Guiding Students Towards Internal Motivation

Understanding Motivation ~ It’s ALL about relationships

  • Your relationship with a student is the most important thing. You must make that connection a priority and protect it at all costs.
  • It’s not our job to control our students. We can not control them. Our job is to teach them to control themselves.
  • The goal is heart change NOT compliance.
  • The art of leading someone is getting them to do what’s best/needed because they want to do it.
  • Students are NOT unmotivated. Everyone is motivated. They are just motivated by different things.

Things to Avoid ~ Trying to Control Students

  • Avoid Fear & Threats of Punishment
    • Relationships can’t thrive where there is fear and no trust. Trust is the key to influence. Threats kill trust & relationship connection.
    • Love drives out fear. When love is low, many rules are necessary. When there is a high amount of love there is a low need for rules.
    • If fear is your primary means of motivation, then when the fear factor is gone (and often it’s the adult) there is no motivation. If your students make choices dependent upon your proximity & reactions, they will do whatever they want when you are not there.
    • Wrong questions can create a climate of fear. (Did you clean your room? vs. Need any help with cleaning your room? or How’s your room coming along?)
  • Avoid Prizes & Promises
    • Outside rewards often negatively impact or cheapen internal satisfaction with cognitive, conceptual, creative and character skills (but can help with non-mechanical or simple skills).
    • If students always need a reward from the outside, they will never create true motivation from the inside.
    • Use verbal praise, celebrations and appreciation instead of rewards. Occasional surprise rewards are also powerful when used strategically.

How to Motivate towards Internalization ~ Teaching Students to Control Themselves                  (From least to most effective)

5 – Punishment – (a penalty for doing something wrong) **Avoid this at all costs!**

  • While it may seem like semantics and the actions might be very similar to discipline/consequences, the mindset you have in approaching situations and how you communicate through it are received very differently in students.
  • Punishment is based on trying to control others from a position of fear. Fear and love are enemies and can’t coexist. While you can’t control other people, we want to teach them how to control themselves.
  • Punishment damages the relationship/connection with kids. Punishment requires a punisher. It’s difficult for kids to connect with someone who chooses to “hurt” them.
  • Punishment relies completely on external motivation. If you take away the punisher, you take away the motivation.
  • There is a much better way…

4 – Logical Consequences (Discipline) – use this when all else fails

  • When disciplining/correcting/giving Logical Consequences…
    • Create a climate of safety.
    • Make sure expectations (rules) are clearly communicated from the start.
    • Show them how their behavior/choice impacted others.
    • Effective Logical Consequences must be:
      • Respectful & positive at all times ~ done in love
      • Restorative of the relationships ~ protect the connection
      • Reflect core values ~ tie the issue into the big picture
      • Reserved for that individual ~ unique for each person
      • Relevant to the situation ~ consequences fit
      • Reasonable using minimal force ~ motivate change with common sense
      • Responsibility is assigned ~ they own their choices
      • Reflective in nature ~ think about what they did
      • Resource building opportunities for growth ~ stretch their maturity
      • Reparation made ~ restitution done when necessary
      • Replace the behavior ~ what should they do?
    • Communicate specifically what needs to change and have them communicate what they heard you say.
    • Let them have input on what consequence they need to motivate themselves to change their unacceptable behavior. (Offer them the option of owning their responsibility to change.)
  • One of the most demotivating things we can do is consistently accept unacceptable behavior.
  • Sometimes discipline needs to be public. We do the offender a favor letting others know the issue is addressed and resolved. It also sends the message that that kind of behavior is not acceptable to other students.

3 – Natural Consequences with Restorative Practices (Owning Responsibility)

  • Natural Consequences happen without any extra outside “help” or intervention. It’s based on the law of cause and effect. Everything is a result of their choices and behaviors. They have no option but to own it and take responsibility.
  • Engage them to Identifying their Mess
    • Ask good questions that will help them see the correlation between their choices/actions and the current situation.
  • Enable them to Own their Mess
    • As long as the consequences are not life-threatening, don’t rescue them from their poor choices. Experience is the best teacher. Ask, “What are you going to do?”
  • Empower them to Clean up their Mess (situationally and relationally)
    • Give them the opportunity to make amends & fix the problem.
    • An average plan executed with full commitment is better than a good plan with partial commitment. What they come up with may not be the best possible option, but if it comes from them and they have full buy-in, it will be much more effective.
  • Equip them to Avoid Future Messes
    • Replacement behavior (what should they do?)
    • Individualize (unique for each student)
    • Reflection (think about their mistakes)
    • Restitution (how to make a situation right)
    • Reflect on the behavior
    • Take Responsibility
    • Repair the Relationships
    • Restore the situation
    • How will students learn from mistakes?
    • Restorative Practices:

2 – Creating a Culture of Appreciation (this is NOT praise)

  • Appreciate more than you think you should…then double it.
  • Brag on students to their family and peers.
  • Praise—and blame—are ways of judging and controlling other people. The difference between praise and appreciation is that when I praise you I’m telling you about you. When I express appreciation I’m telling you about me. Instead of saying, “You’re so good to come spend time with me,” I’ll say, “I appreciate you for coming and spending time with me.” I’m telling you about myself, not about you.
  • Instead of pointing out what’s wrong, highlight what’s right and celebrate it. When you see someone in a group not following directions while others are, say “I see ___ is following directions and I really appreciate that he’s doing so quietly.”
  • Focus more on effort, character, and the process than on the results. “You should feel good about how hard you studied for that test” instead of “Great job getting an A on the test.”

Model Motivation (they’ll want to be like you)

  • When you have a strong heart-to-heart connection, students will make choices along the lines of protecting your heart and the relationship. When they are asked why they did what they did, your goal for their answer is “It’s because I wanted to keep our connection. While I may not fully understand why now, I trust you because I know you care about me and I care about us.”
  • You always inspire more by your example than your words. Words are good at explaining the why, but actions reveal the what. What you say must consistently match what you do.
  • You are always in the spotlight. Be very intentional with the choices you make and the actions you take. When they see it working in your life, they will be more willing to implement it in their lives.
  • You must motivate yourself first! Who you believe you are determines what you do. Sometimes the best motivation for others is a solid understanding of who you are and commitment to live it out. Who you are is the most accurate destination of where your students will arrive in the end.
{Photo credit: danoStL via /  CC BY-NC-SA}

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