Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – December 2011

Volume 11 Number 12


  1. Welcome
  2. Promoting Responsibility
  3. Increasing Effectiveness
  4. Improving Relationships
  5. Promoting Learning
  6. Parenting
  7. Discipline without Stress (DWS)
  8. Reviews and Testimonials



The words you choose help you win or lose.


The Christmas and Hanukkah seasons fall in the same week this year. It’s wonderrful to light the lights (internally as well as externally), reflect, and be grateful.

May the season and New Year bring hope, joy, and happiness.


“Carrots and sticks are for donkeys,” states Diane Ravitch, quoted in the December 15, 2011 edition of The New Republic.
For four decades, Ravitch has been the USA’s most prominent educational historian and advocate for educational reform.

She sees American history as “failed reforms from the Lyndon Johnson-era of anti-poverty programs to utopian promises of computer assisted instruction.” The article quotes her as seeing people trying to impose their market ideology on public education–and in doing so will destroy it. Among their tools, she states, are standardized tests and government punishments. She concludes with “Ten years after No Child Left Behind, a lot of children are still behind.”

I suggest that some of the reasons for the poor improvement of American education are listed at http://marvinmarshall.com/counterproductive_approaches.htm


As Christmas and other holidays approach, Piper Press is offering a substantial discount on the 2nd Edition of “Discipline without Stress, Punishments or Rewards: How Teachers and Parents Promote Responsibility & Learning.” The book is described at http://www.DisciplineWithoutStress.com/

This limited offer of $20.00 (a 50% discount off the regular
$39.95 price) is only good while supplies last.

Link to http://marvinmarshall.com/shop and scroll down to this book. Click on “Add to cart” for the laminated hardcover book, then enter coupon code “2nd-Ed” to get your discount. There is no limit on the number of discounted copies anyone can purchase but the orders must be shipped to one address for multiple copies in order to receive the discount.


Here is how changing a single word can promote responsible behavior.

A 14-year old wrote:

“When I think of homework, I notice that I don’t want to do it and don’t do it well. I find it a problem, and problems are burdens. No one wants burdens.

“I decided to call homework, ‘challenges’ and what a difference it has made. I like challenges.”


For those who have the “Discipline Without Stress” education book, you may have noticed that the word, “homework” only appears in the index. I don’t use the term for a number of reasons, one of which is the negative feeling the term can prompt.


Say the following two sentences out loud and feel their

“I HAVE to go shopping this month”

“I GET to go shopping this month.”

Power talkers use the latter; they use words that empower.


There is abundant scientific research that shows people who speak in a positive way are not only healthier, live longer, are subject to fewer emotional problems, get higher grades, and sell more but also experience more of what they are after. –George Walther

This is the prime reason that “positivity” is the first practice at http://marvinmarshall.com/teaching_model.html.

Just reflect, “Is what you are about to say going to be perceived in a positive or in a negative way?”

The principle is such common sense: People do better when they feel good, not when they feel bad.

Like any skill, it needs to be practiced to be effective.

My this holiday season be filled with positivity!


In last month’s newsletter, I shared how acknowledging a person’s behavior is more effective than praising the person. For example, saying, “You treated your bother with real consideration” is more empowering and has a greater positive emotional impact than saying, “I am so pleased by the way you treated your brother.”

Reinforcing and empowering self-understanding is much more useful for the person than praise, which shows no indication for judging progress.

HERE ARE TWENTY POTENTIAL PERILS OF PRAISE (which are eliminated by using acknowledgments):

  1. Praise prompts a dependence on others for approval.
  2. Praise can increase learned helplessness if young people rely on approval in lieu of their own motivation.
  3. raise can generate disappointment for those who don’t receive it when others do. This can be interpreted as “punished by praise.”
  4. When teachers, for example, use praise to tell students they are good because they know a right answer, young people can logically conclude that they are bad when they do not know the right answer. This equating of knowledge with goodness is dangerous.
  5. Young people grow to depend on praise–and may even demand it.
  6. When praising behavior that adults want to encourage, the message is that poor behavior is the norm. Young people often live up to such expectations.
  7. Praise often discourages creativity if the young become more concerned about pleasing others or conforming to adults’ expectations than on finding their own solutions to problems.
  8. Praise can make some children fearful of not being able to live up to expectations.
  9. When praise is consciously employed as a technique for influencing young people to choose some desirable behavior, the prase is often perceived as insincere.
  10.  When students, for example, are praised every time they sit up straight, wait in line, listen, or engage in routine behaviors, they often start to experience the praise as silly or irrelevant.
  11. Young people who become accustomed to receiving frequent praise come to interpret the absence of praise as a negative evaluation.
  12. Praise given to one person, or a even to a few, often is translated by the others as a negative evaluation of themselves.
  13. Praising some children in front of their peers can be counterproductive if these youngsters experience the attention as embarrassing.
  14. Praise given to have children feel better can prompt a loss of faith in themselves and become discouraged.
  15. The practice of profusely praising low-performing students for trivial accomplishments can perpetuate their putting forth minimal effort.
  16. Praise given to students for minimal performance can actually worsen, not improve their functioning.
  17. Students may doubt their own ability or lose confidence if they perceive that their performance does not warrant praise–leading students to have thoughts such as, “The teacher must really think I’m hopeless if I’m praised for that!” or “How could the teacher think that was good?”
  18. When a youngster is experiencing a problem, it is often accompanied by personal dissatisfaction. Praising here either goes “unheard,” has the youngster feel that the adult doesn’t really understand, or provokes an even stronger defense of the person’s low self-evaluation.
  19. If the praise does not fit with the child’s self-image, it can invoke resentment as the youngster may perceive it as an attempt at manipulation.
  20. When a person feels that the praise is not sincere, but delivered to manipulate behaving in a certain way, it can undermine intrinsic motivation.

This does not mean that you should never use praise; it is natural to praise. The point here is to limit its use and consider using acknowledgments instead. An easy was to do this is to just eliminate reference to yourself, as in, “I am so proud of….”

People want to be recognized. Acknowledging what a young person has done accomplishes this without some of the problems of praise.


The following is a post by Kerry Weisner.

Because external awards are not given to motivate kids in the Discipline Without Stress Teaching model (http://marvinmarshall.com/teaching_model.html), some think that the system doesn’t believe in motivating them at all. This may stem from a misunderstanding of the goal of the system. People look at the Hierarchy of Social Development (http://marvinmarshall.com/hierarchy.htm),
notice that the highest level is characterized by the desire “to do what is right simply because it is the right thing to do,” and mistakenly believe that by teaching the concepts of the four levels a teacher can expect that all students will operate at the highest level all the time.

Thinking that the hierarchy is somehow being touted as a magical teaching device that will automatically turn kids into perfect beings, some teachers eagerly try it out. They do little to motivate kids themselves (believing that the hierarchy should simply do it all for them) and then are quickly disappointed when their students don’t immediately respond with internally motivated behavior. I notice that these teachers give up within a week or two, denouncing Discipline Without Stress as an idealistic program that won’t work in the real world. This is a such a shame! A wonderful program simply left by the wayside, not because it doesn’t work, but rather because people simply don’t understand HOW to get it to work.

At our school, we’re learning that motivating kids is still very necessary when using any program, and the truth is that it does take teacher time and effort. You only get out of something what you to put into it. But the good news is that when you put in effort you not only get good results but you also feel good about your teaching because you’re operating from a high level of motivation yourself. Your enthusiasm acts as a model for students. It’s a positive spiral going upwards!

Here is an example of how we increased motivation for just one school project. Every year we participate in a recycling program to collect old phone books. Before we were influenced by the thinking of Discipline Without Stress, we motivated students to collect phone books by easily offering the class with the most phone books a pizza party. After our year-long book discussion of Marv’s book, we began to move in a different direction. We started to encourage kids to collect phone books for recycling simply because it’s environmentally respectful. In the “old days,” we didn’t really need to do any motivating ourselves; the thought of pizza and the “competition angle” of pitting one class against another spurred kids on.

True, it spurred them on without much effort, but it also started to feel uncomfortable to many staff members. For example, some kids got carried away with the whole competition thing. Sometimes we watched siblings argue over which family member should claim the one family phone book point as their own. We were bothered that they were more interested in winning pizza than they were in being responsible about recycling. We also worried about the message we were sending to kids. We made a decision to change our motivation strategies by focusing on a higher level.

It just so happened that the phone book recycling project began during the week of Earth Day. It was perfect timing to promote the recycling of phone books, not for the purpose of winning pizza, but rather as an opportunity to help the Earth. I took a chart stand to the gym and began with an explanation of the oxygen cycle. I wanted the students to understand why it’s important to maintain a large number of trees on Earth. I asked student volunteers in the audience to explain how trees are connected to phone books and why collecting old phone books for recycling is environmentally important. I find that if you explain the real reason for doing something, kids become internally motivated to do it.

I also used a graph to create a challenge. Although it’s true that kids are motivated by any type of challenge, I’ve learned from Marv that it’s most positive to create challenges that keep everyone on the same side of the fence.
Rather than using competition BETWEEN individual kids (and classrooms), I suggested a more cooperative challenge to the school–that of beating our OWN school record from previous years.

I found a site on the Internet that explained that for every
36 phone books collected, a small tree would be saved. I created an attractive bulletin board to convey this idea.
Now when a child brings in a phone book, we have them put a triangle marker on a paper tree made of 36 triangular spaces. Each day, some kids check how many trees have been saved and record the total number on the board for all to see. Sometimes we have announcement questions that encourage kids to reflect on the importance of recycling. We also announce our progress at weekly assemblies. Using this approach students bring in more phone books than in the years when we offered a pizza reward.

More of Kerry’s posts are at http://disciplineanswers.com/



A parent wrote me indicating she was having some problems with her young children. After reading her lengthy communication, I wrote her and included the following

Ask yourself if you are implementing the critical practices described at the beginning of the book: communicating in positive terms, always offering choices to reduce coercion, and asking REFLECTIVE questions.

Then ask yourself how you would feel if you were in your children’s position and were treated as you are communicating with them. If you feel any negative feeling or a feeling of being coerced, then the change starts with you.

Remember, as the book (http://parentingwithoutstress.com/)
clearly emphasizes, influencing change in another person always starts with oneself–what you will do differently.
Your children will change depending upon how you change dealing with them.

Consider having a family meeting and ask your children what they can do to make life more enjoyable–and include what you will do, also.


I was thunderstruck when a parent informed me that a teacher was using the letters of the Hierarchy of Social Development to have students grade themselves.

If children are asked to grade themselves on their behavior, the inference is that this is necessary because they may behave irresponsibly. This–by itself–is contrary to the Discipline Without Stress model. Teachers should be positive and assume that students will act responsibly.

We all know that on a grading scale the letter “A”
represents the highest. Unfortunately–AND WITH GREAT MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE HIERARCHY OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT–the teacher was asking students to grade their own behavior each day, with “D” being the highest and “A” being the lowest.
No wonder the youngsters were confused!

STUDENTS SHOULD NEVER BE ASKED TO GRADE THEMSELVES USING THE HIERARCHY–especially when it means sharing their self-assessed grade with another person.

It makes no sense to spend any effort differentiating irresponsible behavior as “A” or “B.” Both are unacceptable.
Levels C and D are both acceptable, but the difference is in the MOTIVATION, not the behavior.

If the teacher asks a student to do something, the motivation is automatically level C. For example, if you ask a young person to pick up trash, that would be Level C MOTIVATION–simply by the act of your asking. However, if the child takes the initiative to pick up the trash without any outside influence, that would be level D MOTIVATION.

The behavior is identical; the motivations is different.

Asking a young person to grade (in contrast to reflect upon) one’s motivation is simply NOT appropriate. Even adults cannot articulate and sometimes don’t really know their own motivation. (This is one reason that asking a youngster, “Why are you doing that?” is a poor question. In most instances the young person is incapable of articulating the

It would be confusing for anyone of any age to SELF-ASSIGN A LETTER GRADE with “A” being the highest when on the Hierarchy of Social Development Level A (anarchy/chaos) is the lowest.

Hopefully, anyone who engages in such a process will stop it immediately–and understand that the hierarchy is properly used to have young people REFLECT on the difference between doing something because of some external motivation (Level
C) versus taking the initiative to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do (Level D).

The Significant Points About the Hierarchy
clearly explains the proper use of the levels.



I found your book and loved it. Then I found the resources online and I am so thrilled to have this newsletter which I signed up for on your website. I am hoping to get as many teachers in my school on board with this as possible and hope to have our own group of Discipline Without Stress teachers who can spread the word.

Danielle MacIntosh
Woolwich Township, New Jersey


The PARENTING book: 

I found out about your discipline system when my children began attending school at St. Patrick Catholic School in Dallas, Texas. As a former middle school teacher and parent of 5, 9, and 12-year-old children, I think your approach is revolutionary. We have started using it at home as well, and the results are wonderful. Thank you!

Jennifer Clay