Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – January 2012

Volume 12 Number 1


  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



We are more effective utilizing calm and patient methods whether we are dealing with horses or people.
–Monty Roberts

On December 17, I had the pleasure of speaking with Monty Roberts for over an hour at his ranch, “Flag Is Up Farms,”
in Solvang, California.

Monty Roberts is the famous horse whisperer–an American original whose gentle training methods communicate in positive ways with horses. He can take a wild, high-strung horse who has never before been handled and persuade that horse to accept a bridle, saddle, and rider in thirty minutes.

The section on IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS reproduces how this “horse whisperer” accomplishes this feat–something that traditional, coercive horse trainers cannot duplicate.


I will be presenting public seminars with the Bureau of Education and Research (BER) entitled, “Powerful Strategies for Reducing Classroom Behavior Problems – Discipline Strategies that Work” as indicated below:

January 30 Birmingham, Alabama
January 31 Atlanta, Georgia
February 1 Knoxville, Tennessee
February 2 St. Louis, Missouri
February 3 Springfield, Missouri

March 12 Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
March 13 Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
March 14 Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
March 15 Seattle Washington
March 16 Portland, Oregon

For information and/or attendance, contact BER:
800-735-3503 Monday – Friday 6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Pacific Time Zone.


The following is from a post by a teacher and a response from another teacher at DisciplineWithoutStress@yahoogroups.com/


Our biggest issue in class is inappropriate talking from the same four or five students. I’d love some feedback.


I’ve had students with Level B “bullying” behavior who disrupt the lecture with their talking. This is what works in my high school classes. When I see students with “defiant” (making their own rules) behavior, I take class time to go over the Hierarchy of Social Development and nip the problem in the bud.

I start the day by saying: “Today we’re going to take a few minutes to discuss and understand Level B.” (I choose the level based on my needs.) I go over the characteristics of the bullying level as defined by Dr. Marshall on his website, and I use the “ruler” example he gives.

This works like a charm. We point out that the bully finds his “balance” by bringing others down. He finds his balance, power, and recognition in a negative way. Then I ask the students to come up with a variety of examples and show how this kind of behavior comes from someone who is having a “bad day”–but stress that a “bully” can always learn acceptable social behavior and redeem himself/herself by making the right choices and trying to become a better person each day, or otherwise, be ready to accept negative consequences. This way, the “bully” learns to find his balance in a positive way.

I stress that oftentimes the bully just doesn’t know how to behave appropriately. My students “reflect” on the levels of social development throughout the semester. We bring in real life examples of Level B, we talk about them in class, and students respond by writing in their journals. I read their comments and acknowledge their responses.

I also give homework and ask them to bring examples of people showing appropriate socially responsible behaviors.
We have discussions in class about these to the point where the students become highly aware of the levels. Then I say to them that I, personally, challenge myself to identify my choice of levels each day. The students like this because I use myself as an example, and they want to hear more about the type of choices I make. Then, in their journals, I ask them to give an example of a level they chose to act upon that day. I try to make this experience as positive as possible. This seems to stop the “talkers” and the defiant behavior without my having to point the finger at anyone or ask an individual what level they’ve chosen.

I also may bring in examples from the news, and we continue the discussion. This goes on throughout the semester and works for me. I’m sure your students will come around.


EASY DOES IT by Dr. Mehmet Oz (Time Magazine December 5,

Anxiety is neither helpful nor hurtful. It is your response to anxiety that is helpful or hurtful. If you perceive that you can cope, you will not feel so stressed.

Anxiety can be the gap between how things are and how we want them to be. It is also a normal reaction to anything we perceive to be a threat. Some of its stimulating effects can be good, but too much anxious arousal can take its toll on our health. Over time a persistent alarm in the brain can do life-threatening damage to the body.

Prescription drugs that suppress the activity of brain chemicals can be addictive, and they do nothing to help sufferers acquire meaningful coping skills.

Our ancient systems have not quite kept up with the modern world and aren’t very good at distinguishing between a jungle full of killer cats and a conference room of other people.

The fight-or-flight response, with its surging cortisol and respiratory and cardiovascular hysteria, leaves little room for learning because it often bypasses the higher regions of the brain.

What we want to learn–or need to learn to stay calm and well–is how we can take charge.


The three practices of positivity, choice, and reflection assist in taking charge and reducing both anxiety and stress.


As indicated in the WELCOME, this section is reprinted from the February, 2002 issue of the newsletter:

Monty Roberts is a famous horse trainer–the model for the Robert Redford film, “The Horse Whisperer.” The trainer conducts demonstrations of how he trains wild mustangs.
Monty grew up in central California and, at age 12, started observing horses. He now puts his observations and experiences with horses to work with humans. As with the strategies I share, his approach is one of noncoercion to induce behavior changes and improve relationships. The strategy is in direct contrast to traditional approaches of using coercion.

Here is how he tames and trains a wild mustang in front of hundreds of people.

He gives instructions to the audience and emphasizes that, during the demonstration, there can be no movement. He admonishes the crowd that there can be no sound of any kind–that if anyone needs to go to he bathroom to go then because everyone must be absolutely still during the training. Monty explains that the horse listens intently, and any sound can spook him.

The wild horse is then let into the arena. The horse gallops around the ring 5, 10, 25 times before realizing he cannot escape and that there is no threat to his safety. The initial reaction by the animal is one of fear. (Especially with young people, fear turns into hostility because being afraid is unpleasant.)

Monty then puts on a stance of attack. He rears up on one foot, knee bent, arms above his head, torso crooked, and grimaces by showing his top and bottom teeth. The horse panics. He gallops around the ring until he again concludes that nothing is going to happen to him.

Monty returns to his usual demeanor.

Then the audience, on cue, simultaneously claps and hollers very loudly. The horse is spooked. He looks for safety.

Horses have the ability to classify. Classification means putting things into categories–things that are alike and different. In this case, safe or unsafe.

In addition, as social animals that live together, horses have a basic need for belonging. They, like humans, relate with those with whom they feel safe.

After the arousal by the crowd and looking for a place of safety, the horse turns to and approaches the human. The trainer softly strokes the horse. The animal sought safety and found it.

Monty starts walking around the ring. The horse follows.

A few minutes later, another man who is dressed exactly like Monty enters the ring. This man softly strokes the horse, again assuring safety.

The man places a blanket on the horse, and shortly thereafter places a saddle on the blanket and cinches the saddle. All the time, the horse continues walking around the ring following Monty, who then mounts–and horse and rider continue walking around the ring. All this occurs in less than 30 minutes.

The crowd goes wild!

Trust and noncoercion are really the foundations of any relationship. They infer that you will be safe, that you will not be harmed.

With people, trust also carries with it an implicit message that the other person has your own best interests in mind.
That is why we can accept criticism and even anger from those whom we trust. We know, deep down, that they really mean to help us.

Trust is an interesting quality because, once it is lost, it is hard to recapture. Many a relationship gasped its last breath on the words, “I simply do not trust you any more.”

To have optimum relationships, all parties must feel a sense of trust, a sense safety. The feeling must be that harm will not be forthcoming–physically, emotionally, or psychologically.

NOTE: Monty’s program is entitled, “Join Up.” He does nothing TO the horse. The horse WANTS to join the human.

This is the mark of superior influencers–getting others to do what you want them to do because THEY want to do it.



Common advice from knowledgeable horse trainers includes the adage, “When the horse dies, dismount.” Seems simple enough, yet, in the education field we don’t always follow that advice. Instead, we often choose from an array of other alternatives which include:

  1. Buying a stronger whip.
  2. Trying a new bit or bridle.
  3. Tightening the cinch.
  4. Switching riders.
  5. Moving the horse to a new location.
  6. Riding the horse for longer periods of time.
  7. Saying things like, “This is the way we’ve always ridden his horse.”
  8. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
  9. Arranging to visit other sites where they ride dead horses more efficiently.
  10. Increasing the standards for riding a dead horse.
  11. Coming up with new styles of riding.
  12. Comparing how we’re riding now with how we rode twenty years ago.
  13. Complaining about the state of horses these days.
  14. Creating a test for measuring our riding ability.
  15. Blaming the horse’s parents.
  16. The problem is often in the breeding.

“There is no such thing as teaching, only learning” and “It is the teacher’s duty to create an environment in which the students can learn.” –Monty Roberts in “Horse Sense for People”



I have been enjoying reading your book and newsletter.
However, I have a question.

When I read your recommendations in handling discipline problems, I can agree but when it comes to implementing them at the time of need, I find myself overcome with anger and forget your recommendations. In other words, theoretically, I agree with your recommendations of behavior but when it comes to practice I have to deal with my own issues first.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

Last night I requested my daughter who is 14 years old to assist me with work in the kitchen unloading the dishwasher and loading it again with dirty dishes. She said she would do it but had her own timetable as to when she was going to do it. She said in five minutes and continued to watch TV.
By then I had already requested her help four or five times.
Suddenly, out of sheer fatigue and irritation (I am diabetic and sometimes I express myself this way out of sheer exhaustion), I yelled at her that I needed it to be done “right now.” She yelled back at me.

On reflecting I thought maybe I could have handled it more calmly. But I am unable to impress upon both my daughter and husband that I need help in the household chores because I am unable to cope with the stress of managing diabetes, substitute teaching and a smooth running of the household. I do explain this need to them very calmly and they listen to me calmly but when it actually comes to action we all lose it.

I would appreciate any insight you can shed on my situation and advice you can give me on handling this situation.



First, a word about “losing it”(becoming emotionally hijacked). Practice the impulse management technique of the traffic light. Practice it a few times a day. Then when you are about to become emotionally hijacked, the neural connections will already have been partially established.

In the situation with the dishes, your daughter is responding as so many teenagers do these days: Under duress, they do less.

With this in mind, you could first ask yourself whether there is anything you can do for the next five minutes–until your daughter said she would help you.

Asking your daughter to help with the dishes when she is already reclining watching television usually results in a negative reaction. But if she is asked when she is up and on her feet, the chances of meeting with success are greatly enhanced.

Be willing to listen to her ideas. If you can live with it, give it a try.

If that doesn’t work, remember that the key to changing behavior very often starts with a change of your own behavior. I am assuming that you shop for the meal, prepare the meal, and serve the meal. The family eats it, and you are also cleaning up. The other members can share responsibility for at least helping you clean up. The following may be very difficult for you, but consider it.

Let them know that you will continue to shop, prepare, and serve but you will only clean your own dishes. They will test you. Be prepared to live through the mess for a few day.

Another approach is to be proactive. Before setting the table, have a family discussion. Inform them that you need their help and then establish the procedure before food is served.

As you mentioned at the outset, actuating a change in others starts with ourselves.


The following is from the mailring:

I just wanted to celebrate a little victory that occurred in my room the other day. I was having a class meeting with my students, and the topic of discussion was our spelling program. My class this year has found the program pretty boring, so we were brainstorming ways to make it more interesting and fun, while still learning what we need to learn to improve our spelling.

One student suggested having some scrambled challenge words each week and a prize for the students who can figure them out. This immediately brought up comments from the rest of the class about having prizes and how it relates to the levels. One student said “If you know you’re going to get a prize, then it kind of forces you to be on Level C.”

The class then quickly decided that “We don’t want to work for prizes.” I didn’t even say anything during this discussion, and I was so proud that they took it upon themselves to reject the prizes!

Also, I had an interesting conversation with a few fourth graders that really reinforced how entrenched rewards are at my school. I was saying that I thought it would be fun to have a pizza lunch on the last day before winter break along with some free time and holiday activities. One of the girls said, very enthusiastically, “YES! We could earn points from now until then and see if we can earn the pizza!”

I’m just standing there, thinking to myself, I just basically told you that you do not have to earn this….and here you are, going right back to, “We can’t have fun unless we somehow do something to deserve it.”

I asked, “Why can’t we just have a pizza lunch because it’s a fun thing to do on that last day?”

The student looked completely confused. I ended up having a conversation with the kids about how much nicer it is to just sometimes do fun things without having to worry about “earning” points.

We also talked about what happens in the classroom if we are trying to earn points and some kid decides he or she doesn’t really care about the pizza so they don’t want to earn points and then the class doesn’t get the points–lots of interesting conversations.



I found your book and began implementing parts of it immediately.

I have been vigilant about using your program in my teaching. Students come with the behavior challenges the same as other years and yet, as promised, I AM WITHOUT STRESS! The students are thriving, retention levels are good, and so far all are passing–which means they are actually doing the work.

This really does work! What began with desperation, coupled with an open mind, has given me such a positive approach to my teaching and I have more confidence and less fear because I have a PLAN.

Thank you so much. You have changed my life.

Heather Dyksma
Christchurch, New Zealand


The PARENTING book: 

I love your parenting book! I have been using your strategies both at home and in the classroom. I can see a significant difference in the behaviors and attitudes of both my daughter and my students.

Monica Mallet
El Segundo, California