How do I turn off the urge to praise?

I have just read the book and plan to implement Discipline without Stress in this coming school year. I anticipate that I might have a problem with giving into the urge to praise individuals or the class as a whole. I can see myself saying, “Look at these students who have been on Level C and D all week! I’m so proud of you guys for following directions!” How do I turn off these urges to praise? How can I turn praise into productive comments that encourage and acknowledge all who are choosing to do the right thing? Please share any insights!

(Shared on the Discipline without Stress Mailring)

Take heart! You are well on your way to accomplishing your goal of using acknowledgments since you have already started thinking about how you phrase your comments. I can certainly empathize with you. Sometimes, it seems to be an automatic reaction to say “Good job!”–just for the sake of saying something!

Using acknowledgments instead of praise is something that I have been working on for many, many years, and it was not until I started using Discipline without Stress that I really grasped the significance of it. We want to instill in the children, a desire to work for themselves, not just for the “Good job!” they get from their teacher. We want them to feel proud of themselves–not just be motivated to make their teacher proud.

I think of it this way: Changing praise into an acknowledgement is nothing more than a ‘twist’ in thinking, a small adjustment in how we phrase things. Instead of heaping on praise and ‘tying’ the child to us by encouraging them to want to please us, we readjust our thinking and bring to their attention, things that they are successful at–and then we let them make their own judgments. Instead of saying ” I am so proud of you, what a good boy you have been,” readjust a bit and say something like, “I noticed you worked very hard on that assignment, how do you feel about it?”

Your example, “Look at these students who have been Level C and D all week. I’m so proud of you guys for following directions,” can be adjusted slightly to something like, “I noticed so many of the children acting at Level C and Level D in our classroom this week. Thank you, we appreciate that! How has that helped our class?”

I try to tell students what I noticed, and then allow them to feel within themselves, the satisfaction of a job well done. It’s as if I am giving them the facts, but allowing them their own interpretation of those facts.

Here are some specific examples:


Observation from the teacher:

  • You children lined up without any delay today when it was time to go to Music class.

Children’s Interpretation:

  • We can line up without delay. We are successful at managing how we line up.


Observation from the teacher:

  • I noticed you sat at the carpet today without making one noise to bother another person.

Child’s Interpretation:

  • I can sit on the carpet and manage myself.


Observations from the teacher:

  • When you were outside on the playground yesterday you said you were at Level B because you were bothering another child. Today you went out and played without bothering anyone! What level do you think that is? (C or D) Wow, how did you manage that today? How do you feel about that?

Child’s Interpretation:

  • I can raise my behavior level all by myself. I can be successful at playing without bothering someone. I am a capable child. I feel good about myself.


As an aside, but tied to this:
With the Discipline without Stress approach we can accept, love, and teach every child, realizing it is just their behavior that gets in the way sometimes. With this discipline system, we do not have to pull away the praise when a child is choosing inappropriate behavior–because we do not rely on praise to control them.

Instead, we can teach young people to take responsibility for acting in appropriate ways. The message we want to convey is that we will accept, love, and teach them–regardless of their current level of behavior.