Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – June 2006

Volume 6 Number 6


 1. Welcome

  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.



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

the response.

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.



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.


Make it your habit not to be critical about small

things in

other people.


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:

(1) positivity

(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


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

significantly increase.

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

growing bodies.

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

other people.

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?

Thank you.



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

Dear Marv,

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.

Very exciting!

Thanks for everything,

Wendy Brady


Preview a presentation by the author at



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

the last link at