Discipline and Learning

People learn best when they feel safe—physically, socially, emotionally—and when they participate academically. When students feel anxious or believe that they will feel bad, learning is diminished. Unfortunately, many teachers inadvertently make students feel bad as a result of the discipline approach they use.  

Manipulative discipline approaches of bribing by giving rewards for desired behaviors and coercive discipline approaches of imposing punishments are effective only for the moment. An important point to remember when relying on these “external” approaches is that they depend on someone else. They are useless when an adult is not around.

Aside from imposed punishments, even rewarding behavior can engender negative feelings—as when an award is expected but is not forthcoming. Most important, although you can control students, you cannot change them. People change themselves.

How a person feels has a direct bearing on how a person behaves, and people behave better (more responsibly) when they feel good—not bad. With these thoughts in mind, Discipline without Stress takes a more enlightened path than bribes and coercion.

The rationale described above can be verified by reflecting on the following questions:

  • When you give rewards for appropriate behavior, what is the youngster learning?
  • Have you used punishment only to find the same behavior repeated?
  • How do rewards and punishments influence behavior when no one is looking?

Ultimately, the highest reward is not what students get—but rather what they become.