How to Foster Initiative in Students

Recently a teacher asked me, “Can we really expect ALL children (even kindergartners) to understand and abide by the Discipline Without Stress’ 4 levels of behavior without ANY rewards?”

Here is my reply:

YES, but you start by differentiating between ACCEPTABLE levels and UNACCEPTABLE levels. See the posters and cards at

Also (and this is critical), be sure you have taught, practiced, and practiced again EVERYTHING you want your students to do. A MAJOR ERROR EVEN EXPERIENCED TEACHERS MAKE is ASSUMING that students, of any age, know what to do without first learning, practicing, and ritualizing the procedure or skill.

Once STUDENTS (especially young ones) HAVE LEARNED what YOU want them to do, they will want to do it. Learning for them is fun. If you are POSITIVE with your kids, they will like you and will want to please you. Boys and girls have a natural desire to please their teachers (level C–external motivation). They will readily do what you ask them to do if they know HOW to do it.

Once young students have learned what you have taught, many will TAKE THE INITIATIVE to do exactly what you have taught because they then KNOW HOW TO and WANT TO do the right thing, simply because it is the right thing to do. This describes level D—internal motivation.