Volume 6 Number 12
IN THIS ISSUE:
2. Promoting Responsibility
3. Increasing Effectiveness
4. Improving Relationships
5. Promoting Learning
6. Discipline without Stress
7. Testimonials and Research – A Letter from Baghdad, Iraq
MONTHLY RESPONSIBILITY AND LEARNING QUOTE:
Most of the extrinsic school rewards are of little
motivational value to students who fail or fall behind.
Once children have a year or two of struggle in primary
grades, once they feel and know for themselves that they
are “behind,” they resign themselves to lower status and
acquire a defeatist attitude.
The stickers, teacher approval, honor roll, family (and
extended family) encouragement become less frequent, less
meaningful, less sincere, and less valued. Even peer
approval and acceptance begins to wane. Meanwhile, learning
becomes more of an effort with fewer rewards and more
discouragement, more negativism, more privileges withheld,
and more on the punishment end of the reward-punishment
–Bill Page, “At-Risk Students: Feeling Their Pain,
Understanding Their Plight, Accepting Their Defensive Ploys”
pp. 49-50, Copyright 2006.
Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896 – 1969) was a U.S.
Congressman and Senator from Illinois. As a Senate leader he
played a highly visible role in the politics of the 1960s.
He helped write the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and played the
decisive role in its passage. The Dirksen Senate Office
Building was named after him.
One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Everett Dirksen,
viz., “I am a man of principle and my first principle is the
ability to change my mind.”
So it is with me when I recently decided to emphasize
“discipline” in these newsletters and on my website. Two
comments in particular influenced me to return to my
original emphasis on “responsibility”:
1) Harry Wong reminded me that my mission is to promote responsibility.
2) Steve Sroka said, “Responsibility connotes action from inside, and discipline
connotes action from outside.”
The title of this newsletter has been returned to “PROMOTING DISCIPLINE & LEARNING.
I have been sending out this newsletter since August, 2001.
Although it has been a labor of love, it also involves a
fair amount of labor. I am motivated to keep writing the
newsletter because so many people from around the world have
told me that they look forward to receiving it.
An extension of this type of information is in the book. You
could present it as a gift to yourself or to others at this
time of the year. Another idea would be to ask your local
librarian to make sure that the library’s collection
includes the book. The link to the book is www.disciplinewithoutstress.com.
May this holiday season and new year empower you with
POSITIVITY; the consciousness that you have the CHOICE of a
response to any situation, stimulus, or urge; and that
REFLECTION becomes a habit–for it is reflection that
engenders gratitude, the key to happiness.
2. PROMOTING RESPONSIBILITY
While strolling and listening to the following story, I
requested the storyteller send it to me so that I could
share it using her own words. For obvious reasons, the
author of the letter requested anonymity.
After six years of using the Raise Responsibility System in
our home, we had an amazing incident with our fifteen-and
We live on a very large piece of property and my husband was
preparing our son for driving by allowing him to drive the
firewood truck from one area to another under his guidance
and supervision. He would also allow him to move our
vehicles around in the driveway. The expectation was always
the same. This was a privilege and only possible when my
husband was in the vehicle. One day while we were at work,
my son decided to drive the car up and down the driveway. Of
course, the neighbors reported this to us the moment we
arrived home. We were very disappointed. My husband grounded
him for two weeks.
My son came to me and said, “I thought we didn’t handle
things this way anymore? Being grounded has nothing to do
with what I did and I won’t learn anything from it. I think
that I shouldn’t be allowed to get my learners permit on my
birthday. I should have to wait an extra month. I was not
responsible about driving and the consequence should be
related to that.”
I told him that this was between him and his dad and that he
would have to discuss it with him.
They both agreed that this was a more acceptable solution.
His birthday was five months away. When his birthday
arrived, he did not mention his learner’s permit. One month
later he announced that it was time to go to the licensing
The best part of this story is that he assumed full
responsibility for his behavior. We did not have to suffer
through two weeks of grounding and he never drove the car
3. INCREASING EFFECTIVENESS
Sometimes what we want others to do so focuses our attention
that our actions become counterproductive.
You will find this entire section worth reading to truly
understand the significance of this truth. It is from a post
last month on the Mailring Support.
Hello, everybody. I feel a little frustrated and would like
some words of wisdom or support.
I was pleased to be asked to speak to a group of new
teachers on the nature of motivation. I printed out an
article by Marvin Marshall and articles by Ryan and Deci,
etc. My principal has been impressed and intrigued by my
philosophy and approach, which he sees as successful.
The very next day there was a Veteran’s Day assembly for the
entire school. In between musical numbers, the principal
would call on kids to answer questions, such as which are
the branches of the military? At the next interlude, he
would ask who remembered whatever he had asked before. When
a child answered his question correctly, he made a big deal
out of sending the student across the gym to an assistant
who was holding a big bag of candy. My heart sank. I felt
like my whole talk was completely invalidated in front of
all those new teachers who had heard me the day before.
I have had many conversations with our school counselor
about Discipline Without Stress and its applications in my
classroom. She admires my approach and more than once has
said that I should do staff development for the whole
school. (She’s also recommended this to the administration.)
She said she considers me the behavior expert at the
school–not herself. Well, she pulled me into her office on
Thursday and said she and the principal are excited about a
new plan they’re putting together. She held up a “positive
behavior card” which they want the children to wear around
their necks on a lanyard. The teachers would carry around a
hole puncher, and when we have “caught them being good,” we
would punch a hole in the card.
After 10 punches, they would get a prize, and they would
also get to take the card home to show their parents how
well they were doing.
This counselor is very sweet, very sensitive, and one of my
biggest supporters, so I did not want to hurt her feelings.
I said, “Well, you are right; it’s not my kind of thing.”
She said, “But there are lots and lots of research that
proves that some kids need this kind of thing!” I said,
“Yes, and there is research on the opposite side, too.”
Then I said, “Look, you already know my philosophy and how I
feel about this kind of thing. I don’t expect anyone else to
adopt my views. I’m not criticizing you if you want to do
this, but I just don’t want to have to do it.” She said the
principal wants everyone to do the same thing, so the kids
wouldn’t be “confused” by different things each school year.
I countered that kids naturally learn multiple sets of
rules/procedures, e.g., at mom’s house versus dad’s house,
parents’ house vs. grandparents’ house, Sunday school vs.
baseball practice–and that no matter how people try to
standardize procedures and practices, all teachers are
different and children always have to learn their different
teaching styles, personalities, etc.–which they have no
Nevertheless, later that day we received a note in our boxes
asking for our classroom rules, consequences and “rewards.”
She and the principal plan to cull through what we report
and make ONE system for us all to consistently follow. I
typed up a three-page single-spaced reply explaining my
philosophy and procedures.
A lot of this is driven by the fact that our state
department of education is promoting “Positive Behavior
Support,” a method originally designed to deal with the most
difficult special education students. It is straight-out
behavior modification stuff. The hole-punched card is a
perfect example. And since this has Department of Public
Instruction approval, it must be right!
So the irony is, that even though they both admire what I do
and see it working, they would have me abandon it to “catch
kids being good” and start trips to the prize box. It makes
The concept that is so simple and yet so significant:
PUT PEOPLE AHEAD OF THE IDEAS to which you are committed.
4. IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS
Will what I am about to
do or say bring me closer or push me
away farther from the person with whom I am communicating?
5. PROMOTING LEARNING
Principals who desire to improve their schools, and teachers
who want to improve their students’ academic achievements,
need to keep in mind what psychologist Abraham Maslow
conveyed years ago, viz., People must FEEL cared for and
cared about BEFORE they will take risks necessary to
Students too often receive messages in the form of words,
gestures, actions, and bulletin board postings of
achievements that convey to them that they must achieve well
in order to be thought of as worthy.
Too many educators fail to realize that, with so many
students, the foundation of success rests in human
relations. This is especially the case with young students
and students in poverty–where relationships are their most
At one of our block parties last week-end, I was speaking
with Jeanette Cleland, a neighbor who teaches second grade
in Cerritos, California. Jeanette related to me how she
always finds some positive and empowering comment to give
her students. Every student believes he or she is special to
the teacher. Every student feels cared about. No wonder her
students love their teacher–and why she loves to teach!
6. Discipline without Stress
An understanding of mind-body connection is essential for
reducing stress and influencing others. Thoughts have direct
and powerful connections to all sorts of physiological
functions. Think hard enough about jumping out of an
airplane, and your heart will start to race and your palms
Perhaps the most dramatic and best-known case was described
by Norman Cousins in his “Anatomy of an Illness As Perceived
by the Patient.” While I was recently re-organizing my
library, I came across his description of his experience in
the May 28, 1977 issue of The Saturday Review (pp. 4-6,
Cousins came down with a serious collagen illness, a disease
of the body’s connective tissues. One result of the disease
is the reduction of functioning of the adrenal glands.
Cousins theorized that if he could have these glands
function normally, his illness could be cured. “If negative
emotions produce negative chemical changes in the body,
wouldn’t positive emotions produce positive chemical
changes?” (p.6) He began a program where part of it called
for the full exercise of the affirmative emotions as a
factor in enhancing body chemistry. He employed a
psychological approach to the ancient theory that laughter
is good medicine. Using a variety of sources, Cousins
actuated laughter in his body. He regained his health,
returned to his position as editor of the magazine, and even
began teaching at the School of Medicine at the University
of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
The second chapter of my book alludes to this same concept
of the interaction between the mind and the body. For
example, if a teacher views a disruptive student’s behavior
as a deliberate attempt to disrupt the class, the teacher
may view coercive corrective action to be necessary. In the
process, however, the teacher unwittingly prompts stress in
the body–in addition to pushing the relationship apart,
rather than bringing it closer.
In contrast, if the teacher perceives that the student’s
behavior is his or her best attempt to solve a frustration
or problem, then the teacher views the situation as an
opportunity to help the student help him/herself.
The first approach naturally engenders stress (more
accurately, “distress”). The second starts with a
psychological perspective that motivates in a positive and
beneficial manner. This approach disciplines without stress,
assists the student, and brings joy to the teacher (and/or
I lately had the opportunity to know about your book
“Discipline without Stress, Punishments or Rewards” through
some of your articles and your interesting monthly
What I really want is to purchase a copy of your book so
that I can read it thoroughly and understand your approach
more practically. But due to the current difficult situation
in Iraq, we still have some complicated procedures in
sending money abroad, and that’s why I would like to ask you
a favor, which is kindly inform me of a bookshop address in
Jordan or Syria where your book is carried.
I have been in teaching for 35 years. Your approach is a
big wide step forward in the field of education, especially
for teachers and parents. It aims to reducing their daily
stress, which I believe is the cause behind many diseases
teachers are suffering nowadays, such as diabetes and
hypertension because of the wrong approach they were
implementing to discipline their classes.
I am a research member in the Directorate of Educational
Research and Planning, one of the educational departments of
the Ministry of Education in Iraq. Your book and your other
publications will surely help me and my colleagues in our
Hike Samuel Artin