Teaching the Hierarchy

How can I explain the difference between Level C and D of this discipline system?


What is the best way to explain to children the difference between internal and external motivation––in other words, the difference between DWS Levels C and D?  I am having trouble with this.


Initially I use very concrete examples connected directly to the classroom.

I describe Level C as the level where students do the right thing––what’s expected of them by the teacher––because the teacher is clearly expecting them to do it.

Some simple examples:

  • The student will pick up toys off the floor when they are asked.
  • The student will walk quietly in the hallway when a teacher is supervising.
  • The student will clean up a mess he/she has made when
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Books (picture) to introduce the Levels of Development


Here is a list of picture books to introduce the four levels of the Hierarchy of Social Development.
The bold books with the asterisk (*) are the ones I used when I developed and taught the levels.

Level A Books – Anarchy (not acceptable level)
*Miss Nelson Is Missing
by Harry Allard and James Marshall
Mean Soup, by Betsy Everitt
Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink, by Diane deGroat
Miss Nelson is Missing, by Harry Allard
We Share Everything, by Robert Munsch
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes
When Sophie Gets Angry Really Really Angry, by Molly G. Bang

Level B Books – Bullying and Bothering (not acceptable level)
*The Three Little Pigs
by James Marshall… >>>


Intermediate/High School Book- “Letters to a Bullied Girl”

I’d like to share a new book I recently signed out from my public library.

It’s called Letters to a Bullied Girl; Messages of Healing and Hope by Olivia Gardner with Emily and Sarah Buder.

Book Cover

Just as the title suggests, the book is filled almost entirely with personal letters––presented in an easy-to-read format.  The letters are all addressed to one of the authors, Olivia, expressing messages of encouragement to help Olivia get past the serious issues of bullying that she experienced for several years.

Olivia, now 15, suffers from epilepsy and was bullied relentlessly at school and on the Internet, to the point where she considered taking her own life.  In March of 2007, two sisters read about … >>>


Focusing on the positive!

It seems that every year my teaching partner and I introduce the DWS Hierarchy a bit differently from the year before.  As we’ve become more familiar with the bigger picture of using DWS throughout the course of an full school year, we worry less and less about the initial introduction.  Over the years, we’ve experienced that the beginning lesson is not something we need to view as a “make or break” situation.  Our young students in grade one need many many “introductions” to the Hierarchy in order for all of them to really understand it, so we know that the the first lesson will simply be one of many to come.

This year though, our introduction of the Hierarchy came … >>>


What is a Level B TEACHER?


I understand what a Level B student is but sometimes I hear teachers asking, “Do you want me to become a Level B teacher?” Can you explain what this is all about?

One important understanding students receive when the teacher introduces the Discipline without Stress Hierarchy in the beginning of the year is that people can in effect, choose the type of relationship they wish to have with other people, including the authority figures in their life.

Good relationships are created by operating on Level C. For those who choose to operate on Level D–the highest level–relationships will be even better and more satisfying. Students are also introduced to the understanding that frequent operation on Level B … >>>


Primary Book – “The Little Red Hen”

Just like people, book characters often operate on more than one level!

Very often, the author has at least one character learn something about the discouraging outcomes of operating at the lower levels. In many cases, the character is transformed in some way during the course of the story.

Whenever I read such a book to children, I highlight this transformation by connecting it to the DWS Hierarchy.

  • What did this character learn as the result of experiencing or observing the outcomes of operating on a lower level?
  • What can we learn from this character’s experiences?
  • How might what has happened in this situation, affect how this character chooses to act in the future?
  • Have you ever had a
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Is Discipline without Stress ever implemented in high school?


Does anyone know if Discipline without Stress is ever implemented in high school? I teach high school Leadership classes and I think high schoolers need these things even more immediately than little ones. The real world is going to require self-discipline of them, real soon! Raising their responsibility is exactly what high school kids need. Most of the discussions I hear about the system seemed aimed at younger children, though presumably they should be applicable to older students as well. I would like any tips, or even encouragement for using this discipline approach in high school.


Discipline without Stress was developed when the author, Dr. Marvin Marshall, was teaching in a high school setting. It’s been adapted for >>>


Should I start introducing the Levels of Development from A or D?

First Question:

When introducing the Levels of Development, I assume that I should focus on one level at a time. Do I start with Level A or Level D?


To me, it makes sense to begin with Level A and end with D; I want to end on a positive and inspiring note!

Second Question:

Would it be best to introduce one new level each week, or one new level each  day, while revisiting the previous levels?


There are many ways to introduce the Levels of Development. The number of lessons used for introducing the four levels would depend on your own preference and might vary with the age of your students. High school teachers typically … >>>


Are the level letters confusing to students?


I was wondering if the behavior standards listed by Marshall (A = anarchy, etc.) are confusing 
to students. When we give them behavior grades, we say “A” is the best. I want to put up 
the Hierarchy chart as described in the book, but I wondered if it was going to confuse the kids.


The symbols “ABCD” have no particular meaning in and of themselves, it’s only in context that these symbols hold particular meanings.

For example, in a multiple choice question, A,B,C,D identify four possible answers.

In First Aid situations, ABC refers to Check AIRWAYS, Check BREATHING, Check CIRCULATION.

When discussing “patterning” as a concept in math, ABCD might refer to a pattern of four repeating shapes … >>>


Can the levels be renamed in opposite order?


Just wondering–could the levels be renamed to go in the opposite order? The younger kiddies have been so programmed to think that A is the best and what they should be striving for. To them, D means needing improvement. I’m afraid my kids will get confused when I tell them Level A is the worst level.


From a primary teacher on the Disicpline without Stress mailring:

I thought the same thing until I taught it to my children. My second grade class learned the terms the first day of school. I had a harder time with getting my mind around it than they did! Their minds are remarkably resilient and flexible.

As a reminder for me, … >>>


How can I explain “anarchy?” in the context of this discipline approach?

Some of my youngsters are struggling with the word “anarchy.” How can I explain what it means in a simple way?

Remember that young people’s brains are like sponges. They can absorb anything. The trick is to make meaning of what is absorbed. This will enhance learning and memory.

For older children:
Break “an/archy” up by teaching that the prefix “an” means “not,” “without,” or “lacking”– in this case, “without rule.” Compare this with other prefixes such as “mono,” which means “one,” and “olig” which means “a few.”

Explain that:
• Monarchy is rule by one person (like a king).
• Oligarchy means rule by a few people.
• Anarchy means that there is no … >>>