Rules, Stress, and Parenting

Referring to “Responsibilities” is more effective than using “Rules.”

When raising and disciplining children, many parents rely on rules. In reality, though, the use of the term “rules” in parenting is often counterproductive. Rules are used to control—not to inspire. Although essential in games, rules are counterproductive in relationships. 

Think of it this way: If a rule is broken, a mindset of enforcement is naturally created. The adult’s thinking goes something like, “If I don’t do something about this, it will occur again and I’ll lose my authority.” The situation between the adult and child immediately becomes adversarial.

The use of the term “rules” prompts the parent to assume the role of a cop—a position of enforcement—rather than a more … >>>


Collaboration Improves Quality of Learning

Collaboration Improves Quality of Learning.

Collaboration is a much more effective approach to improve and enhance learning. Collaboration structures student interaction for maximum participation.


The traditional approach to involve students is to ask them a question. Students then compete for the teacher’s attention by raising their hands. Using this approach, the only winner becomes the student the teacher calls upon. In a primary class, one can see the hands dropping and hear the sounds of disappointment from those who were not called upon.

Instead of this approach of students’ competing for the teacher’s attention by the teacher’s asking a question, a more effective approach is to pose the question. Posing—in contrast to asking—infers open-endedness, invites students to … >>>


Teaching Is an Art

Teaching is an art, not a science.

There are many things in life that everyone knows exists but that cannot be quantified. Love and friendship are but two simple examples.

• “Bureaucratic solutions to problems of practice will always fail because effective teaching is not routine, students are not passive, and questions of practice are not simple, predictable, or standardized.” —Linda Darling-Hammond from her award winning book, The Right to Learn

•  W. Edwards Deming, the guru of quality, said, “What is most important cannot be measured. The variables are too great.”

Educational theorists have attempted to bring the educational profession to the same status as professionals in the physical and biological sciences. This is exemplified by using the same … >>>


Ronald Reagan and the Art of Influence

An example of how to influence and improve relationships

When you are about to engage in a disagreement, try the following:

Say, “I don’t want to win; I just want to understand what you are saying. My objective is to clarify, not influence.

“You’re saying that you believe A B and C. I believe A B and D. So don’t we really agree more than we differ?”

At the worst you have clarified. At the best you have minimized any disagreement.

In any event, it’s good to know where you agree and where you differ.

The key is to state at the outset that your goal is not to win, but to clarify. Clarity is not only more important than … >>>


Influence and Success

Your choice of influencing determines your success.

Young people are influenced in one of FIVE ways that can be classified into two categories: external and internal.

EXTERNAL Approach 1 – Manipulation (Bribes and Rewards)

Rewards can serve as effective incentives—if the person is interested in the reward. School grades are a case in point. The reward of a good grade is important to some students but not of interest to others. If a good grade—or ANY REWARD—is not important to the person, that reward has little value as an incentive.

Rewards can also serve as wonderful acknowledgements—ways of congratulating merit and demonstrating appreciation. But notice that these are awarded AFTER the behavior—not as bribes beforehand.

Regardless >>>


Reducing Stress by Promoting Responsibility

If a behavioral change is necessary, the stress should be on the student—not the teacher.



Without what I have learned from you I would never have made it in the long-term sub job in the Special Education Department here at school.

At times I was alone with children who were constantly punished and rewarded. I started by not doing any of it but asking questions and having them reflect. They learned that no matter what they did I would not react to their behaviors—except to ask if what they were doing was appropriate and responsible.

Before long, I could predict their behaviors with others and with me. I was stress free and wondered how … >>>


A Discipline Counseling Lesson

This is an example of how to have a student change attitude and behavior.

While working with a middle school for three days, I was asked by the counselor to conduct a discipline counseling session. The request was to work with a student who was a major challenge to the school.

The counselor sat in the session and observed how I used noncoercion and collaboration to prompt a change in the student’s attitude and behavior.

I started the meeting by asking the student, “What was the situation that brought you to the office?” Alicia (not her real name) replied that she had called someone a bad name.

I mentioned that it seemed to me that the impulse of being unkind … >>>


Reducing Stress

Stress can be reduced by what we think.

Some experts suggest that a little stress is good, but high levels of stress are harmful to most people. However, it is possible to perform well when relaxed (think masters of kung fu). In my opinion, that should be the goal: a classroom (and life) that is productive and virtually stress-free.

A traffic jam can prompt feelings of stress one day but not the next, indicating that, with the right training, we are be able to face stress with equanimity. The most common approaches are familiar: eliminating the sources of stress and practicing techniques such as breathing exercises or meditation. Since these are not practical in a classroom, let’s look at an … >>>


Discipline and Counterwill

Counterwill” is the name for the natural human resistance to being controlled, and this includes discipline in the form of punishment being imposing by someone else.

Although adults experience this phenomenon, we seem to be surprised when we encounter it in young people. Counterwill is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted dynamic in parent-child and teacher-student relationships.

This instinctive resistance can take many forms—refusal to do what is asked, resistance when told, disobedience or defiance, and lack of motivation. Counterwill can manifest itself in procrastination or in doing the opposite of what is expected. It can be expressed as passivity, negativity, or argumentativeness and is such a universal phenomenon at certain stages of development that it has given rise to … >>>


Understanding Boys

Whereas good relationships are important to girls, success is more important to boys.

Hopefully, society is well past the “politically correct” theory (an oxymoron in a democratic society) that the ONLY difference between a male and a female is in socialization—that aside from reproductive organs, there is no difference between the sexes neurologically, psychologically, emotionally or how they should be disciplined.

A boy measures everything he does or says by a single yardstick: “Does this make me look weak?”  If it does, he isn’t going to do it. That’s part of the reason that videogames have such a powerful hold on boys. The action is constant; boys can calibrate just how hard the challenges will be; and when they lose, … >>>


Create a Learning Climate to Foster Student Success

If learning is what we value, then we ought to value the process of learning as much as the result of learning.

By nature, people are attracted to activities where they feel free of psychological or emotional pain. Learning is promoted in a climate where people feel safe and cared for. The adage, “People don’t care what you know until they know you care,” is applicable.

When working with one middle school, William Glasser stated, “The teachers stopped almost all coercion—an approach that was radically different from the way most of these students had been treated since kindergarten. When we asked the students why they were no longer disruptive and why they were beginning to work in school, over and … >>>


Tom Sawyer vs. Skinner

Tom Sawyer was a much better psychologist than any behaviorist. Why? Because he inspired others to whitewash Aunt Polly’s front fence. He prompted them to feel good about doing the chore, because he showed them how much fun they could be having. He triggered the internal motivation that prompted them to want to whitewash the fence.

Behaviorists believe that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. They rely on external sources to actuate change. They completely neglect the internal, which is a prime reason that neuroscientists do not rely on these approaches for humans.

Unfortunately, a carrot and stick approach—used to train rodents, birds, and animals—is employed in much of education and parenting. Although behaviorism is touted for special education … >>>


Rules vs. Procedures

Here is a better approach than relying on rules.

Relying on classroom rules is a mistake-even though it is common practice.

When I returned to the classroom after 24 years as an elementary, middle, and high school principal and district director of education, I quickly discovered how rules hindered good relationships and effective discipline. I found myself coming to school everyday wearing a blue uniform with copper buttons. I had become a cop-rather than a facilitator of learning, a role model, a mentor, a coach. The reason is simple: If a student breaks a rule, our tendency is to enforce the rule. This is a natural thought process because the assumption is that if the rule is not enforced, people … >>>


Classroom Management, Discipline, Curriculum, and Instruction

An understanding of each distinctive concept is essential for effective teaching.

“The Brilliant Inventiveness of Student Misbehavior: Test Your Classroom Management Skills” was the title of an article in a well-respected educational journal. The article had some good suggestions. However, there was a glaring misnaming in that the article had nothing to do with classroom management. The article was entirely about discipline.


So are many educators—even college professors. When speaking at an international conference on character education, a college professor said to me, “I don’t like the word ‘discipline’; it’s too harsh, so I use the term ‘classroom management’ instead.” This teacher of teachers had not a clue as to the differences.

I was honored as the Distinguished Lecturer … >>>


Joy in Learning

This is an explanation of how to have students want to do quality work.

Joy is ever changing. What is thrilling at one age is infantile at another. The joy of sharing, so prevalent at a young age, gives way at a later age to the satisfaction of doing something well. With older students, joy that comes from learning is not necessarily accompanied by joyful sounds or even smiling faces. It is often manifest in a more serious expression like that of the scholar so engrossed in the activity as to be oblivious of surroundings. Most teachers have experienced this joy of learning, and they want to pass it on to their students. Focusing on quality is a natural approach … >>>


Competition, Collaboration, and Learning

Competition increases performance but hinders much learning.


One needs to look no further than the business or sports section of any newspaper to see the pervasiveness of competition. There is no doubt that competition increases performance. Athletic teams, bands, and other performing groups practice for hours spurred on by the competitive spirit. Fair competition is valuable and can be lots of fun. Competition in classrooms, however, is fun for the winner but is often unfair for the others because the same children usually win, making it uninvolving and dull for others.

If a student rarely finds himself in the winner’s circle, then competitive approaches kill the drive for learning. Think of it this way. People compete because they want … >>>


Language, the Brain, and Behavior

This is lesson from George Orwell. 

Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, wrote one of the most popular 20th century English novels in 1949 entitled, Nineteen Eighty-Four (35 years in the future). The appendix in the book was referred to as “The Newspeak Appendix” and it described a new language, the purpose of which was to control thought. Orwell showed how language affects the brain, the mind (thought), and behavior. 

A Newspeak root word served as both a noun and a verb, thereby reducing the total number of words in the language. For example, “think” is both a noun and verb, so the word thought is not required and could be abolished. Newspeak … >>>


Explaining the Difference between Internal and External Motivation

Using a  butterfly analogy easily explains the Hierarchy of Social Development.

A major problem in learning occurs when students exhibit inappropriate behavior during a lesson. The usual approach in working with the youth in question is to refer to the irresponsible behavior. This approach oftentimes leads to an escalation of anxious feelings on the part of both the teacher and student. The reason is that anyone, regardless of age, finds it extremely difficult to separate oneself from one’s behavior. You can prove this to yourself by reflecting on your last evaluation. Was your self-talk something like, “Well, my evaluator is not talking about me-just my job performance”? If you didn’t separate yourself from your performance, how can we expect a … >>>