Impulse Control for Kids

Teaching impulse control for kids can be a challenge. If you want to become a more effective adult when working with young people, then give up the desire to control. Instead, hand over to the young the responsibility of learning to control themselves. This is important for every child but especially important for those young people who have repeated discipline and impulse control challenges.

The key to fostering impulse control for kids is to use the Levels of Development all the time so that it isn’t associated with corrective discipline. In fact, the more you use the hierarchy, the more young people will understand the difference between external and internal motivation. They will also become open to using the hierarchy … >>>


Debunking the Myth of Rewarding Students

One of the most common questions I receive from people has to do with rewarding students. In fact, a common thinking is that it is necessary to reward students to do what you would like them to do. Additionally, most people still compare rewarding students with adults receiving a paycheck to do a job. But the two concepts are completely dissimilar.

For working adults, money is a satisfier—not a motivator and not a reward. Your compensation is a binding contract between two entities. “You do this task and I’ll give you this much money.” If either party fails to do their part, the contract can immediately end. Either you quit the job (if you don’t receive your income) or you … >>>


Bullying in Schools

Image of a young person crying at school

We all know that we have a bullying epidemic in this country. But few adults realize how bad it is in today’s schools. Did you know that approximately 160,000 students skip school each day for fear of being bullied? And over 70% of students say they have witnessed another person being bullied.

So what exactly constitutes bullying? According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, “Bullying is any unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time … It can include making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”

Bullying often has long-lasting … >>>


An Analogy for the Levels of Development

Image of a Butterfly which is an analogy for the Hierarchy of Social Development

The life cycle of a butterfly not only fascinates but the life cycle of a butterfly in real life can serve as an analogy to the Levels of Development. Once young people understand the basics of building a hierarchy, then their physical growth can be compared to a butterfly life cycle. With this understanding, they become empowered to act more responsibly. Additionally, they reduce their stress and the stress of others with whom young people interact.

The four stages of the life cycle of a butterfly can be related to the four physical states of human development and the Levels of Development.

Began by reminding young people of the life cycle of a butterfly. There are four stages … >>>


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 Levels of 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 … >>>


Let Children Solve their Own Problems

Image of a child in front of a chalkboard with a light bulb drawn on it. The light bulb symbolizes the child having an idea.

Always encourage children and students to look to themselves to solve problems, rather than relying on others. This is critical because many well-meaning parents and teachers too often do things for children that they could and should be doing themselves.

Never take on a young person’s problems if he or she is capable of meeting the challenge. The reason is that every time you solve a problem for someone who is capable of solving the problem without you, you are depriving the person of an opportunity to become more responsible. In addition, the person misses the satisfaction that arises from success.

As it has been aptly said, “If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some … >>>


Grading Student Behavior Doesn’t Work

grading student behavior

I have heard of teachers grading student behavior. But I was thunderstruck when a parent informed me that a teacher was using the letters of the Hierarchy of Social Development to have students grade themselves.

When you ask children to grade themselves on their behavior, the inference is that this is necessary because they may behave irresponsibly. This, by itself, is contrary to the Discipline Without Stress model. Teachers should be positive and assume that students will act responsibly.

The Perils of Grading Student Behavior

We all know that on a grading scale the letter “A” represents the highest. Unfortunately—AND WITH GREAT MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE LEVELS OF DEVELOPMENT—this teacher was asking students to grade their own behavior each … >>>


Promote Student Responsibility

student responsibility

When I returned to the classroom after 24 years in counseling and administration, the lack of responsibility on the part of some students glared out at me. That’s when I asked myself, “How can I promote responsible behavior?”

The outcome was the Raise Responsibility System, which you can find a plethora of information about on my website. In developing the program, I decided to be PROACTIVE, rather than always reacting after an inappropriate behavior. That’s when I developed the Levels of Development.

Terms that Promote Responsibility

Every so often someone writes me about the problems the person has with using the vocabulary with young people. Here is my response about two of the terms.

Regarding the term “democracy”:
I … >>>


Internal Motivation Drives Behavior

Internal Motivation Drives Behavior

For decades I’ve said that internal motivation drives behavior. I’ve seen this truth daily throughout my career. It’s the reason why I wrote the book Discipline Without Stress—to help teachers teach students the difference between internal motivation and external motivation and how each impacts their behavior.

In the Discipline Without Stress discussion group, a teacher made a comment about wanting to use Discipline Without Stress to “give young people a meaningful voice in their education.” One of my dear colleagues and friends, Kerry Weisner, responded with her viewpoint. Here is her reply:

“Giving kids ‘a meaningful voice in their education’ is not my goal when I use ideas from DWS in my teaching or parenting. Perhaps I misunderstand what … >>>


Children’s Rights and Responsibilities

rights and responsibilitiesWhat are our children’s rights and responsibilities? We all want our children to be responsible at home and at school. And children certainly feel that they have rights. What is often overlooked, though, is how intertwined rights and responsibilities are. In fact, you can’t have one without the other. That’s why it’s important for young people to understand that their rights are often accompanied by responsibilities, and they need to know what each is specifically.

Here is a list created several years ago by 14-16 year old students and their teacher of Cowichan Valley Alternative School in Duncan, British Columbia, Canada. It accurately shows the rights and subsequent responsibilities each young person has.

Children’s Rights and Responsibilities List

  • I have
>>> READ MORE >>>

Stop Praising Students

praising studentsPraise is patronizing, so stop praising students. Praise also has a price. It implies a lack of acceptance and worth when the youth does not behave as the adult wishes. Using a phrase that starts with, “I like,” encourages a young person to behave in order to please the adult. By contrast, acknowledgment simply affirms and fosters self-satisfaction in the young person.

Notice the difference in the following examples of praising students versus acknowledging them:

Praise: “I am so pleased with the way you treated your brother.”

Acknowledgment: “You treated your brother very well.”

Praise: “I like the way you are working.”

Acknowledgment: “Your working shows good focus and control.”

Praise: “I’m so proud of you for your … >>>


Reflective Questions Make Interactions Less Stressful

reflective questionsAsking reflective questions is the key ingredient to making interactions with youth less stressful. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or someone who interacts with children on a regular basis, you’ll find that reflective questions reduce tension, defuse frustrating situations, and promote responsible thinking in youth.

Asking reflective questions becomes easier with practice. Initially, when you decide to embark on this path, the process can seem difficult. Some teachers and parents actually make a chart of the reflective questions offered in the book, Discipline Without Stress (p. 19-20). They carry the list of questions with them and pull them out to review when the need arises. Remember, it doesn’t hurt for there to be a pause (as you formulate a … >>>


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 … >>>


Practice Procedures

Developing procedures is crucial for success in the classroom. But don’t stop there! Once you and your students develop the procedure, you all must practice it.

Remember that procedures are different from rules. Procedures have no rewards or punishments. You simply practice until everyone understands them. When a student asks about something, or isn’t doing something for which you have a procedure, you simply ask, “What is our procedure?” By doing so, you put the responsibility back on the student to think of the procedure or to practice it after a reminder.

All classroom procedures should be thoroughly discussed and planned with student input. Additionally, post your procedures on the wall on a student-made chart. Because everyone agrees on the … >>>


Acknowledging Appropriate and Acceptable Behavior

The following was written by my friend Kerry Weisner. She offers some excellent advice and observations on the topic acknowledging appropriate and acceptable behavior.


Reflection and self-evaluation are key attributes of the Raise Responsibility System. By referring to the Hierarchy, adults can encourage reflection on the higher, desirable levels. After explaining/teaching the Hierarchy, the procedure is for the adult to ask the young person to identify the chosen level.

It is unnecessary and even counterproductive to attempt to evaluate the motivation levels of C (external) or D (internal). However, it can be very empowering for young people themselves to assess their own level in various situations. By becoming consciously aware of the powerful inner feelings of satisfaction arising … >>>


Motivate for Responsible Behavior

We prepare teachers to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, and other useful skills and worthwhile information leading to knowledge—and, hopefully, wisdom. Unfortunately, teachers are not taught that which is most essential when first entering the classroom: How to motivate for responsible behavior AND motivate students to want to put forth effort in their learning.


Practitioners of the Raise Responsibility System (Roman Numeral III at understand that the ONLY part of the system STUDENTS need to understand are the four levels of personal and social development. Lower levels A and B are unacceptable, whereas the higher levels C and D are both acceptable. Also, THE SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LEVEL C … >>>


Civility and Responsibility

One of the attributes of The Discipline Without Stress methodology is the promotion of the basic characteristic of any character education approach: Taking responsibility for one’s behavior. Without “responsibility” no other trait of civility would be possible.

George Washington and many of the other founding fathers of the USA first focused on how one could IMPROVE ONESELF as the first criterion to influence others. “The Rules of Civility,” the etiquette planner that Washington copied as a teenager, begins with the following admonition: “Every action done in company ought to be done with some sign of respect to those that are present.”

Perhaps the concept of “appropriate” or “unwritten rules” should be revisited with young people. Examples abound: wearing pajamas in … >>>


The Most Effective Way to Influence Others

There is a story about an old and wise martial arts master who invited his new student to share tea and conversation and to begin the teacher-student relationship. The student—who already had much training from other teachers—looked eager and ready to learn and said, “Teach me, master, how to be a great fighter.”

The wise master reached over with the teapot and began to pour the tea. He continued to pour even after the cup filled to the top. Tea began pouring down the sides. The student panicked, “It is already full. Why are you still pouring?”

The master responded, “So too, is your mind. It is filled with previous knowledge and experiences. You must empty your mind of everything … >>>