Noncoercion Solves A Problem

Discipline, truancy, and school dropouts are an increasing problem for schools and school districts. When I gave a keynote in Baltimore to personnel involved in this arena, I opened with a story from an experience Dr. William Glasser once told me he had encountered while working with incarcerated girls.

INCIDENT: It was the girl’s first day at the youth facility. She was called for breakfast.

The teenager would not make her bed. It was a rule that beds were to be made before breakfast. The housemother reminded the girl of the rule. The girl called the adult every name in the book and refused to make her bed.

QUESTION: At this presentation, I asked the 300 counselors, psychologists, social workers, truant officers, administrators, police officers, and others in attendance how any of them would have handled the situation.

No suggestions were forthcoming.

Here is what the housemother did using a NONCOERCIVE approach.

She gathered her charges around her and said, “You know what is going on here. Who is going to volunteer to go to her bedroom and help her out?”

One of the girls volunteered.

When 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 bad 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 her bed, and they went to breakfast together.

MORAL: Before deciding on a solution to a challenge of promoting responsibility, ask yourself if your approach will be interpreted as authoritarian. Expect resistance if you do.

Using a little creativity to employ a noncoercive approach will reduce stress and increase your chances of achieving your objective.