Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – March 2007

Volume 7 Number 3 


1. Welcome

2. Promoting Responsibility

3. Increasing Effectiveness

4. Improving Relationships

5. Promoting Learning

6. Discipline without Stress

7. Testimonials and Research



Dear Dr. Marshall,

I attended your workshop that was perhaps the best that the
Los Angeles Unified School District has offered in 26 years
that I have been a teacher with the district. I started
implementing all your suggestions and I am sincerely excited
to see a change in my students. In two months, they have
matured quite a lot. It is a pleasure to see my students
making good choices and displaying self-control. Thank you
for sharing such a wonderful and effective way of managing

Mary Munoz-Liebowitz
Los Angeles Unified School District


In order to make information more accessible and easier to
navigate on my main website, I have expanded the homepage
with a short description of each link. For easy reference,
take a moment to scroll down the homepage at


The previous four newsletters discussed Positive Behavior
Support (PBS). In last month’s issue, I summarized key
points of the approach. A reader wrote me indicating that
knowing the reason for a person’s action is important and
can assist in such problems as homework.

I share my response below.

Many psychologists and therapists believe that knowing the
“why” for a behavior is important. However, my quotes are
from Dr. William Glasser, an internationally renowned
psychiatrist and the author of “Reality Therapy”–updated in
his newer, “Choice Theory.” He advocates that knowing the
reason for a behavior may be of interest but, in most cases,
has little to do with actually changing behavior. Change
requires forming new neural connections. This requires new
thinking and new behavior–rather than revisiting old

An example of a student’s being noncompliant about doing
homework was related in the communication to me. The student
was diabetic, and giving this student a morning snack
greatly assisted in control of his behavior.

This is an excellent point and refers to a physical
influence. A similar case can be made for noncompliant
people with scotopic sensitivity (a brain situation where
using color filters can greatly improve reading skills). See

This student who has this condition and refuses to read is
not a behavioral problem. The person has a physical

Both of these examples, diabetes and scotopic sensitivity,
have to do with instruction (teaching and learning)–rather
than irresponsible behavior. The student is not interfering
with the teacher’s teaching, and the student is not
disrupting other students’ learning.

As I explain in my seminars, all behavior is purposeful.
Behavior is a person’s attempt to “fix” a problem or a
situation–regardless of how irrational the behavior may
be. To put it another way, behavior is an attempt to meet
the person’s desires at that moment.

It is important to remember that EMOTION TAKES PRECEDENCE
OVER COGNITION. One has to go no further than Lisa Nowak,
the recently terminated astronaut. To achieve this highly
prestigious position, she must be cognitively advanced. But
the emotion of jealousy toward a romantic rival for the
attention of a space shuttle pilot resulted in her being
accused of a criminal act.

As mentioned, PBS–as with many other approaches–focuses on
finding the motivation for the behavior. In most cases,
articulating the reason that a person “misbehaves” is very
difficult, if not impossible because all factors may not be
discernable. In addition, ascertaining the probable reason
can be a very time-consuming process.

Finding the underlying cause is certainly made easier when
the prompt is physical and especially when a relationship is
established where the student feels that the teacher wants
to help. The student is more likely to share concerns with
the teacher with whom there is a positive relationship. But
if the teacher views the student as being noncompliant about
homework or reading, then a positive relationship is hard to

Last month I spoke at the conference of the California
Association of Resource Specialists (CARS Plus). With more
and more special education students being mainstreamed in an
attempt to meet academic standards, implementing the first
two parts of the teaching model will become increasingly
valuable for the success of students with special needs.

Tapping into internal motivation is far more effective than
an approach of rewarding for expected standards of behavior.
Such an external approach inevitably punishes those who
believe that they followed all expectations but did not
receive the reward.


Times were when initiative and perseverance were
characteristics parents
promoted. Parents thought twice before
doing things for
young people that the youngsters could do for

We can promote initiative and perseverance, which are part
and parcel of responsibility, by asking ourselves, “If I do
this for the youngster when I know that the youngster is
capable, will I be depriving that person of an opportunity
for growth?”

If YOU want to grow, do it yourself.

If you want the other person to grow, don’t do those things
for these people that they can do themselves.


Near the conclusion of my keynote to 550 teachers in
Hamilton, New Zealand last month, I asked a simple question,
and an audible sound could be heard after I asked it.

The question to the teachers was, “If you were a student,
would you want yourself as a teacher?”

A similar question can be asked by a manager, a parent,
a spouse, or anyone in a relationship.


If you work with young
people, this story will be worth
reading–especially since Easter will occur before the April
newsletter will be distributed.

Tom is a seven-year old who came from a family that has a
lot of conflict and whose mother was often angry with him.
The writer of this experience (hereafter referred to as “I”)
asked the teacher what she wanted Tom to learn from an
experience where Tom did not follow the rules–but instead
took some “Easter eggs” when he was not supposed to.

The teacher said that she wanted Tom to learn to follow the
rules. I asked the teacher what did she want Tom to
REMEMBER. She looked at me with puzzled eyes. I asked her
again what she wanted Tom to remember. Did she want him to
remember that he took some eggs, broke the rules, and
received a consequence but still went home with something?
Or, did she want him to remember that she was the teacher
that didnÕt give him any eggs when all the other kids got

I then spoke about how adults remember a teacher when they
were in grade two or three and how they still hurt because
of some particular injustice that was dealt to them. I made
the comment that I am sure they are not in therapy over it,
but it still comes up in conversation all these years later
along with a dull pain.

Tom’s teacher said she certainly knew of many adult stories
of school injustice. She had a few herself. I repeated,
“What do you want tom to learn? What do you want him to

There was a pause and then the teacher told me that I was
right. Tom’s teacher remarked that I “got her” when I asked
what did she want him to remember. I also made the comment
that as adults we can reflect and make changes to what we
have said or done. That is part of adult responsibility. We
are “big” enough to do that. I then said Tom could learn
that you can negotiate in a difficult situation, you can
accept your responsibilities and you can also accept a
consequence. I asked the teacher if she wanted to do
something that would bring her closer to Tom or drive him
away. Again, she reflected. I received a reply that
suggested she wanted to be closer to Tom but was concerned
that the other children were expecting a certain consequence
to be administered.

I explained that it wouldn’t just be giving Tom what he
wanted. It would be giving him an opportunity to learn. Some
more concerns were then raised. There was a teaching partner
to consider. She also wanted Tom to receive no eggs–to go
home empty handed–because he had broken the rules. Tom’s
teacher suggested that her partner might not be so
forgiving. Unfortunately for Tom’s teacher, I said that it
would be her job to deal with her teaching partner, and I
wished her luck.

I suggested that she could talk with Tom. She could ask him
if he thought it was fair if all the kids were sent home
with five eggs (for example) including Tom–even though he
had eaten some already. It is my experience that most
children, even difficult children, can be quite honest when
it comes to fairness. Odds on, I was betting that Tom would
concede. I suggested that maybe Tom could go home with three
eggs if everyone else was going home with five.

I suggested she could alter the number of eggs to suit the
negotiations. Tom may be just as happy with one egg as he
would be with three. Was the number really relevant? Maybe.
Maybe not!

Tom could learn that there are rules, that there are
consequences when breaking a rule, and that his teacher was
being fair. He could learn that you can negotiate. He could
learn that sometimes adults change their minds after
rethinking a decision. He could learn that his teachers
care. He could have eggs in his basket and would have gone
home with a smile on his face. He could learn about
fairness, justice, and responsibility. He doesn’t get a free
ride, and his teachers remain in authority.

I asked the teacher what she thought Tom’s reaction would be
when he learned that he was going home with some eggs, even
if he had fewer than the other students. Would his reaction
be more difficult to deal with than if he realized he wasn’t
receiving any? The teacher conceded that it would probably
be a lot better if he went home with something. Again, I
reinforced that we weren’t conceding to Tom. He was learning

I wished the teacher well with whatever she decided to do
and said I would find out after the spring holidays how
things transpired. She smiled and left for class.

After the holidays I returned to the school and met the
teacher. I asked how things went with Tom on the last day
before the vacation. She paused and told me that that was an
interesting story. She was actually quite surprised by his

She had spoken to her teaching partner who still didn’t
think Tom should get any eggs. Later, all the children were
in two lines with one teacher facing a line of thirty girls
and another facing a line of thirty boys–each child with a
cardboard basket in hand. When Tom arrived at the front of
the line he was asked, “What are you doing here?” He just
dropped his head and walked out of the line. The teacher
seemed quite pleased that Tom hadn’t gone off and that he
had kept calm. It appeared that she thought things had gone

However, there was more to the story. Later in the afternoon
the teacher spotted one egg in Tom’s basket. Her eyes told
me that when she saw this she was not impressed. Tom had
taken someone’s egg. She walked up to him and demanded, “How
did you get that, Tom?”

Tom looked up at her with his brown eyes and said, “Sasha
gave it to me, Miss.”

What did I think? I thought what a noble person Sasha was. I
thought how wise Sasha was when compared to the adults whose
care she was under.? I wondered if the teachers realized
how Sasha’s approach compared to theirs.

I thought of what Tom would remember: his poor impulse
control–or how he felt about his teachers?

Paul Leitch
Queensland, Australia.


Enlightened teachers collaborate. They are not afraid to
share. The reason is that they come from abundance.

6. Discipline without Stress

“Simple Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Students” is
one of my most popular presentations. The handout that I
use when I present on the topic is now posted on my updated
website at

7. Testimonials/Research

I wanted to post (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Disciplinewithoutstress/)
how Discipline Without Stress has worked for me since
returning to school after being off track for two months.

I attended a one-day workshop of Discipline Without Stress.
I have taught many workshops for National Education
Association (NEA) sponsored workshops on classroom
management, and so I was intrigued when I heard about this
“new” way to use discipline.

I explained the responsibility system on the first day back.
My students have been very good at analyzing which level
their behavior is on. I have seen more cooperation without
my having to request it. But the best thing I like about
Discipline Without Stress is it really does take the stress
out of how I deal with my students.

Before, I used the color system and would get exasperated
when children kept making the same wrong decisions. I didn’t
smile much. But now, my whole attitude has changed because
every time I have to talk to a child about their behavior, I
simply view it as a learning opportunity for the child.
Before, I would say, “John, you have to change your color
because you were ….” At the end of the day, children
would ask me if they had earned the right to change their
color back. Now, I just ask the child to tell me what level
the behavior is on. When they tell me B, I simply say,
“Would you please behave at the C level and cooperate?” And
they do.

I had two instances where two boys were behaving on the A
level (pushing a girl down in one case and spitting food on
another child’s food tray). These actions, of course,
demanded a stronger response from me. With the girl pusher,
I calmly talked to him about how pushing was a level A
behavior and that he needed to think of something to make it
right with the girl. Through some back and forth calm
conversation, he decided he could draw her a picture of a
flower and give it to her with an apology. The spitter
thought his behavior was at the B level, but when I said,
“It’s not. It’s A behavior,” he was a little surprised and I
think taken aback that this was considered A–something that
he didn’t want. Later, he apologized and told his friend
that he wouldn’t spit food at him again.

My attitude towards irresponsibility culprits is calmer now
and I am able to help them solve their behavior issues with
a smile and not a frown.

May Ryan
Los Angeles Unified School District