Discipline Without Stress Newsletter- May 2011

Volume 11 Number 5


  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 will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.
–Maya Angelou

This understanding is critical for becoming more effective in influencing others.

NOTE: If you understand “choice-response-thinking”
(one of the foundations of the discipline and learning approach), you would immediately interpret Maya’s term “made” into “prompt”–as in “PROMPTED then to feel.”

What we see, hear, taste, smell, or touch PROMPTS our feelings; no one else “MAKES” or “CAUSES” how you feel.


My seminars in Chicago on Wednesday (May 11) and Thursday (May 12) attracted over 200 people. I found it particulary gratifying when Michelle, one of the attendees, shared how her son’s teacher was using the system and her personal experiences of also using the system both in her own classroom and at home with her own children.

As the presenter, I am limited to describing the discipline and learning system, sharing the psychological and philosophical underpinings, and demonstrating how traditional stimulus-response, coercive, negative, and punitive approaches are not successful with so many of todays youth.

Hearing about others’ successes with the system is particularly gratifying.


If you are interested in having me present for an education or parenting audience, I can be most easily reached by e-mail at mailto:Marv@MarvinMarshall.com.


I had the privilege of presenting at the Global Speakers Summit in the Netherlands last month. Although North and South Holland are only two of the provinces in the county, natives refer to their entire country as Holland.

Visiting the International Court of Justice (the Peace
Palace) in the Hague and cities founded in the 11th and 12 centuries were quit interesting experiences. Traveling through the area of Zeeland (from which the country “New Zealand” was named), and visiting the Delta Works, an (engineering marvel that keeps the North sea from inundating half of the Neterhlands that lies below sea level) were two of the highlights of the trip.

Aside from the geographical, political, religious, language, and historical aspects of the kingdom (ruled by a queen), were sociological insights I gained. Spending time in Amsterdam in particular gives a more insightful understanding of the word “diversity” and living in today’s global society.


Traditional techniques of rewarding desired behaviors, of prompting fear by threatening, by imposing punishments, and by “telling” all aim at obedience. With today’s youth however, when the focus is on obedience, the result is often reluctance, resistance, resentment, and even rebellion.

These approaches set up stress for both adult and youth. As young people grow, the more we try to force obedience the more they resist. However, when the focus is on promoting responsibility in a noncoercive (but not permissive) approach, obedience follows as a natural by-product.

Remember that we adults are constantly teaching and influencing. As a matter of fact, we cannot help but influence young people. We are often unaware of our constant role-modeling. This is especially the case when we react to what young people do that does not please us.

Reacting to irresponsible behavior by using coercive approaches is a primary cause of stress in adult-youth relationships–whether we are telling them to do something, threatening, punishing, or attempting to manipulate their behavior with rewards.

In contrast, when you aim at instilling a sense of responsibility, you will find young people developing self-discipline, developing respect for self and others, and becoming more mature in their behaviors. Additionally, you will quickly see how stress and adversarial relationships are significantly reduced.

My experiences of working with young people of all ages and in various situations and circumstances taught me that young people really want to be responsible, but coercive approaches no longer work with today’s youth.

When I signed dozens of books at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Book la week ago, I signed my name with the following inscription:

“The key is to project high expectations and then
empower, rather than overpower.”

Unfortunately, too many adults have the belief that if young people are empowered, adults lose control. In reality, the more you empwower others, the more influence you have with them and the more you effective you become.


The following was slightly edited from a post on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Disciplinewithoutstress/

During my parent-teacher interviews (mandated to be “student-led), I prepared a typical list of classroom areas for parents to visit on a “Kindergarten Tour.” The children were to share some books they had made, find the date at the calendar area and make a pattern wth cubes.

Older siblings attended several of the interviews. While some of these intermediate students respected that their younger brothers and sisters deserved the limelight, others did not. Quite frankly, some of them were a royal pain in the neck. One grade 5 boy in particular was a problem. At first he was just traveling around the room at great speed, but very quickly he moved to pulling out toys and scattering them, banging on our toy cash registers and opening cupboards and drawers that he should know were not for students to open. When the dad said nothing, and the youth moved in to disrupt his sister’s chance to show what she was learning at school, I realized that it was up to me to direct him.

I said to him that I had a puzzle he might like to do. I explained we were missing a piece and I asked for his help in finding out which one. This caught his interest and he decided to sit down.

My original intention was to get him going and then return my attention to his sister and father, but very quickly I realized that he didn’t have enough understanding of numbers 1-100 to be able to complete the puzzle independently. In order to end this interaction on a positive note, I would have to stay right with him, giving hints and help, and doing some direct teaching about decades and “rows vs.
columns” in a 100 chart. So for five minutes, he and I worked on the puzzle together, pleasantly chatting back and forth. As the last piece slipped into place, it was easy enough to see that #57 of the puzzle was indeed missing and I said, “Thanks. Now I know which piece we need to order.”

As I was about to get up to join his little sister and father, I saw him searching in his pockets. Out came two little toy cars that I had set out on my sink counter in preparation for returning them to a little boy in my class who was coming in for an interview later in the evening. He said, “I don’t know how these got in here, but maybe you want them.” Totally taken aback that I had been robbed, I took the cars he held out and said that yes, they belonged to someone in my class who would be happy to have them back.
Then we both got up and went to see what his sister and dad were doing.

Later I was struck by two things:

1) It’s true what DWS teachers tell students that the only thing that is required to move themselves from Level A to Level B to Level C to Level D is a simple decision to do just that, and

2) We should never underestimate the power of just five minutes of relationship-building time spent with another individual. In just five minutes I had built enough of a relationship with this boy that he no longer felt comfortable stealing from me; his conscience kicked in.

Kerry in British Columbia, Canada

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


Similar stories and examples are in my parenting book where noncoercive approaches of asking for assistance, redirecting attention, and challenging young people are so effective.


Thanks to Dr. Mardy Grothe for the following:

A few years ago, I was doing marriage counseling with a Boston couple. He was the CEO of a local company and she was a professional woman who had once worked with her husband but had put her career on hold in order to raise their two children. She had been feeling neglected recently and began to express those feelings.

As he listened, a look of confusion came over her husband’s face. When it was time for him to talk, he explained that had a demanding job, and he added that he thought he had been effectively balancing the demands of work and home.
After she replied that his recent work performance had far exceeded his performance as a husband, he got frustrated and blurted out, “What do you want from me?” I will never forget her reply:

“Treat me like a client.”

She went on to explain that she had always admired how skillfully he had dealt with the firm’s clients–wining and dining them, sending them occasional notes and cards, calling or e-mailing them, and in general making them feel special and important.

“If you could treat me as well as you do your clients,” she concluded, “I would be a happy and contented wife.” It turned out to be a very productive session, for the wife was able to speak to the husband in terms he could understand.

In psychological terms, she was able to “re-frame” the situation, helping him see how their marital relationship could benefit if he began to view it in a slightly different way.


The following is from the March/April 2011 edition of Scientific American/Mind’s article, “RULED BY THE BODY: Many common ailments and physical conditions can influence the brain, leaving you depressed, anxious or slow-witted”:

In Western culture, people have long treated body and mind as separate. This dichotomy, popularized by French philosopher Rene Descartes in the 17th century, is still reflected in medical practice, as the specialists who look after our bodies remain different from those who attend to our psyches. (A very interesting book on this subject is “Decartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain” by Antonio Demasio, now at the University of southern

This division has blurred in recent decades. We now know that the mind is housed in a physical entity, the brain part of the body. Psychological problems can produce physical symptoms in the form of psychosomatics. Mental stress can spawn headaches, an upset stomach, or even heart problems.

But the influence also runs in the other direction–that changes in the body can profoundly perturb your mental state.

The body’s defenses affect the brain in large part through immune-signaling molecules. These substances bind to receptors that govern emotions. The brain cells respond by unleashing other substances that produce fatigue, lowered concentration, and social withdrawal.

When you are fighting a cold, for example, symptoms such as a runny nose and sore throat are accompanied by negative feelings and a desire to be alone, reactions that stem from the brain and serve to inhibit physical activity. Although you may no longer feel sick, the immune system’s continued vigilance can keep you in low spirits for for an extended time.

Inadequate intake of several micronutrients and water can disrupt cognition. Water effects thinking. Without enough of it, brain cells shrivel up, shrinking brain tissue and enlarging the spaces within the brain. The withered tissue is less able to efficiently process information. In young adults, research suggests even mild dehydration can significantly impair cognitive capacities such as short-term memory, attention, and ability to solve math problems. The brain has to work harder when a person is dehydrated.

Even under ordinary conditions, just having a drink could help you think–at least if you are a kid. A 2009 study found that giving mildly dehydrated six-and seven-year-olds a glass of water before a test improved their scores. In another study of seven-to-nine-year-olds, additional water similarly boosted performance in an assessment of visual attention.

So consider having your students reduce cognitive lapses by drinking water, especially before tests or during tasks that require concentration.


There is an increasing concern that the amount of Internet connections young people have with others is having a deleterious effect on their brains. Scientific evidence suggests that our children’s digital lives are turning them into much different creatures from adults and not necessarily for the better.

There is the problem with continuous partial attention. We know the dangers of texting or talking on the phone while operating a motor vehicle, but what about the effect on a growing a brain? Aside from hours spent on fast moving entertainment media, many young youth are even texting while watching television and other media.

Constant distraction affects not only how well kids learn but also how their brains absorbs the new information.

People who can focus well can apply new skills more effectively than switch-taskers. For example, it is impossible for the brain to watch something and write simultaneously. The brain switches from one activity to the other.

If we want our offspring to work on assembly lines, then switchtasking may not be so bad. However, if we want our children to do the kind of high-level thinking that will be necessary in the future, then we should encourage our young folks to engage in activities that will make their brains more, rather than not less, efficient.

Putting a limit on electronic devices–especially at night–would be wise. It may help young people to get more sleep, which is the time our brains prune connections among neurons, preserving and speeding up the ones that matter and flushing out the ones that don’t. Unfortunately, the hours spent using new communications are preventing already sleep-deprived teens from getting enough sleep. Lack of sufficient sleep negatively affects memory consolidation and behavioral regulations.

SUGGESTION: If your child can read this section, share it.


I received the following from Pakistan:

Hello Sir,

Your news letters are always very helpful. I am a teacher in Pakistan and am using your techniques from the book “Discipline Without Stress”. when I introduced the Hierarchy to 4th graders, some of them said that they want to work on level A or B”. They are very mischievous kids. Please guide me what to do. Thanks.


I responded:

Copy the poster at

The lower, unacceptable levels are A and B. Ask students if they have seen these two levels in the news or in person.
People can never be happy when they are insecure as on Level A, when they are only interested in themselves and don’t care about others.

Also, people do not feel good when they are bullied as in Level B.

With these kids, don’t ask what level they are choosing.
Just say, “Reflect on the level you are choosing and then decide if you want to continue on that level.” THE STRATEGY IS TO HAVE YOUNG PEOPLE REFLECT ON THEIR CHOICES (not to account to the teacher).

Here is the main point to share. Students have a great deal to do with the way their teacher acts. If students are acting on Level B, they are telling the teacher that they are not mature enough to cooperate as on Level C and that they want want to be bossed by the teacher.

Review significant points at

Finally, be sure that you are implementing all phases of the teaching model at http://marvinmarshall.com/teaching_model.html


Our elementary school has embraced your model and we are having significant success in building relationships with students and helping them make solid, responsible choices.

Thank you,

Becky Brockman
Little Cedars Elementary School
Snohomish, WA