Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – March 2010

Volume 10 Number 3


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



Motivation for learning is voluntary.
It must be invited.
It cannot be demanded, forced, or coerced.

Penny Smith put a spin on it for THIS month:

Motivation for living positively is voluntary.
It must be invited.
It cannot be demanded, forced, or coerced.


The public charity for schools in the USA has simplified the application procedure. See:


The latest about the newly published parenting book from the Midwest Review of Books:

“Children become the dominating figures of one’s life when they enter the picture. This book is a guide for parents who want to attain the perfect balance where they can actually have a personal life and still show love and care for their children. This is a top pick for parents.”

The parenting book is now on Amazon’s Kindle as an eBook.
It sells for the same price as on my website http://parentingwithoutstress.org/



I am responsible for my behavior towards you, but I am not responsible for your behavior towards me.

Your behavior is your responsibility.


Listening with understanding and empathy may be the queen of intelligent behaviors, according to Dr. Art Costa co-founder of “Habits of the Mind.”

This skill encompasses many of the the other “habits.” The good listener needs to be flexible, looks at situations from another person’s perspective, metacogitates in terms of monitoring one’s own listening skills, listens to learn (in contrast to judging), is patient, asks clarifying questions for successful understanding, and uses clearness and precision in language when responding.

Managing Impulsivity
Listening with Understanding and Empathy Thinking Flexibly Thinking About One’s Own Thinking (Metacognition) Striving for Accuracy and Precision Questioning and Problem Solving Applying Past Knowledge to Novel Situations Thinking and Communicating with Clarity & Precision Gathering Data Through All Senses Creating, Imagining, and Innovating Responding with Wonderment and Awe Taking Responsible Risks Finding Humor Thinking Interdependently Remaining Open to Continuous Learning



Whenever I feel like I am about to be engaged in an argument, my self-talk proclaims:

“I would rather learn than be right.”


New research makes the case for difficult tests in schools and suggests an unusual technique that anyone can use to

Students who take tests on material before studying it remember the information better and longer than those who study without pre-testing.

(Anyone can use this learning technique to enhance recall of new information.)

For years many educators have championed “errorless learning” advising teachers (and students) to create study conditions that do not permit errors. For example, a classroom teacher might drill students repeatedly on the same multiplication problem with very little delay between the first and second presentations of the problem in order to ensure that students get the answer correct each time.

The idea was that students who make errors will remember the mistakes and will not learn the correct information (or will learn it more slowly, if at all). Recent research shows that this worry is misplaced. Students actually learn better if conditions are arranged so that they have to make errors.
Specifically, people remember things better and longer if they are given tests so challenging that they are bound to fail. This phenomenon has obvious applications for education, but the technique could be useful for anyone who is trying to absorb new material of any kind.

Evidence for the effects of testing first and studying later comes from a new study by psychologists Nate Kornell, Matthew Hays and Robert Bjork who showed that trying and failing to retrieve the answers helps in learning. As the researchers report in the July 2009 issue of the JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY in their article, “Learning, Memory and Cognition,” students who make an unsuccessful attempt to answer a test question before receiving the correct answer remember the material better than if they simply study the information.

Failing a test may not be all bad. If students learn the correct answers soon after they get the questions wrong, they will retain the information better in the long run.

Also, asking questions before reading a passage obviously focuses students’ attention on the critical concepts.

The authors took care to show that the beneficial effect from pre-testing did not result from simply having seen the test questions before reading the essay but rather from ATTEMPTING TO ANSWER THE QUESTIONS.

In other words, the learning boost from pre-testing seems to truly come from the attempt to answer a question and the subsequent failure to call up the information.

The implications for learning is obvious. Teachers should challenge students to try to answer questions about a subject BEFORE they study the material (a tactic bound to produce many errors).

Even if this strategy is not employed in the classroom, students could use it on their own to improve their learning. Look at the questions in the back of each textbook chapter and try to answer them before reading the chapter.
If there are no questions, convert the section headings to questions. For instance, if the heading is “Pavlovian conditioning,” ask yourself, “What is Pavlovian conditioning?” Then read the chapter and answer the questions while reading it. When the chapter is finished, go back to the questions and try answering them again. For any you miss, restudy that section of the chapter. Then wait a few days and try to answer the questions again by re-studying when you need to. Keep this practice up, and you will have learned the material in a durable manner, and you will be able to retrieve it much later.

By challenging ourselves to retrieve or generate answers, we can improve our recall. Keep that in mind next time you turn to Google for an answer. You might want to give yourself a little more time to come up with the answer on your own. And remember, even if you get the questions wrong as you self-test yourself during study, the process is still useful. Getting the answer wrong is a great way to learn as long as you receive the correct answer shortly afterward.


When you use external approaches to promote responsible behavior, you may want to consider the following:

CARROTS AND STICKS: The Seven Deadly Sins

1. They can extinguish intrinsic motivation.
2. They can diminish performance.
3. They can crush creativity.
4. They can crowd out good behavior.
5. They can encourage cheating and unethical behavior.
6. They can become addictive.
7. They can foster short-term thinking.

from “DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”
by Daniel H. Pink, p. 59.


The following was in response to a post at the support link at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Disciplinewithoutstress/
regarding using stickers and other external approaches as INCENTIVES (read bribes) to manipulate behavior:

We still use stickers, we still have food treats, we still have parties and on and on, but the difference is we stopped using these things as rewards. We stopped trying to manipulate behaviour.

Although I don’t usually give prizes for academic games, a game prize isn’t necessarily a reward. A reward is meant to manipulate behavior and will often lead to changes in student motivation. A prize can just be a delightful treat that’s more or less given out randomly.

On the other hand, prizes CAN be used as rewards if your intention is to trick the kids into playing a game they don’t really want to play. Consider too, if you set up the expectation that prizes are given as a norm, then you will feel pressured to continue giving them in order to sustain the same level of interest as previously shown.

In my experience, you often have to keep making the rewards bigger to satisfy the addictive nature they create. As well, rewards often give the impression that the teacher is offering a choice about participation in school activities or lessons. At some point, at least one child is certain to say something to the effect, “I don’t want that reward, so I don’t care to do this activity. I’m going to opt out.” In such cases, teachers and parents are usually surprised (and even angry). It was never their intention to give the impression that participation in regular class activities was optional. They didn’t realize that they were actually setting themselves up for this logical response from a child.

I’m not saying to give or not give gqme prizes; that’s certainly up to you and how you feel about it, but I would encourage you to think further on this topic just in order to feel more peace within yourself.

Like you, in my early days of teaching I tried giving rewards but speaking for myself, I soon tired of the results I saw, that were to me, negative–bad feelings from those who didn’t receive them, a constant sense of competition in the class that I didn’t find helpful or enjoyable, a sense of anxiousness from the kids about whether or not they would receive a reward (thus a change in motivation as they began any assignment,) great anxiety on MY part as I tried to be fair in distributing awards/rewards and tried to manipulate things so that poor students would have equal chances to receive rewards, etc.

Personally, I don’t find it difficult to motivate kids to be at the higher levels of the Hierarchy. I actually find it exhilarating and easy! The Hierarchy gave me a simple strategy to do something I had always wanted to be able to do in a consistently successful way. I never thought I would find such a strategy–and before I found it I couldn’t have told you exactly what it was I was looking for–but when I saw the four levels, I instantly recognized it as the tool I was seeking.

With the Hierarchy, I felt empowered to do what I had always wanted to do–show kids in a concrete way the definition of being self-motivated so they could choose that level if they wanted.

I had always tried to make this my goal, simply because it was the way I had been raised by my parents, but my efforts were more or less hit and miss. When I found the levels, I had a simple tool to send the message that I had always been trying to impart to students–that it feels wonderful to be self-directed and that many “rewards” find their way to people who choose to display initiative and live with self-discipline. The bonus was that this motivational approach was FAIR to all kids. It didn’t favor those who were naturally successful, and yet it could motivate those kids just as well as the less capable and less successful ones. Every child had something to gain from learning about the Hierarchy!

I think another reason that I find it easy to motivate kids with the levels is because I use it almost exclusively to focus on the positive. I keep a small Hierarchy on my front board so that I can reach it easily, during any lesson or situation. Although it’s important that the kids learn about all four levels, it becomes quite negative if the chart is referenced only when there is a problem. For me, I just naturally tend to do the opposite. I focus 90% of the time on using it proactively to motivate kids to be at Level C (with the real key being to always end with a voluntary invitation to move to Level D.) Then when I have to use the chart to react to an issue that is not positive, the situation stands out. It seems really sad when we have to look at the lower levels in relation to something happening in our classroom because it happens so infrequently.

The levels of the chart can help me explain why life is more satisfying when we focus on a real purpose for doing something, rather than a reward. I have many personal examples that I can give about the benefits of operating at a higher, rather than lower level. Because I can speak with personal conviction, I think kids listen and respond. I see my job as being a salesperson for internal motivation!

Anyone who loves a particular product and has personally experienced the benefits of using it can easily sell it to others. I’m just guessing here, but I would imagine that most people who have joined this mailring have had personal experiences with the benefits of being self-disciplined and responsible or with showing initiative. What they need to understand is that the DWS approach basically boils down to one thing–trying to SELL this valuable idea to others. It might take some confidence, a leap of faith, or a willingness to experiment, but anyone can do this if they have seen value in their own life as a result of choices to operate on Level D.

Kerry in British Columbia, Canada
More of Kerry’s posts are available at


The Hierarchy of Social Development is explained at http://marvinmarshall.com/rrsystem.htm.

To obtain the most understanding of the levels, link to http://marvinmarshall.com/pdf/hierarchy_significant_points.pdf.



After starting the Parenting Without Stress book, I couldn’t put it down. The tone is so warm, experienced and genuinely pleased to share what can be truly transformative in human relations. I don’t want to gush, but it is such good therapy just to read this book, breathe in its positivity, and be inspired by new yet accessible ways to give our youngsters what they need at home, at school and later, in the workplace.

Nancy Sellers
Highland Park, IL

Information about this transformative book is at http://parentingwithoutstress.org