Volume 6 Number 6
IN THIS ISSUE:
2. Promoting Responsibility
3. Increasing Effectiveness
4. Improving Relationships
5. Promoting Learning
6. Discipline without Stress
7. What People Say
When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in
itself a choice. –William James
At the conclusion of the academic year in the U.S.A. and the
start of summer vacation in many schools, it seems a proper
time to review two significant characteristics of the
approaches I recommend that are different from most others.
ACTING REFLEXIVELY vs. ACTING REFLECTIVELY
You are at home and the telephone rings. You answer it.
Assume for a moment that you are NOT familiar with
choice-response thinking. If I were to query you why you
answered the phone. most would say–in one way or
another–that the phone was a stimulus and answering it was
Now, let’s assume that you are at home watching a television
program that you had been looking forward to seeing. You are
totally engaged in a dramatic scene and the phone rings.
Would you disrupt your involvement in the program to answer
In this situation, some people would answer the phone–
perhaps because they would have acted REFLEXIVELY. Others
would let the telephone answering device record the message
for them to check the message later. The latter group would
have acted REFLECTIVELY.
Answering a phone is a voluntary act. No one forces people
to react one way or another to the ringing of a telephone.
In essence, the ringing of the phone is simply information.
In the example above, a CHOICE was made to answer or not to
answer when the ring was heard.
The first significant characteristic, then, is the
understanding that with any situation, or stimulation, or
urge, humans have the ability to make a choice–either
reflexively or reflectively. The stimulus DOES NOT CAUSE the
response. In the situation with the telephone or stopping at
a red light, the stimulus is simply information that one
chooses or does not choose to act on.
The problem arises only when–by extrapolation–we assume
that the phone or a red light CAUSED the action. This
psychology of “stimulus-response” is believed by many as the
way to control or influence others.
To borrow from Stephen R. Covey, the “jackass” approach of
the carrot and stick is a poor way to deal with humans.
CONTROLLING PEOPLE vs. INFLUENCING PEOPLE
Because controllees have low motivation to carry out
decisions IMPOSED on them, as scores of research have
documented, enforcement is both difficult and
time-consuming. This is very evident in schools where
teachers spend so much classroom time “playing
police”–enforcing their rules or the administration’s
Aiming at controlling people is really focusing on
controlling the body and hoping the brain follows. In
contrast, aiming at the brain and having the body follow is
less stressful and far more effective.
Controlling people aims at obedience. Except where the
relationship is so strong that the controllee feels that
the control is in his or her own best interest, control
rarely brings either desire or commitment.
Control is only temporary. In the final analysis, people
change themselves. The most effective way to actuate change
in others is through enlightened leadership. This type of
leader leads through the vision they project and the manner
in which they treat others.
Successful leaders empower, not overpower. They are
positive, not negative. They encourage others by sharing
their expectations, not by telling others what to do. These
leaders treat people with dignity and respect knowing that,
in the vast majority of cases, people will reflect on their
own choices and make ones that meet the leaders
When dealing with others–regardless of age–here is an
interesting question to ponder regarding behavior: “If
everyone did it, what would happen?”
One of the great approaches to successful living is to
develop the art of prompting positive mindsets.
For example, suppose I lay a plank on the ground. Almost
anyone could easily walk on the plank from one end to the
other. But if I were to raise the plank 20 feet off the
ground, how many people do you think would get across it
without falling? I would guess quite a few people would fall
off the plank.
Why can people walk the plank when it’s on the ground but
not while it’s elevated? A prime reason is that when the
plank is on the ground, people imagine success. They believe
and feel they can accomplish the task. Off the ground, there
is a tendency to question the success of the endeavor.
Your mindset is vital. What you think, what you visualize,
what you image is to a large degree what you will become–
just like the eagle who thought he was a chicken.
As the story goes, a young boy found an eagle’s nest while
climbing in the mountains around his father’s farm. He
removed an egg from the nest and placed it under a hen back
at the farm. The eagle hatched along with the other chicks.
All his young life he was raised among chickens. Knowing no
better, he came to see himself as a chicken.
Then one day an eagle flew high over the chicken coop. As
the young one watched this great magnificent eagle flying
high, the thought came to him that he too wished to soar
over the mountains. With a burst of inspiration the young
eagle flew to the top of the chicken coop. From there he
soared to the top of a low hillside. As his confidence grew
he soared higher and higher as did his confidence and
his mindset of his capabilities.
4. IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS
Make it your habit not to be critical about small
5. PROMOTING LEARNING
The following is a summary of advice given to teachers who
were about to take on an additional teaching role. They
started to work with reluctant, apathetic, and disengaged
adolescents in an alternative school.
Patience is critical with these students, and building
relationships is the ONLY way you will have success. These
students trust no one, and it will take time for them to
truly understand that you are concerned about them and their
own best interests.
Since success is built on success and not failure,
compliment them on their successes. This will give them
hope–the most essential ingredient for success and
something they have had very little of.
Be wary of using any of the seven “deadlies”: criticizing,
blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, or
rewarding/bribing to control.
Use caring techniques of listening, supporting, encouraging,
respecting, trusting, accepting, and negotiating.
If a youngster is angry, do not take it personally. Ask,
“Are you angry with me or the situation?” The anger will
always come from a frustration in which you are rarely the
Use the three principles on a regular basis:
(2) empowering students with choices
(3) asking reflective questions to promote thinking.
Teach choice-response thinking regularly.
Teach impulse management:
When referring to the hierarchy, do not ask these
alternative school students to identify a level. They will
think you are being coercive. Instead, just drop a comment,
e.g., “Lee, please take a moment and reflect on the level
you have chosen.” Also, when giving an option or choice
always give THREE. Giving only two options may seem coercive
to these young adults. THEY WILL NOT TOLERATE COERCION IN
ANY FORM. Reacting negatively to coercion is their way of
staying in control and exercising power.
Teach a procedure for everything you want the students to
do. Assume they know nothing. Even with home assignments,
have them practice in class before giving them any
assignment to do on their own. When they have practiced and
visualized exactly how to attack the assignment so they feel
confident in completing it, chances of their doing it
Use the hierarchy for motivating both responsible behavior
and learning. See samples of hierarchies.
Always EMPATHIZE with them and then ask, “How are we going
to handle the situation?” This approach elicits a procedure
which will help them to help themselves.
Have students write in a journal the very first thing upon
entering the class. Assure students that you will never read
what they have written–unless they ask you to and give you
permission. Writing how they feel is a clarifying and
cathartic exercise for these students who constantly undergo
a perception of alienation and stress.
Along these lines, periodically drop in a word (but don’t
teach a formal lesson unless asked) about the importance of
a good night’s sleep; exercise; and the problem of too much
sugar and lack of fruits, vegetables, and calcium in their
Finally, regarding reading: Most of these students do not.
You may find that some of them get headaches when they read
or that reading is physiologically painful to them. A simple
change in WHERE they read may have an effect on them–such
as moving out from a standard classroom with florescent
lights to outdoors or incandescent lighting. Some may have
visual perception challenges such as scotopic sensitivity.
Ask each student privately if he/she finds it painful to
read or gets headaches from reading. The following are two
excellent sources on this topic:
Don’t overlook an optometric examination. It may be such a
simple thing as needing glasses that the family does not
provide. The Lions Club will help in this area.
Finally, you may be their last chance in their formal
schooling for them to develop positive mindsets leading to
responsible and successful lives.
Make it your habit not to be critical about small things in
6. Discipline without
This is an embarrassing situation for me. I have a strange
problem with my son that I have never heard about before. He
is fifteen years old and has been stealing my clothes or his
sister’s clothing and cutting them up into little pieces
with scissors or cutting our underwear into a thong. We have
had him seeing a psychiatric therapist for over a year, with
no resolution to this problem. He seems to do this without
any warning or reason. I can’t link it to anger at us,
although he may just not be expressing his anger. It seems
like an act of anger. He doesn’t talk or express his
emotions much at all.
I have required him to earn the money to buy us new clothing
to replace the items he destroyed, but that has not stopped
him from doing it again. Is there anything you can suggest?
Don’t be embarrassed. Puzzling situations like yours are
occurring more often with today’s teenagers.
Most boys will not express their emotions by engaging
directly in a conversation. Engage him in some activity
first. When he is involved in something, the chances of his
sharing his thoughts and emotions are much greater.
Link to http://marvinmarshall.com/parenting.htm
Print “Tips for Parents’ and refer to it often.
Completely stop all forms of coercion. When you have a
conversation with your son let him know that when he feels
pressure from you, he is to let you know–so you will be
aware of it.
But keep your standards. When he does something that is not
acceptable, simply say in a calm voice and relaxed body,
“That is not acceptable. What do you suggest we do about
Notice that rather than imposing a consequence you are
eliciting one. Eliciting a procedure to redirect impulses is
a key to success. It is also the one parents so often forget
to implement. Also, focus on a procedure he can use in case
he gets the urge again. If he says, “I don’t know,” then
say, “As capable as you are, we both know better. What would
an extraordinary person do?”
If you are still not successful, suggest that he share with
one of his friends or counselor what he has done and suggest
that they may help him come up with a procedure (not
punishment) which may assist him. He won’t want to take you
up on this. But notice that you have employed the second
principal of “Tips for Parents”: the empowerment of choice.
Good luck and persevere in being positive, offering choices,
and asking questions which will prompt him to reflect.
7. What People Say
Hello from Benchmark School in Phoenix, AZ.
My name is Wendy Brady and you spoke at our school earlier
this year. I wanted to drop you a quick note about a
compliment our 4th grade students received.
We recently had a guest speaker come to visit our 4th grade.
He was Wyatt Earp and he performed a monologue on Wyatt
Earp’s life and experiences.
After the performance, which took about one hour, Wyatt
commented that in the past 3 years he had not come across a
group of better-behaved school children. (He travels the
world doing this show.) He was shocked at how well the
students listened–no interruptions, respectful, etc. He
told the teachers that he really enjoyed the experience
because of the children.
I passed along the comments to the students. They were
thrilled with themselves. One student even commented that
the best feeling was that a teacher didn’t even remind them
what the expectations were; they just did it on their own.
“We did it because it was the right thing to do. This man
gave us his time, and we should be respectful.”
I felt so good about the situation. It was nice to see 62
4th graders act at level D.
Thanks for everything,
Preview a presentation by the author at
See a video clip from the In-House Staff Development from
the last link at