Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – December 2006

Volume 6 Number 12


1. Welcome

 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



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.






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

a-half-year-old son.


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

again unattended.







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

trouble doing.


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

me sick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




The concept that is so simple and yet so significant:

PUT PEOPLE AHEAD OF THE IDEAS to which you are committed.






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?






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

prized possessions.


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

to sweat.


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





7. Testimonials/Research

Dear Marv,


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

Al Ghadeer

Baghdad, Iraq