Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – August 2014

—Volume 14 Number 8


  1. Welcome
  2. Promoting Responsibility
  3. Increasing Effectiveness
  4. Improving Relationships
  5. Promoting Learning
  6. Parenting
  7. Discipline without Stress (DWS)
  8. Reviews and Testimonials  



Rules impose rather than empower. —Rebecca Morgan

An e-mail about last month’s newsletter:
Another newsletter chock full of practical and easy to use suggestions that can be IMMEDIATELY IMPLEMENTED. Your ideas and suggestions have contributed greatly to an awesome summer camp in our neighborhood community center in San Antonio, Texas.
Carlos Gonzalez, Co-Chair – West End Hope in Action


From a recent e-mail I received:

I am interested in implementing your ideas in my classroom. They make such sense to me, and I am very excited! What do you recommend for communicating about student behavior with the parents? In previous years I used a behavior classroom chart and a six-weeks calendar where daily behavior is recorded and sent home each day. I do not want to use that system any longer. However, I will have parents who will want to know how their child “behaved” each day.


Let the parents know that the best way for them to have their children become more responsible is for the parents to assume that their children will be responsible. Therefore, save some work for you and anxiety for parents by establishing this positive mindset. That is, let the parents know that their children are responsible and that if they are not then you will inform the parents.

If a parent insists, ask the person for the reason—and then point out that the person is having little confidence in the child. Then ask,”Do you want your child to feel that you have no confidence in your child?”

Stay in control by continually asking questions until the parent reflects to the point of no longer feeling a need to receive behavior reports.

The e-mail continued:

Also, the student report card includes a section for work habits, listening attentively, cooperating with others, completing work, etc. I have used the behavior calendar as documentation to support the grades given on the report card. I would appreciate any ideas you have. Thank you very much.


Have the students grade themselves. I used to pass out small cards to have my students grade themselves. In the vast majority of cases, we agreed. In those cases where we did not, I explained my grade.

This approach saved me much time and prompted the students to reflect and improve.


The following is from a post by Kerry Weisner.

“If you have any prior experience at all with Dr. Marshall’s approach, it’s likely that you are not surprised by the results noticed by the researchers. In my own classroom, I often chose to take the advice of Dr. Marshall—to build choice, positivity, and personal responsibility into the school day. Not only did this make for a happy and interesting classroom environment, but I found that by deliberately increasing the number of choices that my students could make (primary-aged, intermediate, and teenagers through the years), and by expecting them to take personal responsibility in a variety of ways, I noticed they exhibited an increased desire to be positive and cooperative with me, their teacher. What a blessing that was!”

The post is about a research study concerning choice and personal responsibility. See the entire post.


In order to significantly improve relationships, focus on UNDERSTANDING the other person rather than attempting to influence that person. You will find that agreement is often achieved more quickly with this approach.

Rather than assuming you know the reasoning behind another person’s viewpoint, ask for an explanation. Using this process, the person articulates the reasoning, and you may find that the person’s reasoning is well-worth considering. You may receive an insight about the other person which will assist you in your discussions with and understanding of that person.

Having the other person feel and believe that his/her reasoning is recognized—not necessarily agreed with—can have a dramatic influence on changing opinion.


Here is another recent e-mail and my response.

Hi Dr. Marshall,

I am going into my 4th year and I have struggled with behavior management. I bought your education book and will begin reading it. Do consultations cost?  If so, the book will have to do. I live in New Jersey. I’m hoping to create a better classroom this year that is more conducive to learning


Yes, consulting does cost. I am giving so much away that I need to recover some of my costs.

Here are my suggestions:

View the 3-minute video on my home page. If you have rules, label them “responsibilities.” You can see the ones I used on page 8 of the Resource Guide.

These responsibilities are short, positive, and place the responsibility on the students rather than on the teacher.

If you can afford $19.95, refer to the Resource Guide that covers everything you need to get started. You will find the education book you have purchased very useful for promoting learning and for improving your teaching—but you first need to be able to walk into your classroom and have the students like and respect you and WANT to do what you would like them to do. the Resource Guide is your best reference for this.

Page 97 has a picture and procedure to gain students’ attention immediately. Some system to do this is essential. Page 96 has 30 procedures you should consider teaching immediately. Teaching procedures precedes teaching content. Do not assume your students know how to do what you want them to do. Review with them HOW to do what you want them to do.

Keep the Discipline Without Stress Teaching Model handy to remind yourself to always speak in positive terms (informing students of what you want—rather than what you don’t want), always giving them a choice (sometimes eliciting suggestions from them), and asking questions that will prompt them to reflect. Stay away from ineffective questions such as “Why are you doing that?” Kids (even adults) cannot (and/or will not) articulate their motivation.

Your relationships with your students have a significant impact on their lives. My proof is that I still remember Mrs. Mackay, my kindergarten teacher.

Finally, Children of the Rainbow School has four stories and pictures that make it very easy for young people to understand (A) two inappropriate BEHAVIOR levels and (B) two levels of MOTIVATION—one to please others and the other to take the initiative to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do and because it will be in their own best interest.


Referring to “Responsibilities” is more effective than using “Rules.” You can see this on the short video on my home page:

When raising and disciplining children, many parents rely on rules. However, the use of the term “rules” in parenting is often counterproductive. Rules are used to control—not to inspire. Although essential in games, rules are counterproductive in relationships.

Think of it this way: If a rule is broken, a mindset of enforcement is naturally created. The adult’s thinking goes something like, “If I don’t do something about this, it will occur again and I’ll lose my authority.”

Using authority based on rules immediately becomes adversarial. The use of the term “rules” prompts the parent to assume the role of a cop—a position of enforcement—rather than a more encouraging stance similar to that of a coach. As a coach, you are more inclined to view a youngster’s misbehavior as an opportunity to help rather than to hurt. Therefore, instead of relying on rules, a better approach is to use the term “responsibilities” and help the child develop procedures.

Responsibilities empower and elevate. They are stated in positive terms, whereas rules are often stated in negative terms. Notice in the following examples how the customary rules are de-motivating while the responsibilities are empowering:

No hitting!
Be kind to others.

Don’t make a mess!
Take care of my things.

Don’t blame others for your mistakes!
Accept ownership of my choices.

Stay out of your brother’s room!
Show respect for other people’s proper.

Don’t be late!
Plan ahead so I can be on time.

When communications are in positive terms, there is a natural tendency for you to help rather than to punish. So, rather than using the term “rules” to describe what you don’t want, use a term that describes what you do want. For example, if you say to a child, “You are always late,” the child is not empowered to change. However, by saying to the child, “You have such great skills in many areas; why not add being on time to them?” Now you have reminded the youngster of successes upon which to build. You have encouraged the child to strive because of the positive picture you have created.


Dr. Marshall,

I dont know if you remember me, Frank Spino. I worked for Grant school district. Now I am a Police Sergeant. I am teaching a class for school resource officers and would love to use some of your suggestions and ideas for teachers (officers) with only the badge as their authority to get kids interested and compliant. Any ideas?

Following is Frank’s original e-mail to me:

When I recently presented in Sacramento, California, one of the participants told me that he had attended one of my seminars in Sacramento several years previously and that he uses the levels of development in various situations—including those when he assists the local police. I asked Frank to share with attendees how he uses the program after arresting a youth and transporting that young person to the police department.

Frank starts by being proactive. He explains the Hierarchy of Social Development. He then informs the person that it is the person’s choice as to how he/she will be treated upon arrival at the destination. Frank explains that operating on level A or B will prompt the authorities to BOSS the person—under the premise that the person behaving on these levels only obeys someone who has or uses greater authority.

However, if the person chooses one of the higher levels, that person will be treated with respect. As a result, life will be much easier for all concerned.

Frank emphasizes to the person to be aware that the level chosen is the PERSON’S OWN CHOICE and that this choice will have an effect upon how he/she is treated by the police officers at the station.Frank later wrote me: If it is a student or a subject I place under arrest, I ask if the person is enjoying MY being in control of their situation or whether the person would rather be in control of him/herself. Most of the time the answer is the same: “I don’t like this, and I want to be in control.” I then explain each level and the consequences for choosing each level.

I get them to commit to that verbally and then have them teach me what conformity/cooperation looks like to them. I repeat to them that they admitted not liking to be controlled by me or others. They again repeat this answer verbally. I ask again if they are sure that they want to control their future decisions.

At this point I ask what did they really want when they broke the rule or procedure. The answers vary to this question. I have heard many intimate things in this portion of the conversation.

Before I leave them, I tell every person with whom I have this interaction, “You are in control of your decisions. You are in control of the outcome.” I ask them to conform for three weeks or 21 days. Of everyone who has done this, I never see them or hear about them again.

Frank Spino
Grant Joint Union High School District
Sacramento, California

In the following most recent communication with Frank in his current position, I suggested to consider purchasing some cards for the school resource officers to use the small cards.

Have them hand the student one of the cards and ASK the student to identify the level chosen.

IDENTIFYING THE LEVEL, RATHER THAN THE SPECIFIC BEHAVIOR, bypasses the natural tendency to defend oneself and thereby makes it easy for the young person to accept responsibility and reflect on the decision.

Then ask the question,”What do you suggest we do about it?” (Eliciting rather than imposing) Elicit a procedure or consequence that both the officer and student can agree will help the student with future inappropriate impulses (decisions).

Have the school resource officers link to the Raise Responsibility System and learn more about the system. Also, encourage them to subscribe to this free monthly newsletter to further understand HOW TO USE AUTHORITY WITHOUT COERCION, THREATS, OR IMPOSED PUNISHMENTS.


The following is from a testimonial:

I used to talk with my third graders about how everyone—ot only children—experiences the levels of social development. I would make mention of adults driving. Many would respond with comments such as, “Yeah, my dad gets really mad and says bad words.”

I also let them know when the class or some of the students was heading toward the A level, that I was moving into the B level and that I don’t like being a bossy teacher. As the year would go on, I was so pleased with the students who did some act of kindness simply because it was the “right thing to do.” (Referring to Level D)

Anyway, I love the system because I wanted to get on with the important things to do in the classroom and not spend time with “discipline.”

I also love your newsletters because they arrive regularly and are filled with information both for the veteran user and for the new people.

Thanks again.

Brenda Zebrynski
Winnipeg, Manitoba – Canada


“I have been struggling with my 5-year-old who knows his own mind. Coercion was not working. I was at a complete loss until I read your book. My son is responding very well, and the approach has improved our relationship. Thank you for giving me a practical method for teaching responsibility.”

Karen McCormick,
Norco, California


“This is a fantastic book! Just learning how to ask reflective questions is worth the entire read.”

Joan Brookins
Pine River, Wisconsin