Discipline and Childhood Trauma

Image of a young girl cowering from scary hands

Childhood trauma is more common than you think. And when a child has experienced trauma, it can lead to discipline issues. From abuse at home to bullying at school to the loss of a parent due to death or divorce, such events can leave a negative and lasting mark on youth.

Sometimes the child acts out very aggressively, with little understanding or remorse for their behavior toward others. At the same time, they may refuse to accept responsibility for their behavior. This makes discipline especially difficult for adults. On the one hand, they know the child has been through a lot and try to give more leeway. But on the other hand, the troubling behavior simply cannot continue.

Here is

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Tips About Offering Choices and Child Discipline

Image of man at a crossroads showing many choices

When introduced to the Raise Responsibility System, many parents and teachers initially struggle with the idea of offering choices as it pertains to child discipline. Since the more traditional, authoritarian approach to child discipline and child raising focuses on telling youth what to do, offering choices seems like a radical idea at first.

To prove this point, here is a question a reader sent me: “How is offering choices teaching children that there are some things in life they had to do regardless of their mood or sense of power (like bathing, attending school, later holding a job, and being responsible for themselves when their choices are limited)? If everything become negotiable, if they think they will always have choices, >>> “Tips About Offering Choices and Child Discipline”


Don’t Aim for Obedience

Image of a child with angle wings implying obedience

Are you aware of the advantages and disadvantages of conformity and the importance of obedience?

Conformity and obedience are natural and necessary in any society. This is how cultures perpetuate their values and traditions. However, obedience can promote stress on the part of all concerned.

Here is an example: The parent requests or demands that the teenager makes the bed before going to school. The teen obeys. We would refer to this as Level (C) cooperation or conformity on the Hierarchy of Social Development.

In a similar scenario where the parent expects the teen to make the bed each morning, the teen does so without being told. We would refer to this as Level (D) taking the initiative on … >>> “Don’t Aim for Obedience”


Classroom Rules are Counterproductive

Image of a school room

Classroom rules are counterproductive and prompt stress between adults and young people. This is because rules place the adult in an adversarial relationship. Relying on rules is coercive and promotes obedience rather than responsibility.

The reason is simple. If a student breaks a rule, our tendency is to enforce the rule. The assumption is that if the rule is not enforced, people will take advantage of it. Therefore, in order to remain in control, we must enforce all rules.

Rules are essential in games. But in relationships, reliance on rules is counterproductive because the enforcement mentality automatically creates adversarial relationships. Enforcing rules too often promotes power struggles that rarely result in win-win situations.

Rules aim at obedience. But obedience does … >>> “Classroom Rules are Counterproductive”


Positive Discipline Reduces Stress

Using positive discipline when you communicate is the best way to get others to do what you want. If you’re natural inclination is to say, “No, don’t do that,” you’re actually creating more stress. There is a better, more positive way, to discipline.

Allow me to explain the reason that using the negative is ineffective.

Think of your last dream—not that you remember it, but think of how your brain envisioned it. Did you dream in words—or in pictures, illusions, or images? The brain thinks visually, not verbally. Simply stated, the brain does not think in words; it visualizes. This is the reason that using negatives is ineffective and why using positive discipline is so much better.

When people tell … >>> “Positive Discipline Reduces Stress”


Reduce Classroom Stress by Empowering Students

Image of female student standing in front of a chalkboard. There are images of four light bulbs over her head, from small to big, showing her ideas growing.

When implementing the DISCIPLINE WITHOUT STRESS system, some teachers initially struggle. They are so used to using a rewards- or consequences-based system that trying something new feels awkward. Even though they know deep down that rewards and punishments don’t work, they have little experience with other options, and as such, they revert to their past ineffective ways.

Making matters more difficult is the fact that many teachers are mandated to implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). The question then is, “How can you use DISCIPLINE WITHOUT STRESS while at the same time implementing PBIS?”

Here is my advice.

First, there is nothing in PBIS that mandates the teacher must give the rewards. Have the students perform the task. When … >>> “Reduce Classroom Stress by Empowering Students”


Ask Reflective Questions

Image of a question mark looking at itself in a mirror

If you’re tired of continually lecturing your students or children, or if you’re finding that rewards and punishments rarely change behavior long-term, it’s time to start asking reflective questions.

When you use reflective questions, you are directing the other person’s thinking. It is this questioning process that starts the thinking process, both for you and for the other person. This kind of questioning is a gift to the person being asked because it induces clarity of thought. Similarly, the answer can be a gift to the person asking because it is a quick way to obtain and understand the other person’s viewpoint.

Asking reflective questions increases your awareness of a child’s perceptions, thereby significantly increasing your understanding of the child. … >>> “Ask Reflective Questions”


How Rewards Can Backfire

Rewards Can Backfire

Rewards can backfire.

Here is a real-life example of how rewards can backfire with young people. If you’ve read any of my books or been a reader of this blog for a while, you know that I don’t believe in giving rewards to reinforce behaviors, to control, or to bribe (in the fashion they are used with children too often today).

Rewards, in the form of stickers, pencils, stars, or any other attempt to manipulate behavior, only promote external motivation (a “what’s in it for me?” mentality). The real goal of discipline should be to teach students internal motivation (doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do).

A reader shows  how rewards can backfire.

“I had … >>> “How Rewards Can Backfire”


Common Questions About Discipline Without Stress

Parents and teachers often ask me questions about Discipline Without Stress, both its methodology and best practices. Following are some of the most common questions I received. I hope they help others in their quest to raise responsible children.

(Q = Question. R = Response)

Q: What would you do in the following scenario: You ask your children/students to identify the level they have chosen but they refuse to be honest and acknowledge the actual level chosen.

R: If the youngster is in the 5th or 6th grade or above, I would NOT ASK. Instead I would say, “Reflect on the level you are choosing, and consider whether you want to continue on that level or rise to a … >>> “Common Questions About Discipline Without Stress”


Teaching the Hierarchy of Social Development

Hierarchy of Social Development

Rather than reacting after a behavior problem appears, you can use the Hierarchy of Social Development to be proactive. As soon as your child can talk, you begin with the easy teaching of four (4) concepts of the Hierarchy of Social Development. These four concepts are the foundation of the system that handles all behavior problems while promoting responsibility.

The first two concepts (Level A and Level B) refer to behavior and are both unacceptable. Level C and D refer to motivation and are both acceptable.

Note: Having young people learn the concepts is critical because reference is never made directly to a child’s behavior; reference is always referred to the level the youngster has chosen.… >>> “Teaching the Hierarchy of Social Development”


Why You Should Never Reward Good Behavior

reward good behavior

Many teachers and parents reward good behavior in students with stickers, prizes, and even food. I see this occur at schools, at homes, and especially out in public.

Do you routinely reward good behavior? If so, I urge you to stop the practice today. Why? Offering rewards is a behavior modification approach to mold desirable behavior directly—without rooting it in ethical behavior, such as whether the behavior is right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust, moral or immoral. This approach operates at the lowest level of moral judgment, which is that behavior is good because it is rewarded.

When I speak with parents and teachers, I often hear the stories of regret in terms of rewards. The narrative … >>> “Why You Should Never Reward Good Behavior”


Strong-Willed Child? Try This Discipline Approach

strong willed child

If you have a strong-willed child, you know that discipline can be tough. Traditional techniques of rewarding desired behaviors, of prompting fear by threatening, by imposing punishments, and by “telling” simply don’t work on a strong-willed child, because these approaches all aim at obedience. When the focus is on obedience, the result is often reluctance, resistance, resentment, and even rebellion.

These approaches set up stress for both adult and youth. As young people grow, the more we try to force obedience the more they resist. However, when the focus is on promoting responsibility in a noncoercive (but not permissive) approach, obedience follows as a natural by-product. That’s why the Discipline Without Stress methodology is so effective with a strong-willed child.… >>> “Strong-Willed Child? Try This Discipline Approach”


Rewards Cause Problems

rewards cause problemsNo matter what you call it or how you disguise it, rewards cause problems. Those who have followed my blog for any length of time or who have read any of my books know that I am a proponent of the fact that rewards don’t work.

Here is yet another real-life example that proves my point that rewards cause problems. You may find the following story disturbing enough to share it with others:

The elementary school hired a substitute during the absence of the regular teacher.

Upon returning from lunch, a student asked the substitute if the class had earned a star to put on the bulletin board for the quiet way in which the class had returned. The substitute … >>> “Rewards Cause Problems”


Parenting without Rewarding

If you find that disciplining your children and fostering a sense of responsibility in them is stressful or unsuccessful, the use of traditional parenting approaches may be the problem. Why? Because traditional parenting approaches—including lectures, rewards, and punishments—rely on external motivators to change the child’s behavior and for obtain obedience and compliance.

Telling young people what to do, rewarding them if they do as expected, and threatening or punishing them if they don’t are counterproductive, increase stress, and diminish strong parent/child relationships.

Whether the approach is telling-based, rewards-based, or punishment-based, the bottom line is that it’s manipulation, which is never permanent. All of these approaches are something you do to another person and have little long-lasting effect. This is in … >>> “Parenting without Rewarding”


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 … >>> “PBIS, Rewards, and Deming”


With Discipline, Your Questions Matter

One of the key concepts of the Discipline Without Stress book and approach is to ask reflective questions. Always remember, though, that “why” questions are not reflective and often will not curb the discipline problem you are trying to correct.

So, what’s wrong with “why” questions, especially when trying to discipline a youngster? “Why” questions have an accusatory overtone. They also block communications because such questions prompt negative feelings.

Let’s prove the point. Say the following question out loud so you can hear yourself:

“Why are you doing that?”

Notice that when you asked this question, your voice pitch rose higher and your volume increased. Also, notice the effect on your emotions when you asked this “Why?” question.

Now, say … >>> “With Discipline, Your Questions Matter”


10 Discipline Approaches to Avoid

If you’re looking for some discipline help so you can increase motivation, responsibility, and learning in young people, then stay away from the following 10 counterproductive discipline approaches.


Teachers too often become stressed by reacting to inappropriate behavior. It is far more effective to employ a proactive approach at the outset to inspire students to want to behave responsibly and then use a non-adversarial response whenever they do not.


Rules are meant to control, not inspire. Rules are necessary in games but when used between people, enforcement of rules automatically creates adversarial relationships. A more effective approach is to teach procedures and inspire responsible behavior through expectations and reflection.


Obedience does not … >>> “10 Discipline Approaches to Avoid”


Can Substitute Teachers Use Discipline Help?

When you’re using the Discipline Without Stress methodology in your classroom, can a substitute teacher step in and lead your class if he or she is not familiar with the discipline help in the book, Discipline without Stress, Punishments or Rewards?

Yes! A substitute teacher does not need to know the discipline system at all for discipline help. Also, I use the term “guest teacher” because of the influence it has on students. When I was an elementary school principal, as soon as the day started I was in the “substitute teacher’s” classroom and introduced the substitute by announcing that we had a guest teacher that day and that I knew the students would treat the teacher accordingly. Expectations … >>> “Can Substitute Teachers Use Discipline Help?”