Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – October 2015

Volume 15 Number 10 October 2015
Newsletter #171 Archived


  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 


My website will shortly be completely revamped to make it easier to find information and easier to navigate. In the meantime, you may want to visit the homepage text to see the new direction of the site. MarvinMarshall.com


They tell us to put up rules; instead I use your “Responsibilities.” It works so much better.


It was the girl’s first day at the youth facility

The new resident was called for breakfast. Beds were to be made before breakfast. The teenager would not make her bed. The housemother reminded the girl of the rule. The girl called the adult every name in the book but still refused to make her bed.

If you were the housemother, how would you handle this situation?

Here is how she resolved what could have become a nasty situation: She went downstairs to where the other girls had congregated, explained the situation, and then said, “You know what is going on here. Who is going to volunteer to go to her bedroom and help her out?”

As the volunteer reached the new girl, the volunteer said, “We know what you are trying to do here. Every one of us was just like you when we first arrived.”

The volunteer continued, “Making the bed is no big deal. I’ll do it, and then we can go to breakfast. The other girls want to meet you.”

What do you think the new girl did when she saw her bed being made by another girl?

Correct! The new girl helped the volunteer make the bed, and then they both went to breakfast together.

The successful approach taken was the same used throughout the WITHOUT STRESS approach. It is referred to as NONCOERCION and is the only approach you will ever find that has people WANT to do what you would like them to do because they want to do what you want them to do.

Use coercion with young people today and in return you will get reluctance, resistance, sometimes rebellion, and most certainly resentment. Therefore, before deciding on an approach to a challenge, ask yourself, “How can I use noncoercion to solve this dilemma?”

Using an approach that does not use coercion increases your chances of achieving your objective. When you do, you will also be promoting responsibility while reducing stress for all involved.

This is Tip #14 


Be aware of body communications:

Are your arms crossed over your chest?
   You may appear guarded.

Is your body turned away?
   You may seem uninterested.

Is the person backing away from you?
   You may be perceived as too aggressive.

When we become self-aware off the message our body is sending, we can correct impressions that do not match the message we want to communicate.


Use agreement as a way of building and continuing rapport. When you disagree, you shut down communication and put the other person in opposition to you and what you’re saying. The person almost automatically thinks about why he/she is right and you are wrong.
First clarify where you agree; then make your point. This approach reduces being in opposition to the other person.


The following article was written by Kerry Weisner—who also created and organize Discipline Answers—before she retired. Kerry explained how she used choice for teaching reading at the lower primary levels. However, anyone can benefit from the concluding paragraph. (A few words have been changed to Standard American English spellings.)

After first reading Marv’s DWS book more than ten years ago, I started to become conscious of the importance of deliberately planning for “choice” in my teaching. Certainly, as I took on my job at an alternate school six years ago—working one-on-one with sullen, illiterate and often, ashamed teenagers—providing choice was a major consideration in any lesson. There, the first choice always offered was simply “Would you be interested in a reading lesson today?” I quickly (and painfully) learned that without at least some tiny initial buy-in from these students, we were going nowhere fast—and it wasn’t going to be pretty!

Now this year, back in Kindergarten full time, choice is still an important consideration. Like others on this list, whenever possible I try to ensure that my Kindergarten students have choices when we do projects, play games or have story time. In discipline situations, I try not to back any child into a corner and instead endeavor to make sure they feel they have some freedom of choice with regard to their own behavior and its consequences. Yet, the most powerful teaching experience I’ve ever had with “choice” wasn’t planned at all. It developed gradually over a period of about 3 months and all quite unintentionally. I’d like to tell you about it!

Although the Kindergarten mandate in my province is to provide a developmentally appropriate, play-based learning environment, just before Christmas I realized that a couple of students were ready for more formal reading instruction. They already knew all their alphabet sounds (the target date for meeting this goal is June.), they could automatically and correctly write a letter symbol for each one and their oral phonemic awareness skills were excellent.  One child, Mary, was especially eager; I decided to start with her.

Although I’ve taught nearly 300 grade one students to read in a regular grade one classroom setting, I’ve never before taught a Kindergarten student to read within a play-based environment. The main reason I chose to move to full day K was to be able to continue to develop the beginning reading program Darlene and I created in our grade one classroom and used successfully with older struggling readers in the alternate school system in our district. (Teachers in B.C. still have a great deal of teaching autonomy compared to many other places in North America.)  

Although I’ve taught nearly 300 grade one students to read in a regular grade one classroom setting, I’ve never before taught a Kindergarten student to read within a play-based environment. The main reason I chose to move to full day K was to be able to continue to develop the beginning reading program Darlene and I created in our grade one classroom and used successfully with older struggling readers in the alternate school system in our district. (Teachers in B.C. still have a great deal of teaching autonomy compared to many other places in North America.)  

Over the Christmas holiday, I considered how I might go about teaching, first Mary, and then eventually others, to learn to read. Since I personally find individualized instruction more productive than small group work, I knew that I wanted to keep children’s learnings recorded in some way for their own reference. I debated how best to do this and finally decided to use a notebook. But I wanted this notebook to be different than the others we use in Kindergarten; I wanted it to be somewhat special. After all, learning to read is very exciting! The dollar store had a sturdy black notebook for sale so I bought a few and taped a name tag on for Mary.

In my school, eating times are supervised by teachers and the procedure I’ve taught is that after eating and cleaning up lunch things, students are to get organized back at their table spot for “Book Look” time.  I spotted an opportunity to begin working with Mary on her own because it just happens that she typically eats her lunch more quickly than all the other children. When I quietly suggested that we could use the remainder of eating time to start learning to read, she was all smiles.  I showed her the notebook and we began. Each following day after her lunch, Mary and I would spend five minutes or so to practice the words and sentences in her “Key Book.” Then we would add a new phonetic pattern that would allow her to tackle more words. Because Mary is so keen on learning to read, it’s a delight to work with her; we have a lot of fun together!

Lunchtime seating in my class is determined by small named placemats. As students wash their hands, I put out plastic placemats at three tables. Because I move the mats around to different tables with different companions, each day Mary sat with a new group of children. As others at her table wondered aloud what the two of us were doing, I would explain and invite them to listen in to Mary’s reading lesson if they were interested. Eventually, the two students who were near ready to read themselves asked if they could have a reading lesson—just like Mary. Happily, I was able to show them that I had already purchased Key Books for them.  Since they were interested, I could certainly give them a little lesson during Book Look time.

Things progressed well and I went back to the dollar store several times to buy more black notebooks. Every couple of weeks, another child would ask if they too could have a reading lesson. Generally, students didn’t seem to ask to be taught to read until they had acquired a certain skill level with phonemic awareness and alphabet sounds. This was perfect. Our Book Look times just naturally started to increase in length. More and more kids automatically started to go to the bin and retrieve their Key Book when they finished their lunches. Without any suggestion from me, they would practice reading the familiar pages while waiting for a turn for me to add the next concept to their books. Then one child had a new idea. Each day after reading, he would get a pencil and start spelling three letter words, writing the names of classmates and copying favorite words from book titles. Soon that idea caught on  and we developed a procedure: Pages on which I taught reading concepts were just for the teacher; any empty page could hold student writing. 

Eventually though, a couple of students who did not have the necessary foundational skills to easily learn to read began to ask if they could also have lessons with a Key Book. My heart fell and the first thought to cross my mind was “But you’re not ready yet; this will be too hard for you.” Luckily, biting my tongue—as a result of diligent practice with DWS Principle #1! (Positivity)—saved me! Instead of blurting out my first (and very negative) thought, I forced a bright smile and said (without a lot of inner confidence,) “Sure! Any student who wants to can learn to read!” What else could I say?

But then, pretty quickly, I remembered that years ago I went to individualized instruction for a reason. My less ready students did not yet have the ability to actually blend letters into words to read, but I could have them practice more basic skills that would move them to that point. I could use their Key Books to review alphabet sounds. They didn’t need to know that others in the class were working on more advanced skills. To date, only two students have not yet asked for a Key Book. Not surprisingly these are the two students that I have recommended to my principal as being candidates for another year in Kindergarten. 

Here’s what I experienced first hand this year: When learning to read is a choice, motivation is high. When motivation is high, every lesson is welcomed. When lessons are welcomed, learning fuels further motivation. This experience may have developed accidentally for me this year, but next year I will deliberately plan to make learning to read a “choice.”


A mother once asked Mahatma Gandhi to get her son to stop eating sugar. Gandhi told the mother to come back in two weeks.

Two weeks later the mother brought the child before Gandhi. Gandhi persuaded the boy to stop eating sugar. Puzzled, the woman replied, “Thank you, but I must ask you why you didn’t tell him two weeks ago.” Gandhi replied, “Two weeks ago I was eating sugar.”


I’m diving into more of your resources. The class definitely is getting the levels, but they sure are babies. I have 19 kids and 10 are summer birthdays. Their stamina and attention span is completely different from the class I had last year. It’s going to take some time, but I am working hard on procedures and routines. One of the things that I love about the system is it creates a classroom climate that is understanding and motivating. Rewards and punishments just don’t work; choice does though. —Brianne Siderio – Somerdale, New Jersey


I have been using your thoughts on discipline in my classroom for quite a few years and totally believe in it because it works! This summer I did the online seminar Discipline Online as a refresher course and loved it! I have my masters in Quality Schools based on Dr. William Glasser’s work and teach Choice Theory along with your discipline system to my students. Choice theory and Discipline Without Stress support each other, which is so awesome. —Craig Hutton – Manchester, Iowa

Award-winning Parenting Without Stress 

Life-changing 54 short modules showing how to discipline without stress and use authority without coercion.