Motivation: A Simple Lesson from Dumbo

We recently took a family trip to Walt Disney World. My seven-year-old son loved Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and having his picture taken with Darth Vader & Storm Troopers from Star Wars!

Despite these –and many other- magical attractions, do you know what ONE thing my son loved more than anything else? The one thing that made him jump up-and-down with pure excitement… that he nagged us about for days before we arrived… and then nagged us about well after we left?


Yup, that’s right. The ride where you do nothing but spin around circles.

Relative to every other attraction in Walt Disney World, Dumbo has absolutely nothing fantastic to see or experience. It is no more interesting than your standard, run-of-the-mill carnival ride. In fact, at 62 seconds long, it must be the shortest attraction in all of the parks. But, my son is willing to wait in looooong lines –over and over again– just for his few seconds of thrill.

What Makes Dumbo So Spectacular?

The joy stick. 

That’s right… a simple little joy stick that allows him to move his car up and down, at his will. This small, few-second, opportunity for him to CONTROL something is enough to warrant more excitement and enthusiasm than anything else in the park.

And he’s not alone! Since Disney added two similar rides in other parts of the Magic Kingdom (Rockets and Flying Carpets) –all with equally long lines– other kids must feel the same way.

Morale: Children love to have control. (Heck, adults love to have control, too!) Children need to have control –within reasonable limits– to grow, develop responsibility, and feel engaged in their life. These are all the elements that foster Motivation!

What small windows of opportunity can you find to give your children and students some control?

As my son, and the gazillions of children standing in line right now at Dumbo can attest, a little bit of control goes a very long way!



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