From the Head of the Crowther Centre – Dr Ray Swann 

Motivation and Discipline

At Brighton Grammar from ELC–VCE we spend a lot of time thinking about and working with the boys to understand, foster and develop motivation. We know the power of motivation for inclusion, to deal with challenge and to learn the life lesson of being able to ‘defer gratification’ – or in simple terms to make a short-term sacrifice to achieve a longer-term goal.

But whilst we consider these aspects, we cannot forget the role of discipline. In the book ‘About Face’ – the story of Colonel David Hackworth – we learn about discipline and motivation. Motivation is changeable, like a mood – whereas discipline is like the sun, in that it rises every day.  You can depend upon your discipline when the going gets tough.

Connecting our goals to disciplined actions (through routines) is a powerful way to improve learning.

So what does discipline look like for our boys? What are some of the fundamental routines that we teach them to build discipline? Schools are full of them. For example: boys lining up to be ‘ready to learn’, boys taking care of their uniform (shoes, shirt tucked in and so on), or even boys shaking Mr Tellefson’s hand on the way in to school.

We also know that in learning, the satisfaction of learning (the ‘thrill’) needs to be accompanied by motivation (the ‘will’). We do this by teaching routines, insisting on practice, repetition, pulling up the boys when they are not mastering the skill.

Here are some of the other things that you can do at home to help your son build discipline:

  • Give your son responsibility for a particular area of the household.
  • Let your son develop the routine (without your oversight) of making his bed and opening the blinds each morning (as well as keeping his room tidy!). General McRaven talks about the value of making one’s own bed in this video.
  • Help your son clarify his goals, then talk about the desired conditions needed to realise the goal.
  • Put those behaviours and actions (along with timelines and consequences) on the fridge (make them fairly short term so they can be reviewed or changed).
  • Link some of the behaviours to things he also enjoys (so if the goal is to do a little more study, maybe sit down and join him – with some food!)
  • Make sure your son is getting enough sleep (research shows time and again that when tired, we lose our willpower!)

Finally, I would like to thank Kate Casey (Crowther Centre Manager) and Danielle Wolff (School Psychologist and Crowther Associate) for their work in the Parent Workshop Program that has been running throughout this term, as well as the many parents who came in to join the learning community at BGS!

We will continue with our program next term (details and dates for Term 4 workshops will be released soon). 

If there is a particular topic on which you’d like Crowther to present or explore the research, please contact us at: