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The Impact of Counterwill on Classroom Discipline

Counterwill is the natural human instinct to resist being controlled or coerced, and it is often the cause of classroom discipline problems.

People don’t like being told what to do, so we react negatively when someone tells us to do something. Yet, we tend to be surprised when encountering counterwill in younger people. Somehow we forget that all people have feelings; even infants cry or smile depending upon the situation, and if they feel controlled or coerced they react negatively.

The instinctive resistance stemming from counterwill takes many forms as demonstrated by the “no” of a toddler, disobedience or defiance of a youngster, and even laziness or lack of motivation of a teenager. Counterwill sometimes manifests itself as doing the opposite of what the young person is told to do. It’s impact on classroom discipline can often be seen in the form of passivity, negativity, or argumentativeness. Some may even label it as oppositional defiant disorder.

A display of counterwill is less likely when there is a strong attachment as with a teacher or coach who issues a directive. The reason for this is that the young person feels and believes that what the adult is demanding is in the young person’s long-term best interests.

Classroom discipline is crippled by counterwill

Unfortunately very few teachers are aware of the dynamic between counterwill and classroom discipline. The end result is the fact that so many children lose their desire to learn and only do as much as they have to.

In summary, counterwill explains all kinds of undesirable behaviors: why toddlers are sometimes difficult to handle, why teenagers rebel, why praise sometimes backfires, and why rewards can be counterproductive.

One of many reasons that Discipline Without Stress is so successful is that its classroom discipline approach does not prompt counterwill.

You can learn more about counterwill by the expert, Gordon Neufeld.

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Dr. Marvin (Marv) Marshall
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