Volume 6 Number 7
IN THIS ISSUE:
2. Promoting Responsibility
3. Increasing Effectiveness
4. Improving Relationships
5. Promoting Learning
6. Discipline without Stress
7. What People Say
On June 23, I had the honor of presenting the keynote at the
International Character Education Conference in the newly
dedicated Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the
University of San Diego.
I shared with the attendees some “Principles of Effective
Character Education” as I quoted from the “CHARACTER
Schools, ESPECIALLY IN THEIR APPROACH TO DISCIPLINE,
SHOULD STRIVE TO DEVELOP INTRINSIC COMMITMENT TO CORE
VALUES. They should MINIMIZE RELIANCE ON EXTRINSIC
REWARDS and punishments that direct students’ attention
away from the real reasons to behave responsibly: the
rights and needs of self and others.
I also shared a very perceptive insight that Kerry Weisner
had posted, viz.,
The only thing that I have often seen schools do with the
Virtue Project that wouldn’t fit with Discipline Without
Stress (DWS) approach is rewarding students for
displaying various virtues–in other words, using
the old “catch them being good” behaviour modification
ploy. As an example, I have noticed many schools offer
raffle tickets to students who display kindness during
“Kindness Month” or who are helpful during “Helpfulness
Month,” thereby unwittingly encouraging operation on
Level C. To me, it seems that such schools are missing
out on a wonderful opportunity to help young people
become aware of the benefits of operating on the highest
level of all–Level D–the level at which a person feels
intrinsically satisfied, simply as a natural result of
having offered genuine kindness or help to others.
As Dr. Gordon Neufeld points out, the science of
behaviour modification has just one objective–that of
changing behavior. Behaviour modification scientists are
not interested in promoting values. When we reward
students for their external behaviour (and external
behaviour is all that we CAN reward because we can never
judge someone else’s inner level of motivation with
certainty), then we lose an opportunity to pass on our
values. By rewarding kids with something THEY value
(candy, stickers, prizes, etc.), we simply reinforce
THEIR childish values, when what we had really hoped to do was teach them about
adult values that we know will last a
lifetime. What a shame!
Here is how B. David Brooks described his experience while
working with the staff at Santa Barbara High School in
We met with a considerable amount of resistance when the
principal and I started to discuss character education
with the staff. In order to overcome the reluctance, I
asked the staff to do just one thing. I told them that we
would post two words on the walls in all the classrooms
and hallways. Those words were “respect” and
“responsibility.” The teachers were told that they did
not need to do anything except be observant and make note
of any reactions the students had regarding the posting
of the signs.
I was greeted with rolling eyes and doubtful looks. The
principal and I were sure the staff thought that this
was an exercise in futility. However, they agreed to
I returned to the school three weeks later and met with
the staff. Anecdote after anecdote painted a picture of
positive reactions by students. I was told that at first,
students asked why the signs were appearing all over the
school, and then they wanted to discuss the principles.
Teachers, without being prompted, began to use the words
“respect” and “responsibility” in class discussions and
in some cases taught writing, language arts, and social
studies lessons using the concepts.
Most surprising were the examples of students beginning
to use the language of respect and responsibility in
conversations. Several teachers related that they had
heard students discussing these concept and in a few
cases reminding their peers to be more respectful or
responsible. One teacher said, “They were actually using
(B. David Brooks and Patricia Freedman. IMPLEMENTING
CHARACTER EDUCATION, San Diego, CA: Educational Assessment
Publishing, 2002, p. 76)
To add to this discussion of promoting character education,
here is something else to consider.
Until the 1960’s, school books were replete with vocabulary
words like integrity, industry, work, diligence,
perseverance, self-reliance, self-examination, honesty,
character, and responsibility. There was a glorification of
hard work and an emphasis on education and self-discipline.
Assuming that textbooks have an influence on curriculum and
instruction and that they, therefore, have an effect on
children’s behavior and character, perhaps it is time to
re-examine the contents of our school books as well as the
vocabulary we use.
In his classic book, “1984,” George Orwell demonstrated the
power of words with the example of the term “freedom.” If
there were no such term, how would the concept be imagined,
envisioned, and communicated? When we use the word in
conversations with the young, we teach this concept of
freedom and the values the word represents.
As an aside, this is the reason that the hierarchy of the
Raise Responsibility System uses “anarchy,”
“bossing/bullying” (both unacceptable levels), and
“cooperation/conformity,” (external motivation) and
“democracy” (internal motivation) as the vocabulary.
Democracy and responsibility are inseparable and
responsibility is the foundational characteristic in any
character education approach.
Regularly using vocabulary that represents the values we
wish to teach would be so much more effective than so many
“popular” character education programs of external
approaches catching them doing something good.
I am a graduate of Hollywood High School in Hollywood,
California. I recall walking daily by the school’s marquee
and reading “ACHIEVE THE HONORABLE.” I recently drove by the
school and was truly disappointed that the motto was no
longer posted. It, too, had gone the way of missed
opportunities to foster character development. (This article
will be shared with my alma mater.).
2. PROMOTING RESPONSIBILITY
Responsible people are happy people.
Happy people are responsible people.
Responsibility and happiness feed on each other.
3. INCREASING EFFECTIVENESS
I had the distinct pleasure of celebrating and speaking with
Emery Stoops, a former professor of mine at the University
of Southern California, who recently celebrated the 103rd
anniversary of his birth. Phi Delta Kappa International
recently republished his “Psychology of Success: Develop
Your Hidden Powers,” which they first published in 1983 when
Emery was a youthful 86.
Here is a checklist from the book that Dr. Stoops entitled,
“GRADE YOUR HABITS.” His page is divided into columns–the
first is the habit and the second gives the reader an
opportunity to self-grade: F, D, C, B, A.
Here are the habits:
1. Starting early
2. Enjoying your work
3. Believing in your ability
4. Scheduling time and place for work at home
5. Organizing tools, supplies, and equipment
6. Avoiding distractions
7. Stressing the positive
8. Persisting toward a goal
9. Making a strong finish
10. Controlling you temper
11. Avoiding unfair judgments
12. Speaking well of others
Although I am not suggesting you grade yourself, I do
suggest your reflecting on each of these habits to determine
whether or not you have considered them.
4. IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS
If you ask yourself how you know someone cares for you,
of your responses is likely to be that you know because the
person listens to you.
Ask a husband about a good wife, and he is likely to say
that he knows his wife cares for him because she listens to
what he has to say. Ask a wife about a good husband, and
she’ll respond that he listens to her.
When the parent says, “It’s about time you started listening
to me,” the youngster may be thinking, “It’s about time you
started listening to me.”
Even if we are saying something that is not really worth
listening to, we still want someone to listen to us.
Ask a person in a poor relationship why the person feels
that way, and the person will say that the other person
“doesn’t care about me.” Ask.”How do you know?” and more
often then not the response will be, “He doesn’t listen to
Caring and listening are prime sources of good
relationships. They are so intertwined that if you
experience one, you also experience the other.
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5. PROMOTING LEARNING
“When I learn something new–and it happens every day–I
feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more
comfortable in the nest.”–Bill Moyers
When turtles are born, they know everything they need to
know to live for 50 or so years. Since learning is one of
the joys of living, I don’t think turtles have very much
Learning brings growth, and both the process and result of
learning can be enjoyable. Watch anyone at any age who is
involved in any mental activity for any length of time and
ask the person the reason for the involvement. The response
will inevitably include the fun factor.
A characteristic of successful leaders, teachers, and
parents is that they make learning enjoyable; they make it
On the other hand, think of someone who has given up
learning because, like the turtle, the person already knows
As you think of such a person–someone who knows everything,
someone who doesn’t listen to you because that person know
better–don’t you find that the person isn’t any fun to be
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6. Discipline without
I believe in this approach. But what should I do with the
ones who prompt me to yearn for that ditch digging job I
hated as a kid?
may even want to copy and learn the dialog. Continue to
repeat the mantra, “Do you want to remain a victim?” If the
procedure established was not effective, then repeat the
conversation, “Let’s try another procedure so that you will
not continue to be a victim of your impulses.”
2–Re-read “Solving Circles” on pages 156-157 in the book.
Select that student as one of the participants and yourself
as the other.
3. Ask for help. Even Machiavelli wrote in “The Prince” that
receiving something from your subjects will gain as much
loyalty as your giving something to them. A conversation
with a student sounds like, “Lee, I have a problem and the
only one who can help me is you. Are you willing?” (Of
course, Lee is the problem. Share it.)
4–Empower the student. Put the student in charge of the
activity. It is nearly impossible to do the opposite of that
for which you are in charge.
5–Of all the reflective and self-evaluative questions
suggested in the book, use the four questions for changing
behavior (pp.19-20): (1) What do you want? (2) What are you
choosing to do? ((3) What is your plan? (4) What is your
procedure to implement the plan? Notice that self-evaluation
and reflection are built into these questions because what
the youngster is doing is not getting what the youngster
6–Hold a classroom meeting (pp 128-140). “We are all in
this together and Lee is having a problem rising to Level C
or D. What do you (class) suggest we do to help Lee? (Lee
must be present, and Lee will get an understanding of how
his behavior affects others, and students will suggest ideas
that you would never have thought of yourself.} See
“Classroom Meetings” under “Sample Chapters” at
7–Spend some time tutoring the student (pp. 126-127). Even
if it is for one minute, you will notice or create some
positive comment about the student that will prompt good
feelings and lead the way to bonding.
Having the student bond with you by your positive and
empowering remarks will do more than anything else to
promote responsible behavior and a desire for the student to
do what you desire the student to do.
Notice that all of these use the three principles of
positivity, choice, and reflection described in depth in
Chapter I of the book and outlined in the teaching model at
None of the approaches uses coercion of any kind. This does
not mean that they are permissive. The message is that, one
way or another, you will help the students help themselves
to become more responsible and more pleased with themselves.
The inference, sometimes stated, is that IRRESPONSIBLE
BEHAVIOR IS AN INDICATION OF NOT BEING HAPPY. And that your
responsibility as a teacher is to help people be successful
so they will like themselves even more than they did before
they came to your class.
Let the student know that irresponsible behavior is also an
indication of not being successful. THE POOR BEHAVIOR IS THE
STUDENT’S ATTEMPT TO SATISFY A PROBLEM. Your conversation
will be that you want to help the student–that sharing the
student’s frustration with you will enable you to help the
student become more successful.
Persevere! You may have the potential of being the only
positive adult in the student’s life.
7. What People Say
I teach in a school in Sydney, Australia. I recently did a
course in Choice Theory and saw your book at the course.
Having read it, I decided I would try to implement your
ideas. I was also curious to find out more and discovered
your site when I did a search. Although I am still a novice,
I can say that your system does work, and for the first time
this year one of my most difficult classes has finally
settled down and there is real learning happening.
Note: “Choice Theory” is a registered trademark of the
William Glasser Institute. It is the basis for training in
REALITY THERAPY, QUALITY SCHOOL EDUCATION, and LEAD
MANAGEMENT. More about the institute can be fund at
(I am “Glasser certified” and speak at the institute’s
international conference each year. The concepts of
noncoercion and accepting responsibility for one’s decisions
are prime characteristics of William Glasser’s and my
Preview a presentation by the author at
See a video clip from the In-House Staff Development from
the last link at
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You can post questions and receive responses about
Discipline Without Stress at
About the Book
A descriptive Table of Contents and three sections from
the book are posted at
The three online sections are:
1. Classroom Meetings
2. Collaboration for Quality Learning
3. Reducing Perfectionism
About the Author
Presentation topics are listed at