Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – November 2012

Volume 12 Number 11


  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




Never help a child with a task he can succeed at on his own.
–Maria Montessori


In a series of blogs, I will be explaining the reasons that Finland’s schools are considered to be the most successful of any nation. The short articles are based upon my visiting a few of Finland’s schools last month.

Here is a sampling:

According to numerous studies, Finland is one of the best educational performing countries in the world. Ironically, aside from international tests, Finland has no standardized testing of its own. They do not believe that achievement gains improve the lives of children. Instead, they test prudently in ways that help teachers assist students to improve their learning.

Collaboration–rather than competition–is a fundamental characteristic of how teachers operate. One result is that there is no media influence to post test scores.

So how do they score so high on international tests –especially since students start school at a later age (seven), take fewer classes, have a three-month summer break, spend less time in school per day, have barely any homework, and are rarely tested?

The following will give some indications:

Schools in Finland are decentralized. In fact, there are less than 20 people in their national education office. As a result, the school districts are empowered, and local agencies have flexibility. The national curriculum is tiny.
Schools are obliged to implement the curriculum, but how it is done is totally up to the schools.

This contrasts with the approach in the United States where power is increasingly centralized in the federal government, rather than in state or local agencies.

Finland is very rigorous about their teacher selection. They recruit from the top 10% of university graduates. They pay their teachers enough so that the subject of money is off the table. Teaching has very high status and is considered a quality profession for a lifelong career.

There is time in the school day to plan and work with colleagues in collaboration. Teachers take collective responsibility for all students, not just the ones who are in their classes.

Discipline is not a problem. A prime reason is that young people are taught to be responsible from a very young age.


The following is from an e-mail.

I found out about you from another teacher who told me about your website. I also ordered your book from Amazon.

I had a situation this year that I did not know how to deal with. I had a very bright class but students were lazy.
Usually I am a very motivational teacher and do not use bribes. However, this class had been so bribed in the past that they were used to it, and so I decided to try the bribery system.

One student wanted the rewards without having to earn them.
Finally, he started disrupting the class so constantly I could not teach and the students were not learning. I called his mother to have her sit with him. When she came, she asked me if I wanted him to be taken home. I was so tired of dealing with him I just said yes. She then went to the principal to have him removed from my class. Nothing of educational consequence was accomplished by the move. He previously had told me he was mad at me for not just giving him the rewards.

Maybe this is just a good example of how bribes can backfire.

Marie Morris


Researchers have long been studying the connection between health and personality traits. Openness–which links to creativity and measures flexibility and willingness to entertain novel ideas–has emerged as a life-long protective factor. It seems that creativity reduces stress and keeps the brain healthy.

Of the personality traits, only creativity decreased mortality risk. One possible reason creativity is a protective of health is because it draws on a variety of neural networks within the brain.

Because the brain is the command center for all bodily functions, exercising it helps all systems to continue running smoothly. Keeping the brain healthy may be one of the most important aspects of aging successfully.

It also appears that creativity has an effect on handling stress. Creative people tend not to get as easily flustered when faced with an emotional or physical hurdle. Stress is known to harm overall health, including cardiovascular, immune and cognitive systems. Creative people may see stressors more as challenges that they can work to overcome, rather than as stressful obstacles they can’t overcome.

Practicing creative thinking techniques can improve anyone’s health by lowering stress and exercising the brain.

Practicing the habits of POSITIVITY, CHOICE, and REFLECTION assist in this endeavor.


Mean comments arise more from a lack of eye contact than from anonymity.

People are meaner online than in real life. Many have blamed this on anonymity and invisibility because when you are online, no one knows who you are or what you look like. However, it has been suggested that we have a tendency to be nasty on the Internet because we do not make eye contact with those with whom we are communicating.

A recent study demonstrated this point. The subjects had to look into their partner’s eyes and predict how mean they were. When their eyes were hidden, participants were twice as likely to be hostile. Even if the subjects were both unrecognizable (with only their eyes on the screen) and anonymous, they rarely made threats if they maintained eye contact. Seeing a partner’s eyes helps you understand the signals that the person is trying to send, which often fosters empathy and, therefore, more effective communications.


Here is an effective technique for kindergarten teachers that was shared with me by Jane Bluestein. It ranks as one of her favorites.

Jane walked into a kindergarten classroom and noticed that there was a student talking to a large poster/picture of an elderly woman on one of the walls.

When asked about it, the teacher said, “Oh, that’s Mrs.
Murphy. My kids know that when I’m too busy, they can talk to Mrs. Murphy. Half of the time when I approach the student and say, ‘I’ve seen that you talked to Mrs. Murphy. Is there anything you want to share?'”

The response is, “No, we worked things out.”

The key of course is a constructive outlet to engage in reflection. As Charlie Munger (Warren Buffet’s partner) tells the famous story, “If a smart person goes into a room where an orangutan is eating a banana and explains whatever is troubling the person, the orangutan just goes on eating the banana. At the end of the conversation, the person comes out smarter.


The following is from an e-mail.

Dear Dr Marshall,

I appreciate your quick response to my question,”What can you do if the child isn’t acknowledging what actually took place, specifically lying:

“Say to the child, “You and I know better. Your response
is on Level B. You have a choice: Let me know
how long you need to become more responsible–or what do
you suggest we do so that you can become more mature?’

The fact is I purchased your e-book “Children of the Rainbow School” when we first spoke over a month ago. My children are fluent in the four levels–so much so that even my 3 1/2 year old is able to identify a given behavior with a particular level. We have two PDF printouts [from your web site] of the hierarchy on our fridge and the levels have become almost table talk. The problem doesn’t lie in the lack of knowledge about the different levels; the problem is a lack of honesty and not wanting to accept responsibility for what they’ve done (“I didn’t do that,” “It’s not my fault,” “Why are you blaming me?”).

My Response:

I have the impression that your children are fearful of you.
In order for them to be honest with you, they need to FEEL that they will not be harmed physically, emotionally, or psychologically. Look to yourself. Ask yourself, “If I were one of my children, would I feel safe the way my parent is communicating with me?”

Your tone of voice, volume of your voice, and your gestures all play a part in your communications. Unless your children truly FEEL that your only desire is for them to become responsible–and not to threaten or punish them–you will not find the success you are looking for.

Changing your children ALWAYS starts with changing yourself.
A good way to start is to pose your dilemma to your children and phrase it so that they understand you want to learn from them.


The 100-page Resource Guide that I use in my presentations is now also available for your use.


The EDUCATION book: 

Thank you for all your monthly letters and invaluable advice. The “Raise Responsibility” approach has been the best class management approach I have ever used in 28 years of teaching.

Mary Munoz
Boca Raton, FL.


The PARENTING book: 

As a former school principal, I was a disciple of the Discipline without Stress philosophy. As a grandfather, I am also using the excellent strategies in the parenting book.
Promoting responsible behavior allows parents to have a life of their own.

Tom Bowers
Venice, Florida


The following is from a recent SEMINAR evaluation:

Excellent workshop? My mind was whirling with ideas that I am anxious to implement in my classroom. Love the idea that coercing someone through authority takes away their choice of being responsible!

Tandi Leonard
El Dorado Springs, Missouri