Before implementing Discipline Without Stress in their classroom, many teachers ask me, “What are the most important things I should know or review before getting started?”
Keeping the four-part Discipline Without Stress Teaching Model in mind, here are some critical understandings with regard to the Levels of Development:
- Levels A and B are always unacceptable. Choosing to act (either consciously or non-consciously) at these levels will result in the use of authority by the teacher.
- Don’t quibble with a student over determining whether a certain unacceptable action was at Level B or Level A. It doesn’t matter—both levels are unacceptable.
- Don’t get derailed trying to figure out WHY a student chose to do something that was unacceptable. Harsh as this may sound, this too doesn’t really matter. Unacceptable actions can never be justified. Instead of trying to determine WHY a student acted inappropriately, direct your efforts into asking self-reflective questions that will aid self-evaluation. Then help the student to develop a procedure to handle similar situations that might arise in the future.
- Teach students that they can choose the type of relationship they wish to have with other people and with the authority figures in their life. Good relationships are created by operating on Level C. For those who choose to operate on the highest level—Level D—relationships will be even better and more satisfying.
- At Levels C and D, the action quite often looks the same; the difference lies in the source of motivation. At Level C, the person is motivated to do the right thing by something/someone outside themselves. At Level D, the person is motivated to follow an inner sense of knowing the right thing to do. At Level D, a student will choose to do the right thing, whether or not an authority figure is present. An example will clarify this point: A pupil at Level C completes home tasks, but only after being reminded by a parent or teacher to do so. At Level D, a student completes home tasks because she knows that it is a responsibility; she doesn’t wait to be reminded before starting. Either way, the action is the same—the home tasks are completed—only the motivation is different.
- The goal for the teacher is to have students operate on Level C. Level D is a wonderful option for anyone, but it can never be required of an individual. While teachers can certainly influence students to aspire to this high level, they can never insist on such a goal for someone else; by definition, authentic Level D behavior is voluntary.
- No person ever operates consistently at any one level; therefore, it is counterproductive to label oneself or someone else as a D person, a B person, etc. Teach young people to evaluate each of their choices on its own merit. Part of the positivity of this discipline approach comes from teaching students that although they may have acted on Level A in one instance, it doesn’t mean that they are destined to always operate on this level. With their very next decision, they can choose to raise the level of their behavior to something much higher. In so doing, they will reap the benefits of improved self-esteem and increased self-satisfaction.