Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – August 2006

Volume 6 Number 8


1. Welcome

 2. Promoting Responsibility

 3. Increasing Effectiveness

 4. Improving Relationships

5. Promoting Learning

 6. Discipline without Stress

 7. What People Say


 “I have just come back to work after having broken my

foot at school. I was feeling a little down. I checked

my emails and read your newsletter and felt so uplifted.

Thank you.”–Julie Woollard, New South Wales, Australia




Last month at the convention of the National Speakers

Association in Orlando, Florida, I was asked what sets my

program apart from others. Without hesitation, I said, “The

hierarchy and self-monitoring.”


The next question came, “Whose hierarchy?”


I responded, “Mine.”


“Do you refer to it as ‘My hierarchy’ and, if not, what do

you call it?”


I responded, “The hierarchy of social development.”


The conversation concluded with the question, “Since it is

YOUR hierarchy, then why don’t you call it the ‘Marshall



I pondered the question and concluded that when I refer to

other hierarchies, I refer to them preceded by the name

associated with each, viz., Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of

needs, Jean Piaget’s hierarchy of cognitive development, and

Lawrence Kohlberg’s hierarchy of moral development. I have,

therefore, attached my name to the hierarchy of social

development–as indicated on the homepage.


 An assistant principal in New Jersey was not successful in

persuading the principal to have me present at the school.

No interest was shown by the principal. The stated reason

was that the principal had never heard of me or my

noncoercive–yet not permissive–approach. Of course, the

real reason could have been that the principal had another

agenda. I suggested that the principal should read an

article posted on my website by another New Jersey principal

entitled, “A Principal’s Experience” at



The discussion prompted me to add a new page to my home

website. It can be seen by linking to “One Page Information

Sheet” at http://marvinmarshall.com/


 I had the pleasure last month of presenting at the William

Glasser Institute’s International Convention in Jersey City,

New Jersey.


Dr. Glasser is a psychiatrist whose first contribution was

REALITY THERAPY, one of the earliest of what is now referred

to as “cognitive psychology.” He then started working with

schools and made perhaps his most significant contribution

to the field of education when he introduced CLASSROOM

MEETINGS. He then extended his ideas by developing “CHOICE

THEORY” (originally referred to as “Control Theory), which

basically proposes that all we can do is control ourselves

by the choices we make. From W. Edwards Deming, Dr. Glasser

introduced “LEAD MANAGEMENT” (vs. “Boss Management”). His

current thrust is to bring achieving MENTAL HEALTH to the

general public.


I propose that if you practice POSITIVITY to yourself as

well as with others, if you become conscious of the CHOICES

you continually make, and if you REFLECT on how to handle

adverse situations (the three principles to practice of

Discipline without Stress), you will have good mental



Dr. Glasser refers to a person’s “quality world” and that we

do things to satisfy our quality world (the pictures in

our minds) and avoid those things that don’t. I refer to

this as one’s “self-talk”–the conversations we have with

ourselves. The most important point to remember here is that

if you change the pictures in your quality world–or change

your self-talk– you will find it easier to change your



Here are two thoughts from William Glasser, M.D.:


–All we do is give information to others.

(People choose their responses to this “information” that is

conveyed in words, tone of voice, gestures and other

external stimuli.)


–One’s behavior is an attempt to solve problems. (This will

become apparent if you make the time to read the very

valuable article by Kerry Weisner in PROMOTING LEARNING,

number five (5) in this newsletter.)


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 “Dad, can I speak to you about something?” asked Tom.

 “Let me guess. You want to borrow the car?” his dad joked.

 “No, it’s nothing like that. It’s about Jim and something

that happened at school today.”

 “Isn’t Jim that kid on the track team with you?”  “Yeah.”

 “You two are pretty good friends, aren’t you?”

 “Well, that’s what I want to talk to you about. You see,

there’s another guy on the team named Eric who got into a

fight with Jim after practice. I tried to break it up, but

the coach pulled all three of us aside. I told the coach

that I was only trying to keep the peace, but then I

defended Jim.”

 Suddenly Tom was quiet.

 “Okay, so what happened next?” prompted his dad.


“I found out later from some other guys on the team that

Jim has been bullying Eric for a long time and that today

Eric just snapped. They told me about all kinds of rotten

things Jim had done when I wasn’t around. Dad, I feel like

such a jerk for sticking up for him. I feel like I don’t

even know who he is.”


“Well, don’t be so hard on yourself. We all make mistakes.

Yours was sticking up for someone without knowing all the



“You can say that again,” said Tom.


“But the real lesson here has more to do with friendship

than anything else,” said Tom’s dad.


“It does?”


“Absolutely. It would be easy to walk away. But friends

don’t let each other down. You’ve got to tell Jim that

you are disappointed in him.”


“I doubt that he’ll care,” mumbled Tom.


“I disagree,” said his dad. “Jim wanted you to see only

the good side of him and that’s why you never knew about the

bullying. Since he wants your approval, let him know that

you expect more from him. If you do that he’ll come to

expect more from himself. And once that happens, he’ll

change and be the kind of friend you won’t mind sticking up



 In next month’s newsletter, I will share how to diminish



In last month’s e-zine I wrote:


Responsible people are happy people.

Happy people are responsible people.

Responsibility and happiness feed on each other.


Dr. Jim Sutton expanded on this concept when he recently

wrote in his blog:


Dr. Marvin Marshall (www.marvinmarshall.com), my friend

in California and founder of the acclaimed ‘Discipline

Without Stress’ program, suggests young people sometimes

misbehave for two clear and addressable reasons:

1. They are unhappy.

2. Their behavior is their attempt to “fix” the problem.


We best not lose the message of these two statements in

their simplicity. They come very, very close to saying

all we need to know about behavior in children and

adolescents. Unfortunately, it is often the case that we

consider neither of these reasons in working with the

disruptive and defiant child; we simply want the behavior

to stop.


James Sutton, Educator and Psychologist

James D. Sutton, Ed.D, CSP


Blog: http://itsaboutthem.wordpress.com

Website: http://www.docspeak.com

Author of the bestseller, “101 Ways to Make

Your Classroom Special”




Here is a corollary thought in working with people

–especially young ones:




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Listening may be the most powerful statement a person can



SUGGESTION: If you deal with young people at all, make time

to read the following article in its entirety. It is only

slightly edited from the original post at




Date: Thursday, 13 July 2006

Subject: Using Discipline Without Stress with Older Children


ORIGINAL POST: You work with older alternative students as

well as young children. Can you explain the difference

between working with them?









I’d love to tell you a bit about the new job that Darlene

and I took on this year. Although in this particular job we

make great use of the three principles of positivity,

choice, reflection, we aren’t using the program to handle

discipline problems in the same way as we do with our

primary students. I’ll have to describe the job, the

students, and the school to make sense of that for you.


I teach almost full time, sharing two jobs with a partner

teacher. We take turns teaching K/1 for half the week, and

for most of the other half of the week we teach 16-19

year olds who either couldn’t read at all when we first met

them or couldn’t read much past a primary level. Many people

think that we have two quite opposite jobs, but we find that

in many ways they are very similar.


In both schools we teach exactly the same reading skills in

almost exactly the same way. Although many of our older

students have beards and in some cases children of their

own, their maturity level is often not much more than that

of our little kids. Definitely, our older students are much

more emotionally fragile than any of the smaller kids whom

we have in our primary job. We must always keep this in mind

or we couldn’t work with them at all. They are extremely

sensitive and very rigid in their thinking.


Almost all of them have “hardened hearts,” as Dr. Gordon

Neufeld would say, and it took a lot of time before they

began to “soften” even the slightest bit. In the beginning,

it was rough. Many of them didn’t accept us easily, and it

wasn’t until nearer to the end of the year that some of them

would even call us by our names. Many of them never did this

year, but I suspect that in our second year at the school

they’ll find it easier to be “personal” with us.


Often I found my eyes welling up with tears on the way home

from this school thinking about the harsh lives that these

young people have lived. One of our favourite students, a 16

year old who is due to have a baby in August, had her mom

die of multiple sclerosis in the last week of school. She

has been nursing her mother almost single-handedly since she

was about 12 years old. She had only been to school about 60

days total in the last two years. Another boy from a very

violent family lost his dad to an alcoholic suicide. His

father threw himself in front of a train when this boy was

8. Each one has their own story to tell. Every story is full

of pain, frustration, anger, and disappointment. When I go

home, I often spend time to think of how unbelievably

fortunate my own children are simply for the “boring”

normality of their lives.


The school has about 150 students “on the books” but with

attendance a huge problem, on a typical day there might only

be about 30-40 students in attendance. Almost every one of

the students attend this school because they have been

expelled for behaviour reasons from two of the five regular

high schools in our district. There are also a few “genius”

type kids who have been picked on in regular schools and so

have found this school to be a refuge.


Half of the students have “labels” such as “Extreme Mental

Illness,” “Extreme Behaviour,” “Learning Disabled,” etc.

The other half would meet the requirement of a label but

don’t have one simply because many of their previous schools

wouldn’t have had them tested–either because they were such

poor attenders or because their families wouldn’t have known

to insist on testing. Probably at least 95% of them come

from very dysfunctional homes and as a result many live on

their own, are in foster care, or move from relative to

relative or friend to friend. Drugs, alcohol, smoking,

run-ins with the law are all part of daily life for almost

all of these students.


Many of them are hungry, too. Although the school runs a

breakfast program for the cost of $1.00 and a student can

receive a great meal every morning, the students we see are

so poor and come from such unbelievable homes that they

can’t usually afford to eat–even at this great price.

Darlene and I started bringing baking and sandwiches from

the beginning in September and this has been a very much

appreciated part of our program all year long. Each student

has their favourite snack and we try to accommodate them all

at some point. The food has allowed us to get to know many

of the “regular” students in the other part of the school as

well–the ones who can’t resist coming in to see what’s for

snack today!


Originally, when we first got this job, it looked as if it

might be a classroom job–in other words teaching a literacy

course. Before a couple of days into the school year, it had

evolved into a one-on-one job. Each of our students is at a

very different place in their reading ability–all the way

from total non-reader right up to someone who can read the

driver’s manual well but has only one strategy for learning

new words, namely, straight memorization of the word as a

whole. He has an incredible memory, but boy, what a

stressful, ineffective way to read!


Basically all of the students we see have exactly the same

problems; they have poor reading habits, i.e., reading past

punctuation, not looking inside the words to look at all the

letters, not looking to the end of a word to see if it ends

in “ing,” “ed,” “s”–no self-correcting, no re-reading when

they make a mistake, etc., and they have absolutely NO

understanding of how to decode.


In other words, although most of them have memorized a

certain number of primary sight words and can “read” a bit,

none of them knows how to tackle a word that is new to them.

This means that when they come to a word they have never

seen before, they are totally stumped; they simply make

their best guess. Because they over-rely so heavily on

figuring out words from context, they cannot read names of

any type (street names, names of people, businesses, cities,

etc.). Even simple words are an impossible challenge for



To give you an idea, they could read the word “jump” or

“bump”–perhaps because they would have memorized these

words at some point during their school lives, but if you

gave them the nonsense word that follows the same pattern as

bump and jump, such as “zump,” they would have no idea of

how to read it. Needless to say, it is impossible for them

to read much past primary books because of the need to read

vocabulary other than the Dolch words. Because they can’t

sound out words at all, they cannot spell at all either.


With such individual needs, the only way we could truly help

them in any meaningful way was one-on-one. So, depending on

how many of our students show up in a day, they receive an

individual lesson of 20 – 40 minutes. Most days, lessons are

about 20 minutes long, but we do have some students who are

so keen to have longer lessons that they will give up their

lunch hour or break time to read.


Darlene and I work in a portable with another teacher who

runs the classroom. This allows us to take kids aside (in

the cloakroom if you can believe it!) for their reading

lessons. Next year, they’ve moved us into the main building

to the anteroom of the furnace room. We haven’t decided yet

if this is a step up-or down from the cloakroom!


Despite the fact that basically all of the students have

been sent to this school as a result of “behaviour

problems,” for the most part, poor behaviour isn’t really as

much of an issue as you would think. I know that sounds

ridiculous, but these students are all really very nice.

They are fairly well-behaved kids who learned to mask

academic difficulties by becoming behaviour problems. These

kids often introduce themselves to any new adult in the

building, are polite, hold doors, get along well with their

teachers, and are usually willing to help if asked. Despite

the fact that sometimes there are behaviour incidents at

this school–someone angry at his girlfriend smashed his

hand through a window; another stabbed a knife into a wall

in a fit of anger at another student and was taken away by

the police, DVD players and video cameras that aren’t locked

up are quickly stolen–THERE IS ALMOST NO NEGATIVITY OR


THAT IT WON’T GET THEM ANYWHERE (caps added). The students

find this refreshing that they can be the nice people they

really are instead of engaging in counterwill as they always

did previously.


On the down side, most of them are very immature, quite

rambunctious, have little self-control, little ambition, are

quite loud, have extremely short attention spans, and the

swearing is enough to turn your ears blue. They aren’t

swearing AT teachers; it’s more or less just the way they

talk. Some of them want to curb their swearing. In our

classroom, for those who want to quit swearing, a thing

started where all the adults make a clucking sound with

their tongue if an individual who wants to stop swearing,

swears unconsciously. It sounds a bit crazy, but it seems to




Working one-on-one, Darlene and I have almost no discipline

problems to deal with. However, we constantly use the three

principles. Positivity is the biggest one! We very quickly

learned in September that we had to word everything we said

in positive terms. If we make ANY negative comments or make

a joke that a student “can’t take,” we immediately see our

students shut down or get angry and defensive. Some of them

are so fragile/sensitive that we can’t even speak in a

regular speaking voice with them because it will scare them

away. With one particular boy, we almost have to whisper

during his actual lesson times.


We can NEVER tell any of them they have made a reading

mistake. Within a day or two we quickly learned to be

proactive–a way of thinking that we picked up from

Discipline Without Stress. For example, before they begin to

read their passage for the day, we ask them (principle of

reflection) what types of things will make them a good

reader, but we NEVER correct them if they make an error as

they are reading as we sometimes might with our smaller, but

more resilient beginning readers who haven’t experienced

years of reading/school failure. These older ones simply

CAN’T TAKE even the smallest dose of failure.


It’s been a great thing for us to see that this focus on

being proactive has really worked academically, too. Despite

the fact that we never mentioned ANY errors they were making

in their reading, they’ve all become increasingly more

accurate as time went by. With a focus entirely on what they

SHOULD be doing to become a better reader BEFORE they begin

reading, they have all become VERY accurate readers at their

own developmental level. It’s been so exciting to see this

growth in each of them. Seeing this happen has made us use

the same tactics more often with our little kids, too:


–Be proactive in our teaching by telling them what they


–Point out any specific examples of good things that they

are doing, and

–End with a comment such as, “Continue doing THAT.”


We’ve found that this is not only a positive way to teach

but it’s effective, too. Although we knew this in theory

before, as a result of this job–where the ONLY possibility

for working pleasantly with a student is to be 100% positive

(not 99%!)–we have now experienced it in a very real way.


Because of our crash course in the need for extreme

positivity, we are finding that it’s becoming easier for us

to be positive in both of our jobs. We have a lot more

patience with our smaller kids now because of our experience

with the damaged older kids that we work with. For the older

kids, school has been such a negative experience with so

many bad memories and resentments that WE SEE FIRST HAND HOW




All of these kids relate stories of their bad memories of

trying to learn or get along in elementary school. One boy,

who is actually very bright but has some incredible learning

disability that makes reading VERY difficult for him,

described painfully how he was through the years–often put

behind cardboard dividers so he “could concentrate better.”

Because he could speak so intelligently and articulately,

most of his teachers found it impossible to believe that he

COULD NOT read. They thought that he was simply misbehaving

and putting on an act. Although I am sure his teachers felt

they were trying to do something positive and helpful for

him by using a cardboard screen in front of his desk to help

him maintain focus, he felt as if he was being singled out

for punishment and put in prison. Heartfelt stories like

this really hit home and make us think about how we treat

each and every one of our little students–especially the

ones who are the most challenging and annoying in their



So in a nutshell, that gives you a bit of a picture of our

job. As I said, we don’t use the hierarchy in a regular

classroom discipline sense, but we do use the thinking

behind it to motivate the kids. For example, when they

choose do something that shows initiative such as telling us

that when they write their grocery list they think about

some things from our reading lessons that will help them

spell more accurately, we have the words and concepts (from

the hierarchy) to be able to explain to them that this small

thing that they have done is a sign of the highest possible

level of human behaviour. CHOOSING to try and improve their

literacy skills is concrete proof that they are taking some

initiative in their lives. As the kids come to accept and

trust us more and more, we are finding ways to offer them

valuable Discipline Without Stress understandings. It’s

definitely a learning experience that we find challenging

but are enjoying.






COMMENT: Darlene and Kerry have established a relationship

of trust and noncoercion. These two factors are the

foundation of any successful relationship for influencing

others in a positive way. For a moment, just think of a

friend. Chances are that if that person continually

attempted to coerce you or if you did not trust that person,

the friendship would not last.


In my own classroom, students would admit to and redirect

their inappropriate behaviors based on these two factors.

Students knew that my only interest was for them to become

more responsible–that I had absolutely no interest in

punishing them. I also had positive expectations for them

by continually referring to the hierarchy of social

development and prompting them to reflect when they behaved


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6. Discipline without Stress

QUESTION posted at



I received my “Discipline Without Stress” book last

Christmas and started introducing the levels and changing my

behaviors in January. My question is how do I set everything

up for the beginning of the year? What do I communicate to

parents? I have to turn in a class discipline plan to my

principal. What would it look like on paper? I usually send

this same plan home to parents. Before I have always had the

standard (1) warning, (2) 5 minutes time out, (3) 15-minute

time out, (4) note home, and (5) trip to office. Very

concrete, easy for principal and parents to understand, but

it did not work.



RESPONSE posted at



The book has excellent forms in the back that you can use in

your class to introduce the system. I used the parent

letters and reflective essays almost word for word–just

signed my name! I also made each child a copy of the

hierarchy for them to refer to throughout the year to keep

in their notebooks. I also made a big poster-sized version

of it to hang on the wall. I made it look kind of like a

stop light with a red, green and yellow circle for each

level. Good luck! The book is very helpful!

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7. What People Say

Thank you for your book! It so nicely synthesizes what we

know about “best practice” teaching and classroom

management. I love the framework and the language that you

use. Since discovering your book, many people on our staff

have been doing a book study and plan on implementing your

system in our classrooms. I used much of the system last

year and it was my best year of teaching ever! I am not

great at “posing” questions yet, but, “You cannot learn a

skill and be perfect at the same time.” Thanks for writing



Sonya Overman

Chamberlain Elementary School

Northern Indiana




Preview a presentation by the author at






See a video clip from the In-House Staff Development from

the last link at