfortunately—AND WITH GREAT MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE LEVELS OF DEVELOPMENT—this teacher was asking students to grade their own behavior each … >>>
When I returned to the classroom after 24 years in counseling and administration, the lack of responsibility on the part of some students glared out at me. That’s when I asked myself, “How can I promote responsible behavior?”
The outcome was the Raise Responsibility System, which you can find a plethora of information about on my website. In developing the program, I decided to be PROACTIVE, rather than always reacting after an inappropriate behavior. That’s when I developed the Levels of Development.
Terms that Promote Responsibility
Every so often someone writes me about the problems the person has with using the vocabulary with young people. Here is my response about two of the terms.
For decades I’ve said that internal motivation drives behavior. I’ve seen this truth daily throughout my career. It’s the reason why I wrote the book Discipline Without Stress—to help teachers teach students the difference between internal motivation and external motivation and how each impacts their behavior.
In the Discipline Without Stress discussion group, a teacher made a comment about wanting to use Discipline Without Stress to “give young people a meaningful voice in their education.” One of my dear colleagues and friends, Kerry Weisner, responded with her viewpoint. Here is her reply:
“Giving kids ‘a meaningful voice in their education’ is not my goal when I use ideas from DWS in my teaching or parenting. Perhaps I misunderstand what … >>>
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