Change Your View of Discipline

The traditional model for attempting to change people has been authoritarian and aligned with coercive techniques, such as threats of punishment or bribes of a reward. But in the last number of years, society’s model has been that nobody needs to be submissive to anyone else. Everyone has rights. Authority and expected submissiveness are out. Everyone is equal. Notice how often you are called by your surname preceded by a title. Not very! Using given names is much more equalizing.

The information revolution is a major reason why coercion is not effective today. Information has always been a prime source of power and control. Only those in positions of authority possessed it, and they used it to their advantage. Not so today! Information is open to everyone, so individuals are on a more equal footing with their superiors. Restricting young people’s information and access to it in today’s electronically connected world is most difficult, if not impossible.

An old story dramatizes the effects of continuing to use authoritarian and coercive techniques to change people.

An expedition of scientists went on a mission to capture a Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. Only an estimated 100-200 of this particular species exists, and they reside only in the jungles of Vietnam. The objective was to capture one of the monkeys alive and unharmed.

Using their knowledge of monkeys, the scientists devised a trap consisting of a small bottle with a long narrow neck. A handful of nuts was placed in it, and the bottle was staked out and secured by a thin wire attached to a tree.

Sure enough, one of the desired monkeys scented the nuts in the bottle, thrust an arm into the long neck, and grabbed a fistful. But when the monkey tried to withdraw the prize, his fist, now made larger by its contents, would not pass through the narrow neck of the bottle. He was trapped, anchored in the bottle, unable to escape with his booty, and yet unwilling to let go. The monkey was easily captured.

We may smile at such foolishness, but in some respects we operate in the same manner. We cling to the very things that hold us back, remaining captive through sheer unwillingness to let go. Peter Drucker said that people fail because of what they will not give up. They cling to what has always worked, clearly after it has stopped working.

The person who holds on to coercion, in all its various forms, will remain captive like the monkey. In a sense, the person loses freedom. A person becomes liberated when willing to let go of the coercion and manipulation (which is plagued with stress, resistance, and poor relationships). The use of the collaboration and empowerment, which the Discipline Without Stress system teaches, reduces stress, improves relationships, and is much more powerful in effecting change in others.