Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – September 2004

Volume 4 Number 9


1. Welcome

2. Promoting Responsibility

3. Increasing Effectiveness

4. Improving Relationships

5. Promoting Learning

6. Implementing The Raise Responsibility System:

Free Mailring

Your Questions Answered

Impulse Management Posters and Cards



This month marks the start

of the academic school year for many readers of this e-zine. Although learning

is itself self-renewing, a new school year is doubly so for classroom teachers

because of greeting a fresh crop of students. Even in schools where classes

“loop” (have the same teacher for more than one year), the summer break offers

respite and renewal.

Returning after a summer “break” reminds me of what Stephen Covey refers to as a

“paradigm” in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in

Personal Change.” He states, “A paradigm is like a pair of glasses; it affects

the way you see everything in your life.” (p. 125)

Although my brother is an optometrist and periodically fits me for glasses, the

paradigm shift I have made personally– with many ideas from readers–has

enhanced my vision.

What was created as a classroom discipline system that promotes responsible

behavior and ethical character has evolved into an approach that ALSO nourishes

students so they WANT to learn and increase academic achievement.

The ADVANCED CONCEPTS (Section 5 below) is a compilation of recent posts on the

Raise Responsibility System mailring. I am indebted to Kerry Weisner of Canada

and contributors around the world who have promoted learning by taking ideas,

enhancing them with their own experiences and creativeness, and then sharing



Just as young children don’t

want to be carried while they are learning to walk, adolescents don’t want

adults making decisions for them.

The only way we can learn to walk is to practice walking.

Similarly, the only way to assist maturation for responsible behavior is to

practice decision-making.

Each time you make a decision for another person, you deprive that person of an

opportunity for maturity and responsibility.


People do not argue with

their own statements, and once a statement is made there is a natural desire to

defend it. Here is a simple question for opening the gate, to have the person


If I share with you a better

approach to achieve your

objective, would you be willing to change your mind?


In my recent presentations

before this academic year started, I had participants visualize the following


It is your child’s very

first day of school. When you–

as the parent–meet the child after school this first

day, what would you say or ask your youngster?

I received responses such

as, “How was your day?” and “What did you learn?” I continued to prod until the

following question invariably arose: “Do you like your teacher?”

We intuitively know that the heart has to be engaged before the head is ready to


Regardless of any system or silver bullet you may have at your disposal, if

positive feelings are not engendered, there is a problem.

Although noncoercion and trust (the feeling that no harm will be

forthcoming–psychologically, emotionally, or physically) are the foundations

for good relationships, no solution to any problem will be effective unless the

heart–as well as the head–is engaged.


Here are some ADVANCED

CONCEPTS for using the Raise Responsibility System (RRSystem) for DISCIPLINE,



After teachers are well into the mode of ASKING students (instead of telling

them) to identify a level of chosen behavior, asking for a response may seem

coercive. Teachers can then shift to SUGGESTING that students SIMPLY REFLECT on

their chosen level.

The hierarchy is NOT an assessment tool for someone on the outside looking in.

Understand that no one can know the motivation of another person with complete

accuracy, and since rewards can change motivation, rewarding Level D behavior

can be counterproductive. The reward-giver will never know in the future whether

the person will be acting on Level D as it is the right thing to do OR to get

the reward.


In addition to referring to the lower, unacceptable levels, acknowledge

higher-level behaviors. This will nourish and encourage students to choose

behaviors on higher levels, especially Level D.


BEFORE starting an activity, have students visualize what behaviors on the

various levels would look like. (Level A need not be included.) AFTER the

activity, ASK STUDENTS TO REFLECT on the level they chose to act on during the

activity. Because of the very nature of a hierarchy (the top levels being more

desirable than lower levels), VISUALIZATION AND REFLECTION–before and after an

activity–prompts students to WANT to improve.

(See Bill Funkhouser’s

letter, “What People Say About the RRSystm,” below.)

Talk about long-range

results for operating consistently on each of the levels. Use classroom

experiences as they arise to teach terms such as SELF-RELIANCE and

SELF-DISCIPLINE so students learn what these traits look like in real-life


Level D – In general, these

people know what’s going on in the classroom. They listen for directions and

take the initiative to look after themselves. As a result, they feel capable and

informed. They experience the joy and satisfaction that comes from taking the

initiative of doing what is best for themselves as well as what is best for


Level C – Although these

people do what is required, they aren’t really in charge of themselves because

they depend on others. These people don’t exercise effort to do their best and

so are deprived of the satisfaction that comes with Level D behavior.

Level B – These people are

often “out of it.” They often have a hard time keeping up because they don’t

choose to put in the effort needed to keep on top of what needs to be done. This

can lead to uncomfortable feelings of discouragement or even panic when they

realize that they have missed directions, don’t know what to do, are behind in

assignments, or do less than their best.

The techniques of

VISUALIZING and REFLECTING on chosen levels can be used effectively with ANY




Level D – Motivation to

become a good speller is INTERNAL

Tries different spelling patterns in an attempt to find

the one that looks correct

Level C – Does the above but the motivation is EXTERNAL

People at this level wait until a teacher tells them that

a word is incorrect before trying to fix it, or they wait

to be reminded before trying a variety of strategies.

Level B – Doesn’t make any attempt to be careful with



Level D – Reads carefully

without reminders

Level C – Reads carefully when reminded by the teacher

Level B – Doesn’t read carefully under any circumstances

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6. Implementing the RAISE


What is the “bottom line” if

after discussions with a student to help him understand the consequences of his

choices, he still chooses not to comply?


Who is choosing the

consequences–the student or the adult? The answer to this question is critical.

If the consequence is IMPOSED, the youngster has no ownership of it, and

ownership is a critical component for behavior change.


What about the case of “no

homework” and the student’s

admission that he “just doesn’t care and doesn’t WANT to work”?


As Madeline Hunter often

stated, “You cannot force

learning.” There are thousands of capable, mature,

responsible adults who rarely did their homework in school.

As I mention in the book, I do not use the term, “homework.”

I differentiate between work and effort. I use the term,

“home assignment.” Your question basically is, “How can I

get the student to put forward the effort to do what the

teacher assigns the student to do?”

The answer starts with the teacher. What has the teacher

done to arouse interest, curiosity, or the necessity of the

home assignment to reinforce and/or reflect upon the


If the teacher is not successful in influencing the student

to put forward the effort to learn, how can punishing the

student be justified? Is causing harm or intentionally

“hurting” a youngster in his or the teacher’s best

interests? And most importantly, will the motivation be to

avoid punishment or to learn–and if it is the former, how

long will the learning last?

The success rate would increase if the teacher were to

collaborate and work WITH the student by convincing him that

completing home assignments would be in the student’s own

best interests. The teacher can suggest what the possible

consequences of his effort–or lack of it–would bring. If

the student chooses not to put forward the effort for

something that is in his own best interest, then that is the

student’s choice. The resulting consequences (lack of

increased skill and/or knowledge and resulting lack of

feelings of satisfaction) are negated by the student.

Skills, knowledge, and feelings cannot be IMPOSED by the

teacher–but they can certainly be encouraged.


Inevitably, doesn’t he

experience a punishment?

The student experiences punishment if it is imposed.

Punishment infers that the punisher does something TO the


NOTE: I strongly favor homework above primary grades.

However, helping students develop procedures that bring

structure to their home assignments is far mare effective

than punishment. Think of it this way: What would be best

for the student and most likely motivate the student to do

home assignments–your imposing punishment or your

continual encouragement, empowerment, and commenting on

your faith in the student’s ability?


In the case of “no

rewards”…public recognition for good behavior or attitudes IS a good

practice… right?


Not in my opinion! I expect

good behavior, and I don’t know how to assess one’s attitude aside from one’s

behavior. As I have stated earlier, “The reward-giver will never know in the

future whether the person will be acting on Level D as it is the right thing to

do OR to get the reward.” REWARDING young people for EXPECTED STANDARDS OF

APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR takes young people on a treacherous path–even though

thousands of teachers and parents do it. This practice is highly

counterproductive to their ultimate goals and is contributing to raising a

generation of young people whose focus is on receiving, rather than on the

effort and satisfaction that come from contributing and acting responsibly.

You can read more about the pitfalls of external approaches of punishing YOUNG

people, rewarding them, and telling them what to do at



Is there an appropriate time

to use a “perk” as a motivator?


Certainly! But realize that

the underlying drive is often not the perk but the competition. Just look at the

recent Olympic Games in Athens. Competition and recognition are basic to

humankind. The perquisite at the games were medals. Napoleon Bonaparte and the

former Soviet Union used ribbons.

In my own case, I play the classic music of the Great

Highland Bagpipe called piobaireachd (pronounced pibroch). Approximately eight

percent of pipers play this type of music, and this traditional music never

would have been passed on to today without competitions. The token ribbons won

were nice, but it was the competitive spirit that had me devote hundreds of

hours to practicing.

The mistake erupts when, by implication, we use rewards to promote learning. If

a youngster is never in the winner’s circle, will that young person be prompted

to continue “losing” or give up by “dropping out”?

Low self-perception–prompted by comparison of oneself with others–starts when

socialization starts and is exacerbated when students start competing against

each other.

Many teachers will not admit to themselves that these kinds of rewards foster

competition between students. Competitive students thrive on who gets the most

number of stickers, gold stars, etc.

What about the student who believes he should also get a reward but doesn’t?

Alfie Kohn answered this dilemma in his tome, “PUNISHED by REWARDS: The Trouble

with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes.”

Although COMPETITION promotes PERFORMANCE, COLLABORATION is far more effectve

for promoting LEARNING. More on this subject is in Chapter 4, “Promoting

Learning,” and the Epilogue in the book at


Return to Top

You can share and learn more

about the




Learning a procedure for

responding appropriately to

impulses is described on the Impulse Management link at



“This is the best year I

have had in the 25 years of being a principal. Behavior has not been a problem

this year. Our students are learning to solve their problems in a positive way.

We find that with the proper instruction, students can monitor their own

behavior and make responsible choices without the use of punishment and


Phelps Wilkins, Principal

Eisenhower Elementary School, Mesa, AZ

A descriptive table of

contents of the book describing the approach, three selected sections, and

additional items of interest are posted at: