Discipline Without Stress-Lack of Understanding

QUESTION – from a posting at the mailring:

I need your help! I have already started using Discipline Without Stress in my classroom, and I gave my principal the handout explaining the levels of behavior of the hierarchy.

She told me that she will not support my using the Raise Responsibility Sytem. She told me that anarchy was too big of a word for Kindergartners and that they wouldn't understand. She told me that behavior shouldn't be compartmentalized—and that is what this system promotes. I explained how the Raise Responsibility Sytem focuses on internal motivation and self reflection. She still would not hear of it! We went around and around for quite some time. Does anyone have any advice or suggestions for me? Thanks for your help!

RESPONSE – from a posting by Kerry:

What a shame!  I've met a number of cynical people who didn't think an approach based on inner motivation would work because they felt it was too idealistic, but at least they've all been able to see the value of what is trying to be achieved with the system. Most principals would at least support a teacher in TRYING it for one year. You would think she would WANT kids to be encouraged to follow their consciences, which is essentially the essence of Level D.

It wasn't clear if your principal had actually told you that you can't use the system or if she simply prefers that you not use it. In the first case, I would imagine that you don't have any options but to comply with her wishes. In the second case, you would have an option, but only you could make the decision based on how strongly you feel about continuing with disciplining through internal motivation.

I really feel sad about the reaction you received from this lady! The children have so much to gain from this system. How unfortunate if you weren't able to provide them with the understandings of the hierarchy now that you know about the system.

Today I had a glimpse of how the system has affected just one child and given him the opportunity to think about how he wants to live his life.

First just a little background into our classroom situation at the moment.

Yesterday and today, the first two days of school, the students in our school went back to their teachers from last year. For the past several years we have followed this format, so that when we finally move the children into their new classes, we can be fairly certain that they will stay there for the rest of the year. We do this to avoid the upset and tears (on the part of both students and parents!) that were often part of our previous routine when we tried to form class lists in June, and then had to reorganize all the classes on the second or third day of school.

Most years by the second day of school we're up and running with our new students but this year we had an extra day "on hold" because a new teacher was added to our staff due to a big increase in student numbers. So, today, with our "old" children, we did a lot of back-to-school review—some reading skills, some math skills, and we went over the  hierarchy. We were discussing the bottom two levels and mentioning that they were unacceptable. Several children explained that it's not nice to be around others who operate on these lower levels and a couple of kids said that sometimes they felt bullied at home by an older brother or bigger kids on their street. We talked about how they might choose to respond when this happened. Several kids mentioned that they would get help if the bullies didn't stop and a number of kids said that they would ignore things that others did if they weren't too bad. Greg said that he had actually made his own A B C D chart at home to show his brother when he was bullying him.

That's when Cameron put up his hand. Here's what he had to say. Knowing the quiet contemplative nature of this little boy, it was obvious that he had been thinking about this in his own little head, quite seriously, long before today's discussion.

He said that his dad has told him that when other people do things that are mean, he should do the exact same mean thing BACK to them. I didn't really say anything except "Hmmm" and he continued, "I DON'T do that though," he said, "because if I did the same thing that they were doing, I would be on a low level too—just like them."

When people try to tell me that little children can't understand the hierarchy enough to use it, I just let those comments go in one ear and out the other! Little conversations like this one today with Cameron, prove to me that sometimes, kids, who have only been exposed for just one year to the system, have a better understanding of the concepts of social and personal development than some adults will ever have!

Through the system, kids come to realize that they have the powerful ability to be in control of their own lives. At every moment of the day they are making decisions. I feel privileged to be be able to introduce them to the four levels of the hierarchy and the Raise Responsibility Sytem and in so doing, give them something upon which to consciously base their decisions.

Kerry in British Columbia

More of Kerry's posts are at her blog.