Ultimately, There’s Only One Thing that Really Motivates Children (And Adults)

What will motivate Molly to do her homework?  Her inherent love of mathematics?   Probably not.  In general, we don’t first love mathematics and therefore do mathematics.  It’s just the opposite:  We come to love mathematics when we get good at it. What will motivate Molly to do her homework?  The promise of prizes from her mother?  Perhaps.  But only as long as the prizes keep coming.   And only as long as Sally is interested in the prizes.  And then, she’ll be motivated to get the prize, … [Read more...]

How to Challenge a Child

We all know what Goldilocks was looking for as she sampled the three bowls of porridge made by Mother Bear: Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.    Like anything, when helping our children adjust to emotional situations, getting it “just right” is easier said than done.  Happily, however, we don’t have to get it “just right” all the time.  Instead, we simply need to get it “just right” most of the time.  Happier still, giving “just the right” emotional guidance is more a matter getting to … [Read more...]

“I’m Relaxed, Laid Back, and Without a Care in the World!” (You say that is if it were a good thing…)

By Michael F. Mascolo, Ph.D. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to conduct research in India.  My research compared the sense of self among American and Indian adolescents.  I asked adolescents to describe how they experienced themselves in relationships with different people.  I also asked them to describe how they experienced themselves when they were “just being me”. The results were illuminating.  I had always been told that adolescents and adults in Asia thought of themselves in … [Read more...]

How to be Happy

If you ask people what they strive for in life, many people will say that they wish to be happy.   Of course, this makes good sense.  But what do we mean by happiness?   And how can we attain it?  The answers to these questions are not so clear. So we want to be happy.   How can we make this happen?    One way to live a happy life is by continuously asking ourselves what I like to call “The Most Important Question”.  What is that question? “Is what I am doing good?” This is an easy … [Read more...]

What Makes Learning Exciting?

What makes learning exciting? The Question. If you start with the question, you can never go wrong. There are three basic steps to the learning process – any learning process. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about students in a school; the scientists in the laboratory; or the parent and child at the baseball game. It’s all about asking and answering questions. Step 1: The Question It all starts with the question. Ask questions. Then ask more questions. And then, perhaps, consider … [Read more...]

Don’t Dismiss Jeff Bliss

by Michael F. Mascolo, Ph.D. I hope you’ve seen the viral video of the high school sophomore who, when his teacher dismissed him from class, launched into a tirade about the quality of the education he was receiving. If not, you can find it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bYv2AKPZOk. Jeff Bliss is an 18-year old high school sophomore. He had quit school for a year. Having learned that he would go nowhere without a high school education, Bliss returned to school. The viral video clip occurred … [Read more...]

You Can Offer A Kid An Education, But You Can’t Make Him Care

by Michael F. Mascolo, Ph.D. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. This is a time honored adage, to be sure. For years, I’ve heard variants of it from secondary school teachers and college professors alike. You can make students come to class, but you can’t make them care about their learning. We offer incentives (grades) to students for completing their work and for doing their best work. I often wonder what would happen if we graded students on how much they … [Read more...]

What Would You Attempt to Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

By Michael F. Mascolo, Ph.D. Several years ago, I bought my wife a silver bar bearing the question, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” It was meant to be an inspirational gift. Its message, of course, is quite clear: We tend to avoid challenging projects out of a fear of failure. Failing breeds shame, humiliation and other bad things. If we could only get rid of our fear of failure, who knows what we could accomplish? For several years, my wife kept the silver … [Read more...]