Teaching the Levels of Development

Hierarchy of Social Development

Rather than reacting after a behavior problem appears, you can use the Levels of Development to be proactive. As soon as your child can talk, you begin with the easy teaching of four (4) concepts of the Levels of Development. These four concepts are the foundation of the system that handles all behavior problems while promoting responsibility.

The first two concepts (Level A and Level B) refer to behavior and are both unacceptable. Level C and D refer to motivation and are both acceptable.

Note: Having young people learn the concepts is critical because reference is never made directly to a child’s behavior; reference is always referred to the level the youngster has chosen.

This understanding cannot be emphasized enough because success depends upon parents’ teaching and young people’s learning the concepts. This is what “proactive” means. You teach at the outset. Keep in mind that it is the effect of the Levels of Development—how young people mature—that makes learning the four concepts so valuable. Think of the Levels of Development as a rubric or reference for making decisions in life. The beauty is that the same four vocabulary concepts can be used at any age as people encounter different experiences and challenges.

In practice, these concepts are referred to as levels. As with any hierarchy, the most advanced or highest level is placed at the top because people naturally aspire to the highest level.

The Top Two Levels of the Levels of Development

LEVEL D – Democracy (highest level) 

  • Develops self-discipline
  • Demonstrates initiative
  • Displays responsibility
  • Does good because it is the right thing to do

The motivation is INTERNAL.

The term “Democracy” is used because democracy and responsibility are inseparable. Motivation at this level brings the most satisfaction and is the major contributor to healthy self-esteem.

LEVEL C – Cooperation/Conformity 

  • Considerate
  • Cooperates
  • Complies
  • Conforms

The motivation is EXTERNAL.

Action at this level is often prompted by motivation to cooperate. Most of us live our lives at this level. Other types of external motivation can be to please others, receive a reward, or to avoid a negative consequence. However, there is a danger at this level when a youngster conforms or complies to peer influence that may not be in the person’s best interests.

Because of its foundational characteristic, the key concept is re-emphasized: The difference between these two levels (D and C) is in the motivation—NOT than in the behavior. For example, a person is asked to pick up trash and does so. The motivation to act came from outside and therefore would be referred to as Level C—EXternal motivation. However, if the youngster sees the trash and takes the initiative to pick it up without being asked, the motivation would be Level D—INternal motivation. The action of disposing of the trash is identical in both C and D; the difference is in the motivation. The objective is to teach the Hierarchy of Social Development so that people will become aware of their own motivation: EXternal or INternal.

These two higher levels of MOTIVATION describe how most responsible people with values for a civilized society and culture live most of the time.

The Bottom Two Levels of the Levels of Development

The two lower levels of BEHAVIOR are NOT acceptable.

LEVEL B – Bullying/Bossing

  • Bosses others
  • Bullies or bothers others
  • Breaks laws and makes own standards
  • Must be bossed to behave

This level is characterized by a lack of impulse control, a lack of consideration for others, and by displaying inappropriate behaviors. When behaving at this level, a person is sending the message, “Control me because I am not capable or mature enough to control myself.”

LEVEL A – Anarchy (lowest level)

  • Absence of order
  • Aimless and chaotic
  • Absence of government

This level is characterized by chaos, being out of control, or unsafe. Anarchy is the fundamental enemy of civilization.

NOTE: After teaching the levels, spend no time differentiating between Level A and Level B. Neither is acceptable.

You Always Choose Your Level of  Development

Everyone experiences the various levels of the Levels of Development—and sometimes even daily. For example, if you experience great anger, chances are that you have little concern for the effect your behavior has on others. Basically, you become narcissistic (Level A). If you drive faster than the speed limit, you are making your own rules of the road (Level B). If you are courteous and considerate of others, your motivation could be to do what others are doing (Level C), or your motivation could be to be courteous and considerate of others because that is the right thing to do (Level D).

The Levels of Development engenders a desire to behave responsibly because at a young age people naturally aspire to the highest level. They also learn to recognize inappropriate peer influence, bullying, and irresponsible behaviors so they can learn to rise above them. In addition, Level D brings feelings of satisfaction that Level C cannot attain.

You can read more about this topic in my books.