Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – March 2006

Volume 6 Number 3


 1. Welcome

 2. Promoting Responsibility

 3. Increasing Effectiveness

 4. Improving Relationships

 5. Promoting Learning

 6. Discipline without Stress

 7. What People Say


On a flight last week to present “How to Deal with

Difficult Students” to the Texas Middle School Association,

an airline attendant asked me if my name was Marvin


Since I was not wearing a name tag, I inquired of Janet (not

her real name) how she knew who I was. She whispered to me

that she is leaving the airline industry to enter teaching.

She said that she is reading my book for the SECOND time

before lending the book to her sister who is having a

challenging time with her two children.

I inquired how she found out about the book. She said that

one of her professors at the university she is attending

mentioned that the book was one of his favorites. She bought

“Discipline without Stress” because she thought it would be

the most beneficial.

Reading a book a second time reminds me of an old story that

exemplifies the point I am going to make.

Two woodcutters were engaged in a four-hour woodcutting

contest. They cut wood in front of each other and an

audience of eager onlookers. One woodcutter took a 10-minute

break each hour while the other did not stop. At the end of

the competition, the woodcutter who took the breaks had cut

much more wood. The other woodcutter was shocked. “How could

this be?” he asked. The other woodcutter replied, “Maybe

it’s because I sharpened my axe each hour.”

Stephen Covey’s seventh habit of highly successful people

is, “Sharpen the Saw.” It means refresh. In this case it

refers to revisiting what you have already learned. Because,

as the axe gets dull with use, the human mind cannot

remember all that it learned. Just as the brain and the body

require sleep, so does learning need to be refreshed.

Have you ever seen a motion picture more than once? Didn’t

you pick up something on the second viewing that you did not

notice or remember from your first viewing. Didn’t the whole

become clearer after revisiting the various scenes?

Have you ever read a book twice–expanding your learning the

second time?

Whenever I listen to an audiocassette or a compact disk that

is worth hearing, I inevitably listen to it a second time.

This practice reinforces what I have learned. Oftentimes, I

pick up points that I didn’t fully retain during the first


Janet is not the first person who told me she has read

the book more than once. It’s simply impossible to grasp,

remember, and implement all the strategies in one reading.

Sharpening the saw is surely a habit of highly successful



An 80-year-old mother was unable to find a cab to take her

home. She walked into a pizza parlor and said, “I’d like to

order a pepperoni pizza delivered…and I’d like to go with


People say about the aging process that it critical to

retain our humor as we grow older. The reason is that, as we

grow, our character traits become more ingrained. In fact,

they become even more pronounced. A sweet person becomes

sweeter. A disagreeable person becomes a real crank in old


Therefore, the attitudes and traits we are planting now will

take root and become rigid habits later in life. So it’s

important to make a commitment to live a daily life of good

cheer, optimism, and gratitude. Whatever choices made today

will serve well later in life.

Plant happy seeds and enjoy today–and many, many tomorrow.


One of the fundamental truths I remember from my graduate

studies in economics is the concept of opportunity costs.

This means there is a cost to everything–be it in monetary

terms, in time, in relationships–really in anything.

The Nobel Laureate, Milton Freedman, summarized economics

with the same idea: “There is no such thing as a free


Here is a challenge. For the next week, ask yourself the

following question before taking any action:


Situations can include:

Going to bed late

Going to bed early

Arising late

Arising early

Watching TV

Reading a book

Eating that second piece of pie

Not tempting the taste by not eating the first piece

Demanding something

Asking for something

Ignoring my mate or child when entering a room

Smiling when someone enters the room

The benefit of reflecting on the question,


is that you will have a tendency to perform that which

is in your best interests.

Basically, this amounts to the fact that you have the

freedom to pay the price. Just become aware of the price you

are paying.


I recently purchased a new mobile phone that has a

place for

an opening message. I inserted, “smile.” Now each time I

open my cell phone, I see that message.

A smile is a small gesture with a powerful impact. In

American culture, we’ve come to expect people to smile when

we meet them.

The late pianist/comedian Victor Borge put it another way

when he described a smile as “the shortest distance between

two people.” Greeting someone with a warm smile is the best

way to introduce yourself, and it sets the stage beautifully

for any discussion that follows.

Check your smile in the mirror. As you step toward it,

before you see yourself, smile. Then look at yourself. Is it

really a happy smile or a forced smile? And are your eyes

smiling? That’s the test of a real smile.

Greeting others with a smile is the easiest approach to

start anything with a positive note.


In the 1990’s, the Juran Institute produced a video series

on the subject of quality. One of them describes a problem

with the Jefferson Memorial: the granite was crumbling. What

was frustrating to the national park officials was that none

of the other memorials were having this same problem with

their granite. So the question was “Why?”

Question: Why is the granite crumbling on the Jefferson


Answer: It is hosed off more than the other memorials.

Question: Why is the Jefferson Memorial hosed off more than

the other D.C. memorials?

Answer: The Jefferson Memorial has more bird dung.

Question: Why does the Jefferson Memorial have more bird

dung than the other memorials?

Answer: It has more birds.

Question: Why does the Jefferson Memorial have more birds?

Answer: It has more spiders for the birds to eat.

Question: Why does the Jefferson Memorial have more spiders

than other D.C. memorials?

Answer: It has more flying insect for spiders to eat.

Question: Why does the Jefferson Memorial have more flying

insects than other D.C. memorials?

Answer: The lights are turned on too soon at the Jefferson

Memorial, thus attracting the insects.

Solution: The lights were turned on later and the granite

stopped crumbling.

By asking “Why?” enough times, usually at

least five, one can find the root causes of problems.

–Lee Jenkins. “Permission to Forget and Nine Other Root

Causes of America’s Frustration with Education.” Milwaukee:

Quality Press, 2005.

6. Discipline without Stress


What sort of consequence would a student with level “A”

behavior receive? I’ve been down the rewards and punishment

route but as we know, it is not effective.

I repeat instructions until the student complies or a more

serious consequence seems inevitable. It is very important

that the child know that insubordination will not be



The answer to this is in a prime difference between D w/o S

and other approaches. Whether the consequence is referred to

as logical or natural, as long as it is IMPOSED it will

prompt a negative feeling and, therefore, one of resistance.

Rather than imposing a consequence, ELICIT it. The

conversation goes something like, “This behavior is on a

level that is simply inappropriate in our classroom, and it

is unacceptable. What do you suggest we do so that you will

not continue to be a victim of these impulses?”

Continue to ask, “What else?” “What else?” “What else?”

until the student comes up with a procedure or consequence

that will help the student redirect future impulses.

This noncoercive approach sends the message that you want to

help the student–not control the student.

Review the example at


It is very important to understand that this is NOT a

permissive approach. Responsibility is placed ON THE

STUDENT–where it belongs. See “Guided Choices,” part 3 of

the Raise Raise Responsibility System at


7. What People Say

I received the following in a recent e-mail:

“I heard about your newsletter from a teacher in my

district. She began using your system and enthusiastically

shared it with everybody she could. I am using it and love

the ‘stress free’ aspect of the kids knowing they are

responsible for their choices–rather than me!”


Janet Gibney

Summit, New Jersey


Preview a presentation by the author at


See a video clip from the In-House Staff Development from

the last link at