Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – July 2013

Volume 13 Number 7


  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




“People who dwell on the past and the future are less likely to be happy than people who concentrate on the present.”
—Time Magazine, July 8-15, 2013 (special issue on “Happiness,” p. 27)


One day a salesman driving in on a two-lane country road got stuck in the ditch. He asked a farmer for help. The farmer hitched up Elmo, the blind mule, to the salesman’s car. The farmer grabbed a switch, snapped it in the air, and yelled, “Go, Sam, go!” Nothing happened. He snapped it again. “Go, Jackson, go!” Still nothing. Then he flicked Elmo. “Go, Elmo go!” And Elmo pulled the car out of the ditch.
“Hey, what’s with the ‘Sam’ and the ‘Jackson’?” asked the driver.
“Look, if he didn’t think he had any help, he wouldn’t even try!”
We all need help, and this is one reason that collaboration is far more effective in promoting learning than competition.


Establishing procedures and then practicing them until they become routine helps young people to know exactly how things should be done. When young people know how to do what is expected of them, they are more likely to behave responsibly.

We live our lives with procedures. From the time we get out of bed in the morning until we arrive at the same destination at night, we follow procedures. Procedures give structure. Procedures you teach become habits.

Here is a procedure that redirects attention and emotions and thereby prompts responsible behavior. You can use this procedure yourself as well as for others. (It describes the “Impulse Card” referred to in Section 5.)

Picture a traffic signal with the red, yellow, and green colors. At the first emotional impulse (such as yelling), STOP (RED in the signal), and gasp for a breath. Take a deep gasp a second time and notice that your jaw drops open and your tongue drops to the bottom of your mouth. It is impossible to gasp with a closed mouth. This simple procedure of taking a gasp of air immediately relaxes the jaw as well as the tension in the nearby nerves that otherwise would send stress signals throughout the body.

Now, in the moment that it takes to gasp and release the tension, the mind has the opportunity to redirect thinking. CONSIDER OPTIONS (YELLOW in the signal). You can choose to ask a question, whisper, or smile. Having considered a few options, CHOOSE ONE (GREEN in the signal). This redirecting of thinking immediately relieves the negative impulse and emotion. The only sure way to relieve or change an emotion is to redirect thoughts.

This simple procedure is easy to teach. Make or buy a small drawing of a traffic signal and fill in the colors of the signal. With older children, just a mental image of a traffic signal will do. This procedure needs to be continually practiced until it becomes habitual. So the next time the youngster allows emotions to direct behavior, your first action should be to hold up a picture of the traffic signal, or just say, “Traffic Signal.”

Trying to reason or impose consequences means nothing to a person in a highly emotional state. Using a procedure is significantly more successful than threatening or prompting fear of punishment–and is less stressful on both parties.

Even very young people can learn that, although emotions and thoughts cannot be stopped from erupting, growth and maturation come according to how people respond to them. The more an emotion such as anger is responded to with a procedure, the less will be both its frequency and intensity. It is very important to understand that you cannot prevent an emotion. Telling someone not to have an emotion is useless. Instead, redirect thinking. Because attention is redirected, so will be the emotion.


In last month’s issue, I referred to former U.S. President Harry Truman’s statement, “I have a foxhole in my mind.” President Truman mentioned that he was able to go inside his own imagination to escape stress and to relax.

In essence, he used a variation of a “Theatre of the Mind.” Here is a little more on the topic.

The concept was described by Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon and author of Psycho-Cybernetics. It is a system of ideas that can improve a person’s self-image. His self-discipline system was developed after he discovered that people who had cosmetic surgery to improve their self-esteem failed to do so. Maltz concluded that in order to improve one’s “outer image,” the “inner image” must also be addressed. In essence, if one’s self-image is unhealthy or negative, all cosmetic efforts will be to no avail.

His ideas focus on visualizing as the cornerstone of change. His “Theatre of the Mind” is constructed in a person’s imagination, as if in a real motion picture house. It is a private theater, with a huge screen and comfortable, plush chairs. The person chooses any movie to be shown. When a person is watching (creating) a movie, it should be with vivid detail. This strengthens the visualization.

During this process, a person can stop the movie, get up from the comfortable seat, and step into the scene. It is important for the person to remember the feelings experienced while in the scene. The person returns to watching the movie as it continues. Once the movie has been carefully created, it can be stored in the “projector room” and be shown again anytime the person wishes.

The idea of visualization is the same that is suggested as the first step to implement the HIERARCHY OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT. An underlying reason is that people think in images, and the images we perceive direct our behaviors.


Stay mindful about when to approach people.

Be sure that the person you are going to talk to is in a receptive frame of mind to receive the message you want to send. For example, if the person you want to talk to seems stressed, postpone your desire.

Timing in so many matters in life is significant–and this is one of them. When you perceive that the person is in a better frame of mind, then take the opportunity to share.


“I use your impulse card with my 3-year-old son. It has helped me so much. Thanks.

” Sarah continued, “Tom now even says, ‘Where are my traffic lights Mum?’ and ‘Can’t talk; I’m on yellow!’ It’s a wonderful resource.” Sarah is the editor of the New Zealand publication, “Teachers Matter.” A selection of my articles on teaching are available in a special issue at http://marvinmarshall.com/files/pdf/teachers_matter.pdf


REQUEST: I am a parent of three children, ages 2,4, and 6 and am looking for ways to encourage better behavior and more helping out around the house. With being home all summer, my oldest especially has been talking back and it seems they do not take me seriously anymore when I discipline them. I don’t like to punish them but I do tend to lean toward the time out method, which doesn’t really seem to work. I would like for them to become more responsible for their actions without bribing them. It has been tough for me to come up with a chore/behavior chart since I don’t want to offer rewards at all. My six year old has been laughing at me and being silly when reprimanded. It eats away at me. My two-year-old son is very rambunctious and the 4-year-old is also high energy. Any suggestions?

RESPONSE: First a note about “time out.” If you IMPOSE the time out, you are breaking your relationship with your children. You are sending them the message that you do not want to be with them. Since the relationship at the present time is not very affirmative, this approach–as you mention–doesn’t work.

In a nutshell, stop disciplining your children; have them discipline themselves. See the “parents” and “discipline” links on my website. As starters, teach the “HIERARCHY OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT” and IMPULSE CONTROL to your eldest and empower her to self-discipline the others. See section 2 – PROMOTING RESPONSIBILITY and section 5 – PROMOTING LEARNING above.


The following was receently posted on the DWS mailring:

A couple of days ago we were returning home from a day of biking. We had the radio on. Although I actually was reading a book at the time, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police voice caught my attention.

I can’t quite remember how the commercial started, but it was something to the effect that now that summer was approaching, people should be aware that the police would be out on the road enforcing good driving habits. That was nothing startling, but I couldn’t help but notice that the ending to the commercial seemed to come straight from DISCIPLINE WITHOUT STRESS (DWS)! The announcer said something like “If you can’t police your own actions, the police will do it for you.”

I thought to myself that essentially this is the same idea that Marv suggests teachers use. He recommends that teachers can use a reflective question when students begin to get off track in their behavior. “Do you want me to be a Level B teacher?”

Many students are taken aback by the notion that their own behavior actually predicts the behavior that they will experience from others, including authority figures, such as teachers.

Apparently the police here in British Columbia find that adults too need to learn, or at least be reminded, that by choosing to be undisciplined on the road (Level B/A) they are actually inviting a Level B police officer into their lives. It’s a choice!

The following is from a recent  SEMINAR evaluation:

After attending your seminar in April and implementing the system in my classroom, I saw a dramatic change in the behaviors with both the students and myself. I shared the information with the staff and we all read the Phi Delta Kappan article. Our students need to learn the principles this model has to offer, especially learning to feel good about doing the right things without rewards. We feel that this model will help promote healthy classroom environments and trusting relationships with our student body and staff.

Sue Dukart
Tucson, Arizona

The EDUCATION book: 
Dr. Marshall is inspiring. His books make me feel like I can be a better teacher and mom. . . and wife.

Downy, California

Your parenting book is so timely because responsibility seems a dying character trait where people are motivated from within to do what is right and accept the responsibility for their choices. Parents need to raise their children to be able to make good decisions. This book lays a great groundwork to help them to do just that.

Elizabeth Finley
Winchester, Kansas