Lessons from Controlling Teenagers

I’ve taught in a high school that was fairly restrictive on its students, both within the school and when they are at home. The school was trying to promote a particular set of values, but the lesson they imparted was one of restriction – you can’t do this, that’s not allowed, and so on.

Another school took a very different approach toward imparting the same values. While some things were explicitly banned, activities were arranged to create alternatives to activities that were allowed, but did not promote the values the school was trying to promote.

Which is more effective? For some students, certainly the first system would work, in that they are inclined to follow the rules, and the creation of many rules will drive them along a particular path. Personally, however, I find the second approach to be more tasteful, and more likely to succeed. People do not want to be told what they can and cannot do. While the school can provide encouragement to participate in certain activities, students are more likely to do so with a smile when they are given a choice, rather than forced.

What does this mean to you?

When running your business, there will be times when you are trying to convince someone to take a particular path. You are more likely to see success if you promote something along the path you want them to take, rather than placing barriers along the road you do not want taken. Besides – it’s nearly impossible to block all the roads but one.