Stress Management for Living, Teaching, & Parenting

Tell me how procedures are used in a discipline situation.

I don’t understand how the teaching of procedures can be used in a discipline situation.  Can you give me an example?


Having used Discipline without Stress for several years now, I understand the importance of teaching procedures at the start of the school year. Even so, I still find that I sometimes forget this important step in my teaching and then suffer the consequences. Luckily though, I also know how Dr. Marshall would suggest remedying such a situation. He would suggest backtracking–to teach the procedures that I should have taught in the first place! Here is an example of one such impromptu “lesson” which turned out to be extremely helpful for the remainder of the school year.



As a rule, I don’t generally have my grade one “Tool Bin Helpers” pass out the sharpened pencils in the morning until after directions have been given. I find it cuts down on discipline problems if students have less on their desks that might distract them when I am giving directions. However, one day, some brand new pencils got handed out first thing in the morning and a number of students began playing with them–rolling them, erasing invisible marks on their desks, checking out the sharpness of the point etc.–and obviously not listening to directions!

Right then it occurred to me that I could either deal with the situation as a discipline problem or I could choose to view it more postivitely. This was a perfect opportunity to discuss what it means to be “self-disciplined.” Instead of getting angry with my students, I could backtrack, and in a positive manner teach some procedures that students could use to help them display more self-control in the future.

I began by pointing out the term, “self-discipline,” on our Hierarchy chart, which is a phrase used to describe Level D. I wondered aloud, “What exactly does self-discipline mean?” Although we spent some time to talk about what persons operating on Level A, B or C would be doing with a pencil if it was available to them before it was really needed, I focused most of the discussion on Level D behavior.

What would students operating on Level D, do with a pencil while directions were being given?

The class had lots of ideas …

• One Level D person might look at the pencil sitting there on the desk but know that it should be left alone at direction time—she simply wouldn’t touch it.

• Another Level D person might decide that it could prove distracting to have a pencil on his desk while directions were being given and so he might choose to put the pencil inside his desk to avoid distraction.

• Yet another person at Level D might purposefully set the pencil to the side of the desk. This conscious action would serve as a reminder that the pencil wasn’t to be touched during the time the teacher was giving directions.

In other words, we brainstormed little procedures that could be used by various individuals for dealing with this issue. Then I asked the students: “What would be the best procedure for you personally?” I explained that rather than me telling them how to be self-disciplined with a pencil, it would be best if they could each decide for themselves. (As Dr. Marshall says “Choice empowers!”)

They could ask themselves:

• Am I the kind of person who might be distracted by a pencil on my desk and so it would be best for me to put it inside my desk during instructions?


• Am I the kind of person who can just tell myself to ignore the pencil and therefore I don’t need to move it at all? Can I trust myself to leave it on my desk and know that I won’t touch it at an inappropriate time, such as when directions are being given?


• Am I the kind of person who should place the pencil in a particular place, creating a deliberate action that will remind me to leave it alone until it’s time to use it?

This discussion took a bit of time–perhaps eight or ten minutes–but it was time well spent. I found that after this discussion on self-discipline, I had very few problems with students being distracted by their school supplies when I wanted to give directions. For the remainder of the year, I simply made a point of prefacing my directions with something like:

“I’m going to be giving directions next… this is an opportunity for you to show some self-discipline with the things on your desk. Please follow your own procedure that will help you be self-disciplined with your pencil or anything else that is on your desk (i.e.: Perhaps you might need to close a notebook, flip over a paper, or put your crayons to one side etc.).

Then I would wait a second as each child readied him/herself to listen with full attention.

I found that this little discussion transferred to other situations too. For example, soon after the pencil discussion, we happened to be in the computer lab when the Grade 6 teacher came in needing to talk to everyone. I simply said to the class, “Mrs. O is here and has something important to say to us. Here is another opportunity for you to be SELF-disciplined, not with your pencil this time, but with your computer.” It worked like a charm. Every student instantly gave their full attention to Mrs. O.

As an aside, this little classroom experience also demonstrates how this discipline system reduces stress. With the development of specific procedures for pencils at direction time, I no longer had to resort to nagging individual students to become more self-controlled. As well, I no longer felt myself becoming annoyed with students who were fiddling with pencils because I could direct them to use their procedure, thus building on the expectation that they should be reaching for behavior that is self-disciplined. I find that teaching with the Discipline without Stress Hierarchy gives me a positive and effective way to deal with misbehavior.

Dr. Marvin Marshall
P.O. Box 2227
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
Phone: 714.220.1882
Piper Press
P.O. Box 2227
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
Phone: 559.805.1389