Classroom Management

Do the Levels of Development Really Work?

When something sounds too good to be true, it’s natural for people to be skeptical about it. This is true for everything from weight loss products to money making opportunities to even my very own Levels of Development.

People often wonder, “Can the Levels of Development and the Without Stress Methodology really change behavior and promote responsibility in youth?” After receiving countless testimonials and working with children and staff first hand, I can say without hesitation that it works.

Consider this email I received recently:

My name is Melissa Stuart. I was a teacher in California for 28 years and am now teaching in McKinney, TX. I used your program in CA. I loved it and believed in it. >>>


Levels of Development and Homework

One thing teachers and parents continually struggle with is getting students to do their homework. But if you review the Levels of Development, you actually have a nice framework for encouraging students to do their homework. Think of it as a “Homework Hierarchy,” which may assist in more students completing home assignments.

Using the Levels of Development for homework may encourage personal reflection and create a desire to put forth more effort. Therefore, guide your students to quickly create such a hierarchy. There’s no need to write it down. Just do it orally. Here’s an example.

LEVEL D – Motivation for doing homework is internal.

  • Completes home tasks and is proud of its quality
  • Starts assignments without adult reminders
>>> READ MORE >>>

How Teachers and Parents Can Promote Good Behavior

Promoting good behavior is something both teachers and parents want for the children in their lives. And it’s always easier to do when the teachers and parents work together.

Following is an email I received from a teacher about students, parents, and good behavior.

“I am interested in implementing your ideas in my classroom. They make such sense to me, and I am very excited! What do you recommend for communicating about student behavior with the parents? In previous years I used a behavior classroom chart and a six-weeks calendar where daily behavior is recorded and sent home each day. I do not want to use that system any longer. However, I will have parents who will want to know … >>>


Counterwill Causes Stress

Counterwill causes stress, and counterwill is something we all experience at some time in our lives. What is counterwill? Counterwill is the name for the natural human resistance to being controlled.

Adults as well as young people experience counterwill. Perhaps it’s no surprise that counterwill is the most misunderstood and misinterpreted dynamic in child-parent and teacher-student relationships.

This instinctive resistance to force can take many forms:

  • Refusal to do what is asked
  • Reluctance and resistance when being told
  • Disobedience or defiance
  • Lack of motivation to do what the adult desires the young person to do

Counterwill can also manifest itself in procrastination or in doing the opposite of what is expected. It can be expressed as passivity, negativity, oppositional defiance, … >>>


Stress Management Advice for New Teachers

Stress management is key for all aspects of life. However, I find that new teachers feel an enormous amount of stress as they enter the profession. That’s why one of my overarching goals is to help teachers gain some stress management techniques that will make their new profession much more enjoyable.

The philosophy behind my book Discipline Without Stress includes three objectives: 1) Empower students by communicating to them in positive ways, 2) Reduce coercion by offering choices, and 3) Have them improve by asking reflective questions. This same message comes through in my other books, Parenting Without Stress and Live Without Stress.

Unfortunately, too many teachers—new and seasoned alike—do not realize that they are in the relationship, marketing, and … >>>


The Perils of Praise

I often talk and write about how acknowledging a person’s behavior is more effective than offering praise. For example, saying, “You treated your bother with real consideration” is more empowering and has a greater positive emotional impact than saying, “I am so pleased by the way you treated your brother.”

Reinforcing and empowering self-understanding is much more useful for the person than praise, which shows no indication for judging progress.


  1. Praise prompts a dependence on others for approval.
  2. Praising youth can increase learned helplessness if young people rely on approval in lieu of their own motivation.
  3. Praise can generate disappointment for those who don’t receive it when others do. Experts call this “punished
>>> READ MORE >>>

Classroom Procedures Improve Student Behavior

Most teachers know that classroom procedures improve student behavior. Unfortunately, many teachers forget to implement them. Recently a teacher asked me for advice regarding seven students who repeatedly disrupted the class. These students would continuously get up for unnecessary tissues. It was almost like a game to them—to see who could get up the most times to retrieve as many tissues as possible.

For situations like this, there are three basic principles of the Discipline Without Stress methodology to follow.

1) You’ll get better results if you approach everything from a POSITIVE point of view, even when the situation itself might be negative.

2) In this approach, the students are asked to take responsibility. Rather than telling young people what … >>>


Get Students to Do Homework

How do you get students to do homework? That’s one of the most common questions I receive from teachers and parents alike.

Recently a 4th-grade teacher contacted me. He said that he was having a tough time getting his students to complete their homework. He believed in the Discipline Without Stress methodology and didn’t want to go back to the old way, where he would deduct points from the students’ overall grade if they failed to turn in homework (which was what his colleagues were urging him to do). This smart teacher knew there had to be a better way to get his students to do homework. But what?

How to Get Kids to Do Homework

I told him to … >>>


Tips for Positive Classroom Management

Classroom management strategies exist in every school around the world. I’ve had the pleasure of presenting my Discipline Without Stress methodology to teachers in many different countries. In my travels, I’ve noticed some key differences between how teachers in the U.S. tend to look at classroom management compared to those in other countries.

First, I’ve found that teachers in many other countries have more time to spend with each other in lesson planning. As a result, they focus on motivation and ways to have students WANT to put forth effort in learning. In contrast, teachers in the U.S. have very little employment time to plan lessons. They focus on what they (or the government) deem important to teach, and they … >>>


Create a Positive Classroom Environment

The classroom environment you create plays a large part in student success. It also dictates how stressful your teaching career will be.

I have been advocating for a more positive approach toward classroom management for quite awhile. What led me in this direction was that when I returned to the classroom after 24 years in counseling and administration, I realized that I was coming to school every day wearing a blue uniform and copper buttons. I had become a cop, which is not the reason I had returned to the classroom. Reflecting on how negative I was becoming, I searched for a new approach to create a positive classroom environment.

A Better Approach to the Classroom Environment

I knew there … >>>


Classroom Procedures are Better than Rules

Practicing classroom procedures is better than doling out punishment. Often, what a teacher or parent refers to as a rule is really a procedure. For proof of this, we need look no further than to one of the first rules primary students are given. They are taught the classroom rule of raising one’s hand to be recognized by the teacher before speaking out.

The same rule is taught year after year. I have even seen this rule posted in eighth-grade classrooms! Simply reminding students that this is a classroom procedure, rather than a rule, places the teacher in the position of a coach and eliminates an enforcement mentality.

We too often assume that children know what we know and what … >>>


PBIS, Rewards, and Deming

demingprizeThis article is about PBIS, using rewards to control, and how they contrast with W. Edwards Deming’s approach of collaboration being better than competition for improved learning, responsibility, and empowerment.

Chances are that you own a product manufactured by a Japanese company. Before WWII, Japanese products were referred to as cheap junk. Bur today you own a Japanese product because of its quality. The person who changed this was W.Edwards Deming, an American who was put in charge of reconstructing Japanese manufacturing after that war. The most prestigious Japanese award today is the Deming Prize. You can read about Deming’s approach in the Phi Delta Kappan cover article:

Dr. Deming described 14 Points for improving quality. He was firmly committed … >>>


Implementing Discipline Without Stress in Elective Classes

Not all teachers see their students all day (or even every day for that matter). In many schools, elective type classes, such as art or music, only meet once per week for 45 minutes. For these teachers, implementing the Discipline Without Stress approach with such limited time can be a challenge. For these situations, here are my suggestions to make discipline easier.

  1. Make a poster or purchase one of the Levels of Development. At the outset, obtain examples from students or share your examples of what each level would look like so that students have a mental image of them. Let students know that you believe one of the most important things they can learn in school and in
>>> READ MORE >>>

A Classroom Management Idea

To encourage learning and reduce discipline disruptions during class time, consider implementing a jigsaw classroom. With this classroom management approach, students work in teams to master an assignment on which they will be tested. Just as in a jigsaw puzzle, each student in the group holds one piece essential for full understanding.

For example, in studying the creation of the American Constitution, each team member becomes a specialist on one area: the Southern viewpoint, the Northeastern Viewpoint, the middle states viewpoint. The specialists study their specific viewpoint with students from other groups studying the same topic. Then the specialists go back to their home group and teach the others.

To master the subject, the whole group must listen to what … >>>


Measuring Student Growth

Testing anxiety is a major trigger of discipline issues at school and at home. When young people are stressed and anxious, they may act out more in an attempt to take control of their life. It’s normal for me to receive more requests for discipline help during testing times of the year.

When it comes to tests, many educators are familiar with the term “normative” as a testing term. This word refers to the process of comparing a student’s academic performance on a standardized achievement test with a group of students who took the test under similar circumstances in the past.

The test results of the original student group are taken as the norm. In other words, this group is … >>>


Having a Teaching System is Better than Having a Talent for Teaching

Working in Harlem under contract for three years with the New York City Board of Education taught me an invaluable lesson: Having a teaching SYSTEM is far superior to talent when a teacher faces challenging behaviors in the classroom.

The assistant superintendent and I were very impressed while observing a teacher one year. We agreed that the teacher was a “natural.” However, when I visited the teacher the following year, she told me that three boys were such challenges that she could use some assistance.

Even teachers with a “natural talent” are challenged by student behaviors that teachers in former generations did not have to deal with. To retain the joy that the teaching profession offers and to reduce one’s … >>>


How to Foster Initiative in Students

Recently a teacher asked me, “Can we really expect ALL children (even kindergartners) to understand and abide by the Discipline Without Stress’ 4 levels of behavior without ANY rewards?”

Here is my reply:

YES, but you start by differentiating between ACCEPTABLE levels and UNACCEPTABLE levels. See the posters and cards at

Also (and this is critical), be sure you have taught, practiced, and practiced again EVERYTHING you want your students to do. A MAJOR ERROR EVEN EXPERIENCED TEACHERS MAKE is ASSUMING that students, of any age, know what to do without first learning, practicing, and ritualizing the procedure or skill.

Once STUDENTS (especially young ones) HAVE LEARNED what YOU want them to do, they will want to do … >>>


Guided Choices in the Classroom

In the Discipline Without Stress methodology, Guided Choices are used when a student has already acknowledged level B behavior and disrupts the lesson again.

The most effective approach is to ELICIT a consequence or procedure to help the student help himself to avoid future unacceptable behavior. This should be done in private by stating, “What you have done is not on an acceptable level.”

Then ask, “What do you suggest we do about it?” Be ready to ask, “What else?” “What else?” “What else?” until what the student says is acceptable and will assist the student in not repeating the behavior.

The advantages of ELICITING the consequence are multiple:
1. An adversarial relationship is avoided.
2. The student has ownership … >>>