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Stress Management for Living, Teaching, & Parenting

Would a school pledge fit into the Discipline without Stress approach?

At our school, we have a program intended to create peace in our community. I am being told that I must teach the pledge that goes with this program. Although I do like the idea of encouraging kids to be peaceful, I wonder how a pledge would fit into a Discipline without Stress approach. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

The pledge is:

I am a Peacebuilder.
I pledge to give up put-downs,
seek wise people,
notice and speak up about hurts I have caused,
and to right wrongs.
I pledge to build peace at home, at school,
and in my community each day.

Perhaps you feel uncomfortable, not about the pledge itself, but rather about telling students that they must recite a pledge, which they haven’t voluntarily chosen.

The three principles of Discipline without Stress are Positivity, Reflection and Choice. Although the sentiments of this pledge are POSITIVE, and reciting the pledge may encourage students to REFLECT upon what they can do to become a more peaceful person, an element of CHOICE is missing from this exercise.

In this system of discipline, the goal is to help students develop SELF-discipline through teaching them about the four levels of social development as presented in the Hierarchy. One of the most critical understandings of the Hierarchy is that internal motivation indicates a higher level of personal/social development than does external motivation. In other words, although the actions of Level C and D most often look the same (that is, the individual chooses to “do the right thing”), the two levels do differ in their source of motivation.

We can teach young people, using this approach to discipline that following inner guidance (Level D), is a higher level of operation than simply complying with an external pressure (Level C). Therefore, if a student is required to recite a pledge, and the desire to recite the pledge is motivated more from a desire to comply with the principal or teacher, rather than from a genuine desire to pledge peaceful behaviour, the exercise promotes Level C behavior. While Level C is an acceptable level of operation, it is not the highest level (D)–the level to which we would like to encourage students to aspire.

With this in mind, you might consider slightly modifying this pledge by beginning each new sentence with the phrase, “I can choose…” thus creating an opportunity for students to learn a valuable lesson about choice-response thinking.

It would then read:

I can choose to be a Peacebuilder.
I can choose to give up put-downs,
seek wise people,
notice and speak up about hurts I have caused,
and to right wrongs.
I can choose to build peace at home, at school,
and in my community each day.

This is an example of what Dr. Marshall would call “empowering young people” through choice-response thinking–helping them become aware that all behavior is a CHOICE. You can empower your students by helping them realize that they can CHOOSE to do all the wonderful things mentioned in this pledge. In other words, just reciting a pledge about peace does not automatically ensure that an individual will be peaceful–a CONSCIOUS DECISION to act as a peacebuilder is first necessary.

To further emphasize that becoming a peacebuilder requires a conscious decision to operate in peaceful ways, you might occasionally follow the pledge with a reflective question such as: “What could YOU do today that would make you a peacebuilder in our class/school?” or “What could you do today to make the world a more peaceful place?“ At the end of the day, students could silently reflect on how well they had met their own goals.

An article about using Discipline without Stress as Character Education 

Dr. Marvin Marshall
Phone: 714.220.1882
Piper Press
Phone: 559.329.5232