Volume 7, Number 1
IN THIS ISSUE:
2. Promoting Responsibility
3. Increasing Effectiveness
4. Improving Relationships
5. Promoting Learning
6. Discipline without Stress
7. Testimonials and Research – A Letter from Australia
MONTHLY RESPONSIBILITY AND LEARNING QUOTE:
(From a personal note handed to me on Sept. 15, 2005)
If we want kids to be caring, honest, generous and
responsible, we have to be caring, honest, generous and
responsible ourselves. As has been said, “Modeling is not
just a way to teach; it is the only way to teach.”
Choice is essential to the teaching and learning of values.
You cannot mandate generosity, caring, responsibility,
honesty, etc. These values can only be promoted in an
environment of choice.
You can only show honesty, caring, responsibility, etc. when
you can choose not to behave in these ways. Many kids these
days have huge amounts of freedom, but they do not have the
responsible behavior to handle their freedom.
In schools we often believe that these kids know how to
behave appropriately and are choosing not to. Maybe many of
these children have never been taught the behaviors
necessary to be responsible, caring, honest, etc. Or they
have been taught the skills and behavior but have never been
given the choice to choose to behave in these ways or not.
Choice is the basic ingredient for the promotion of
District Guidance Officer
Newcastle, New South Wales
In last month’s e-zine, I quoted from Bill Page’s book,
“At-Risk Students.” Since he was not a newsletter subscriber
at the time, it was serendipitous that he sent me a
beautiful letter along with a DVD of one oh his seminars.
After viewing it, I called Bill and asked him if he had
planned to sell the DVD. He had not; so I encouraged him to
do so. Figuring the cost of postage, duplication, handling,
and a small profit, he is willing to reproduce and sell the
DVD for $15.00.
Bill is a very entertaining speaker with many ideas that
work with young people of any age. In addition, he is an
expert in dealing with reluctant and rebellious youth.
I encourage everyone who would like some additional ideas in
working with young people to give yourself a New Year’s
gift. If you make the small $15.00 investment, you will be
viewing the gift to yourself a number of times. It’s that
Contact Bill at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
222 Wheeler Ave
Nashville, TN 37211
Phone: 615.833.1086 Fax 615.831.0909
2. PROMOTING RESPONSIBILITY
There is a story about an old and wise martial arts master
who invited his new student to share tea and conversation
and to begin the teacher-student relationship. The
student–who already had much training from other
teachers–looked eager and ready to learn and said, “Teach
me, master, how to be a great fighter.”
The wise master reached over with the teapot and began to
pour the tea. He continued to pour even after the cup filled
to the top. Tea began pouring down the sides. The student
panicked, “It is already full. Why are you still pouring?”
The master responded, “So too, is your mind. It is filled
with previous knowledge and experiences. You must empty your
mind of everything you already know in order to receive new
knowledge–or I cannot teach you.”
So it is with promoting responsibility. Using the external
manipulators of rewarding for appropriate behavior and
imposing punishments for inappropriate behavior aim at
obedience. OBEDIENCE DOES NOT CREATE DESIRE. Since
responsibility is never achieved unless taken (regardless of
its being given), DESIRE is essential for developing this
One must empty the cup of external motivation thinking in
order to influence a person to WANT to be responsible. The
reason is that the most effective way to influence a person
is to induce the person to influence himself. External
approaches lack this essential ingredient. Internal
motivation is far more powerful and effective in
long-lasting changes of behavior and character development
than are punishments or rewards.
3. INCREASING EFFECTIVENESS
Happy people are more effective than unhappy people.
Happiness is the result of a myriad of little decisions made
every day. To be happy in the New Year–and each and every
day thereafter–REFLECT BEFORE you make those little
decisions. Two questions to ask yourself are, “What’s my
goal in doing this?” and “How will I feel if I achieve it?”
For example, if our daughter did something that was
irresponsible, I could ask myself, “Is my goal to punish
her?” “And, if I do, how will I feel?” (And how would she
Or, I could ask myself, “Is my goal is to help her make more
responsible decisions?” “And if I achieve this goal, how
will I feel?” (And how would she feel?)
It’s decisions like these that so impact our lives. They can
bring us frustration and grief–or satisfaction and joy. The
latter brings happiness, which makes us more effective.
4. IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS
You cannot not
Kinesics (communicating without words) include your facial
expressions, your gestures, your body stance, your walk,
your grooming, and how you dress.
These communications not only play a large part in first
impressions, they continue to play a part in all
5. PROMOTING LEARNING
Hopefully, society is well past the “politically correct”
theory (an oxymoron in a democratic society) that the ONLY
difference between a male and a female is in
socialization–that aside from reproductive organs, there
is no difference between the sexes neurologically,
psychologically, or emotionally.
A boy measures everything he does or says by a single
yardstick: Does this make me look weak? If it does, he
isn’t going to do it. That’s part of the reason that
videogames have such a powerful hold on boys. The action is
constant; boys can calibrate just how hard the challenges
will be; and when they lose, the defeat is private.
With this in mind, it’s important to remember that PUBLIC
competition improves performance, but not learning. Some
students will practice for hours spurred on by the
competitive spirit in music competition, athletics, or
speech contests. These students are motivated to compete.
Competition can be fun, as witnessed by the hours that young
people invest in such activities. However, competition is
devastating for the youngster–especially the boy–who never
finds himself in the winner’s circle. Rather than compete,
that student drops out by giving up.
As an elementary school principal and the elementary
committee chair for one of the regions of the Association of
California School Administrators (ACSA), I recommended that
the entry age to kindergarten be raised, not lowered. I had
seen first hand how so many young boys were not cognitively
developed enough to handle some of the academic challenges
More recently, at my presentations I receive an increasing
number of kindergarten teachers who each year continue to
tell me that their current crop of young boys is the worst
they have ever had. For a number of reasons, these young
boys are simply not socialized enough before thrusting
academics at them.
More and more young boys will become “at-risk” as early as
kindergarten because the feeling associated with weakness in
the academic skills negatively impinges on their self-talk
and self-esteem. I repeat what many of you have heard me
say in my presentations, “People do good when they feel
good–not when they feel bad.”
Boys would rather drop out by losing interest and
misbehaving than show that they can’t perform. Weakness does
not motivate them to want to participate. It takes a
masterful teacher and parent to encourage them to persevere.
The three principles to practice of (1) communicating in
positive language, (2) reducing coercion by prompting
choice-response thinking, and (3) sharing how to act
reflectively–rather than reflexively–can be of significant
assistance when dealing with young boys.
6. Discipline without Stress
In last month’s newsletter I reported on a mailring post. My
point in sharing it was that sometimes what we want others
to do so focuses our attention that our actions become
The discussion concerned a school’s policy mandating the
giving of rewards for expected standards of behavior. What
follows is a follow-up to the original posting.
At faculty meeting last Tuesday, it was announced that the
“Positive Behavior Support” team met and decided what they
need to do to reduce referrals to the office: bribe the
kids! If there were no negative contacts home (phone call,
note) or trips to the office for the rest of the week, then
the following sorts of rewards would take place:
kindergartners and first graders would get an ice cream
sandwich at lunch, second graders would get to do a craft
project, third graders would get to dance around in the
cafeteria after lunch, etc.
The next day, during our class meeting, I told my class (not
for the first time) that most adults I know believe that the
best way to motivate children is to bribe them with promises
of treats. I told them about the ice cream sandwich and we
all agreed that of course we all want one! We also discussed
how this probably wouldn’t make anyone behave or not behave
for four school days. I told them how much more capable I
think they are–that I don’t believe they need bribes, and
that we would ALL have an ice cream sandwich party just
because we’re a team and it’s a time of year for
I can’t imagine giving ice cream sandwiches to, let’s say,
18 kids who sit there smiling and enjoying them while three
kids are hurt, angry, resentful, and possibly crying. Maybe
one of them lost control on a Wednesday–but was really
“good” for the rest of the days and by today barely
remembers what happened on Wednesday. (I have seen this
scenario: one little boy crying and angry because he didn’t
get to go to the “prize box” on Friday because of an
infraction on Monday. He’d been great Tuesday – Friday but
the rule was one infraction and no prize box.) To me, it
would be just like sitting at the dining room table at home
and giving dessert to the family members who I thought
“deserved” dessert, making the others sit there without.
That makes NO SENSE!
I have given up on influencing others, but I can still
control what I do in my class!
P.S. When I told my assistant about this new “Positive
Behavior Support” plan, she agreed with me that kids don’t
need to be bribed to behave. She then announced, “Julie
(name changed) won’t be getting an ice cream sandwich.”
Julie is a bossing, bullying little girl we work with a
lot. I said, “Oh, yes she will.” While my assistant raised
her eyebrows, I explained that what she had just said is an
example of people’s misguided notions. It’s already
predictable who would be likely to “lose” and who would be
likely to “win” in this ice cream sandwich game.
NOTE: “Punished by Rewards” is the apt title of Alfie
Kohn’s tome on this subject.
I attended one of your seminars with a couple of other staff
members last year in Adelaide, South Australia. We all felt
it was one of the very best days away from school we had
ever had and was professionally and personally very
Cosmo Antenucci St Joseph’s Memorial School, Norwood, Australia