Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – May 2007

Volume 7 Number 5 


1. Welcome

2. Promoting Responsibility

3. Increasing Effectiveness

4. Improving Relationships

5. Promoting Learning

6. Discipline without Stress

7. Testimonials and Research 



Posted on TechLearning.com

May 1, 2007

Marvin Marshall is the author of the book, “Discipline

Without Stress, Punishment or Rewards,” and publishes a

monthly email newsletter that shares additional thoughts

from him and other educators about his philosophy and

method. I don’t use every aspect of his system. However, I

have found its emphasis on putting more responsibility on

the student to control his/her behavior (as opposed to the

teacher trying to “control” the student) much closer to what

works best for me and my students than any other classroom

management techniques I know.

Larry Ferlazzo


On May 3, I presented my teaching model to 250 attendees in

Lancaster, California. The attendees included 90 interns

plus university staff and K-12 teachers.

The organizers were true educational collaborators.

Organizers of the event were members from the office of the

Kern County Superintendent of Schools; staff members from

California State University, Bakersfield–Antelope Valley

Center; and personnel from various Beginning Teachers

Support and Assessment (BTSA) centers.

One of the points I continued to emphasize was that the

system CAN BE IMPLEMENTED IMMEDIATELY. The only requirement

is to teach the four vocabulary concepts and then have

students create examples of them in their own classroom

and/or for various activities. Anyone can teach the four

concepts at anytime–even during the last few weeks of the

school year.

I received the following e-mail the evening after the

presentation (reproduced with permission):

“I suspended a defiant student earlier in the week and was

dreading having him return to my classroom on Friday.

After hearing your inspiring talk, I was able to put my

arm around him and walk with him while I asked him what

we could do to fix the situation. His idea was to write

a contract, which I’m not sure is the best solution.

“However, having him give thought to where to go now

seemed to lift his self-esteem and help him be more

cooperative in my class. I’m sure that it will take me a

lot of trial and error to really ‘get it,’ but

your method is what I see as the best path. Thanks so

much; it was just what I needed.” –Susan Zahn



Here is an example of how choice can be used to redirect an

impulse towards more responsible behavior–even with a very

young child. It is part of a communication from a friend.

“I marvel at what my grandson understands and how he

manages to communicate. The other night the parents went

to dinner, and he started to cry real tears and scream. I

picked him up and gave him a hug and proceeded to explain

to him that mommy and daddy went to dinner and they would

soon come back. Then I asked him if he wanted to keep on

crying until they returned or play with his trains. The

tears shut off like a switch! He loves Thomas the Train.

“I realized that I gave him the choice of taking

responsibility for his behavior in that situation. Pretty

cool, huh! He’s all of 28 months old!”


We know that when stress overcomes us, choices seems

limited–thereby decreasing effectiveness. Behavioral

scientists have a name for this psychological reaction:

learned helplessness.

This phenomenon has been studied in laboratory rodents whose

nervous system bears striking similarities to that of

humans. Here is how one experiment works. If you provide

mice with an escape route, they typically learn very quickly

how to avoid a mild electrical shock that occurs a few

seconds after they hear a tone. But if the escape route is

blocked whenever the tone is sounded, and new shocks occur,

the mice will eventually stop trying to run away. Later,

even after the escape route is cleared, the animals simply

freeze at the sound of the tone–despite the fact that they

once knew how to avoid the associated shock.

Obviously, humans have more intellectual resources than

mice, but the underlying principal remains. Just being aware

of the nervous system’s built-in bias toward learned

helplessness in the face of unrelieved stress can help

identify and develop healthy habits that will buffer at

least some of the load.

It is important not to ignore how the brain changes when

under continual stress. You owe it to yourself and others

for whom you care not to let this happen. You can accomplish

this by (1) realizing that regardless of the situation,

stimulus, or urge, a person’s RESPONSE IS ALWAYS a choice

(consciously or nonconsciously), and (2) developing the

habit of redirecting negative self-talk. Learning to act

reflectively (rather than reflexively) can prevent learned

helplessness that inevitably reduces effectiveness.



Studies suggest that
smiling makes people appear more

attractive, kinder and, by some accounts, easier to


All smiles share something in common: an emotional

foundation. Depending upon what the emotion is, the brain

sends different instructions to the face. The areas in

instigating a polite, or voluntary, smile (the kind

exchanged with a bank teller, for example) are not the same

ones involved in a more emotional smile (such as the kind

that emerges on seeing a loved one or hearing a funny joke).

However, regardless of what prompts a smile, the results are

the same. Both you and the recipient are prompted to have

good feelings.


Logic prompts people to think. Emotions prompt people to


This fact applies to learning, also.

If you want people to remember what you teach, touch an

emotional chord by painting a picture or by telling a story.

There is a greater chance of the learning staying in

long-term memory using these approaches than when the lesson

just focuses on information itself.

6. Discipline without Stress

The following is about how to help students develop

self-discipline. It is from a post at the mailring:

I have a student who has been demonstrating increasingly

disruptive behaviors throughout this year. I have all kinds

of support for him–principal, school counselor, behavioral

specialist–we’re all involved, every day. We have tried

different behavior plans; so far, nothing has really been

successful. Right now, it looks like this student may be

spending less time in my room until these behaviors are in

control. My question is how do I teach the other students

that it’s better for them to ignore this student’s behavior

than to be an audience, or worse, play along? I need some

“choice words” to really explain it and underscore the

importance of this.

Students did a great job today and I complimented them on

doing so after the student had been removed from the room. A

couple of them asked me individually why that student wasn’t

with us and I told them that when behaviors interrupt

everyone’s learning time, it can’t be permitted to go on and

that the student was with the principal. Any advice/good

words to use?


This is just how I love to use the Discipline without Stress

hierarchy–to motivate kids to be in control of themselves.

For situations like this, I find a discussion centered

around the understandings of Marvin Marshall’s DISCIPLINE

WITHOUT STRESS HIERARCHY to be invaluable. You wanted some

CHOICE words to use. One of the principles that forms the

basis of this approach is helping kids understand that all

personal behaviour is a choice.

In a nutshell, Marshall’s approach fosters SELF-discipline.

This is exactly what I imagine you are hoping your students

will develop with respect to managing their own behaviour

when faced with a classmate, who at the moment, is

displaying very little self-discipline.

Marshall’s Hierarchy has four levels of personal/social

development: Levels A, B, C, D. Levels A (Anarchy) and B

(Bossing/Bullying) describe unacceptable behaviour in any


Just as an example, your disruptive student is often

choosing to operate at these lower levels of A and B at the

moment. In other words, he is NOT in control of himself and

relies on an adult to take control of his behaviour most of

the time. Just as you explained to those students in your

class who were curious as to the whereabouts of your

disruptive student, whenever a person doesn’t manage his/her

own behaviour in an acceptable manner, then the adult has to

take over and manage their behaviour FOR THEM. In your case,

the adults in the school have found it necessary to remove

this child from the room in order to preserve the learning

environment for all the other students. It’s only fair that

the other students be given the opportunity to have an

orderly, safe classroom in which to learn.

Now, here’s an important point from Marshall’s program for

students to understand:

All behaviour is a personal CHOICE. If any of them were to

follow along and misbehave–by copying your disruptive

student or even by just giving him encouragement as an

appreciative audience–they too would be CHOOSING to operate

at a lower level than acceptable.

In discussing the situation, you would also talk about the

other two levels, C (Cooperation) and D (Democracy), which

both describe HIGHER levels of personal and social

development. Level C is acceptable. But then there is Level

D, which describes something even higher than

acceptable behaviour. You might think of it as EXCEPTIONAL,

although Marshall doesn’t use that exact word in his


Teachers who use this hierarchy to help students understand

self-win situations explain ALL the levels to their classes

but they focus especially on some important understandings

related to the highest two levels, C and D.

The difference between Level C and D (that is, between

acceptable and exceptional behaviour), can be explained in

terms of motivation.

At Level C, a student is motivated EXTERNALLY to behave

themselves by cooperating and by willingly conforming to the

expectations of the adult–AS LONG AS THE ADULT IS PRESENT.

In your situation, this would describe students who can

manage themselves appropriately in the classroom (even

though one child is being incredibly disruptive in front of

them) whenever they notice the teacher is nearby or directly

looking their way.

This level is higher than Level B because (at least when the

teacher is present and is watching), the child operating at

Level C is self-disciplined enough to do the right thing.

THEIR MOTIVATION IS EXTERNAL. They are motivated to do the

right thing, perhaps to please their teacher or because they

realize that to do anything disruptive would only lead to

getting themselves into trouble.

Level C is the expected level of behaviour in the classroom

in Marshall’s system of discipline. It is the level of

simple obedience. In all other discipline systems that I’ve

seen, this level is considered the highest level of

behaviour, but not so in Marshall’s approach. HAVING A



Level D is the level of taking responsibility for yourself.

It is the level of SELF-discipline. It is the level of

doing the right thing SIMPLY BECAUSE it is the right thing

to do. In other words, students operating at Level D think

for themselves. They consciously make CHOICES for themselves

with the understanding that all behaviour is a personal


When operating from this highest level, a student does the

right thing REGARDLESS of whether or not an adult is

present. In your situation, this is a student who notices

that a fellow student has chosen to behave in inappropriate

ways and yet is not influenced to follow along–whether the

teacher is watching or not.

They decide for themselves that following along or giving

encouragement to the disruptive student would only mean that

their own behaviour was no better off than that of Fred, the

disruptive student. They would no longer be in control of

themselves. In fact, they would be ALLOWING FRED TO BE IN


When you complimented your class on being able to manage

themselves when one student was losing it, you were actually

describing to them that they were either on Level C or D of




person is MOTIVATED to act correctly.

Some of your students would have been on Level C; they were

motivated to act appropriately BECAUSE YOU WERE IN THE ROOM,

and your presence motivated them (externally) to behave

themselves. This is acceptable, but it’s not the highest

level of behaviour.

Some would likely have been operating on the higher level,

Level D. They simply knew inside themselves that to follow

or encourage the disruptive student would be inappropriate.

In other words they were INTERNALLY motivated. They wouldn’t

have followed along with Fred and acted inappropriately

–even if they were all alone in the room with him.

Here’s the conversation I might have with my class (and HAVE

HAD with previous classes) if we were in the same situation.

Just as you did, when it came up, I would be quite up front

in discussing that Fred is sometimes working elsewhere in

the school. Just as you did, I would explain that his

behaviour is out of control at the moment and that he is

showing little self-discipline. I would ask someone in the

class to identify the hierarchy level of this type of

disruptive behaviour. Any child in the class would be able

to correctly identify it as either Level A or B. Then I

would ask them to tell me what happens when someone chooses

to operate at an unacceptable level–to the point where it

interferes with other people’s learning. Someone would say

that when a student continually operates at Level B, a

teacher has to take over. A teacher has to be the boss and

tell the person what to do.

Then I would agree and say that yes, that is what the

current situation is. Fred has such little self-discipline

at the moment that the adults have decided that he needs to

work somewhere else in the school so that others can still

learn and HE can be helped to learn some self-discipline.

Hopefully, with some help, Fred will soon learn to control

himself enough to be able to rejoin the class in an

acceptable manner. Then he, too, will be able to move

forward in his schooling.

Then I would initiate a discussion about the behaviour of

EVERYONE ELSE in this situation. I would talk about how we

all have a personal CHOICE in how we respond to Fred and his

lack of self-discipline. I would ask them to imagine some


For example, I would say:

What if someone chose to follow along and copy Fred? What

level would that be? (B)

What if someone chose to encourage Fred by laughing or

making other comments? (B)

Would people who chose to encourage Fred, or be influenced

into following Fred, be self-disciplined THEMSELVES?

I would talk about how some people in this situation might

follow or encourage Fred, thinking that it was FRED’S FAULT

that they were misbehaving. I would make sure that everyone

understood that Fred’s behaviour can ONLY INFLUENCE our own,

IF WE ALLOW that–if we have no self-discipline ourselves.

Then I would move to discussing higher level behaviour,

Level C and D. I would first get them to describe behaviour

at each of these levels. Some kids would be able to do this.

They would explain that at Level C, a student watching Fred

and his antics wouldn’t follow or encourage Fred BECAUSE

they see the teacher in the room and know that it wouldn’t

be a good idea to act like Fred because then they’d be in

trouble, too.

I’d say, yes, that’s true. Level C is acceptable behaviour.

They would be able to manage their own response to Fred

because they’d be smart enough not to do something

inappropriate themselves WITH A TEACHER WATCHING. We’d talk

about how they were doing the right thing–but that they

were relying on the presence of the teacher to influence

them in how they chose to behave. The result would be that

classroom atmosphere would remain fairly calm and we’d be

helping Fred, too, because he would see what self-discipline

looks like in the rest of us.

Then I’d remind them that both Level C and D are acceptable

and I would ask them this:

If Level C is acceptable, how is Level D higher?

Then some child would be able to explain that Level D is

higher because the person at Level D wouldn’t be influenced


even if the teacher wasn’t in the room at all. Regardless of

whether the teacher was in the room or not, they wouldn’t

follow or encourage Fred simply because they know what is

the right thing to do. They wouldn’t want to encourage Fred

to act up because they would know that wasn’t helping Fred,

and they wouldn’t follow Fred because they would not want to

sink to Level B behaviour themselves.

Then we’d talk about the benefits of being self-disciplined

and being internally motivated to do the right thing simply

because it’s the right thing to do in the situation. We’d

talk about HOW GOOD IT FEELS to be in control of yourself.

We’d talk about how people who are self-disciplined can

respect themselves. When people often operate at a high

level, they understand that to sink down to a lower level

and follow along with Fred means that they would be part of

the problem. What self-respecting person wants to think of

themselves as a problem! It FEELS GOOD to respect yourself

and think highly of your own behaviour. Operating at Level D

allows you to take pride in yourself.

We’d talk about how another benefit of acting at the highest

level is that OTHER people also respect us and learn to

trust us. We ensure that our relationships with other people

will be very good if they come to know us as people who

often choose to do the right thing in any given situation.

Others come to count on us. It FEELS GOOD INSIDE to know

that other people think highly of you and can count on you

to do the right thing.

As I said, I have had this exact same discussion with my own

class in previous years and have many similar discussions

EVERY day about the benefits of operating at a high level–

about exactly WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE to operate on a high level

in ordinary everyday situations. For instance, what does it

look like to be self-disciplined in the situation of getting

math corrections caught up to date? What does it look like

to be self-disciplined on a field trip? What does it look

like to be self-disciplined as you walk down the hall?

Although this might sound as if it would be above the heads

of primary students, it isn’t at all. I teach grade ones and

twos this year and know that grade threes can certainly

understand the concepts mentioned above. Simply use

vocabulary you know they will understand to get the points


Although this way of thinking about behaviour and

self-discipline is very new to most teachers, I sense from

your post that you are already thinking along these same

lines. I hope my own experiences with fostering

self-discipline through Marvin Marshall’s DISCIPLINE WITHOUT

STRESS might be of value to you!

Kerry in BC

7. Testimonials/Research

I just want to let you know that your e-newsletter of

promoting discipline and learning really helps me in my

personal life (as well as my professional life, of course)!

Just so you know, I’m currently training teachers in India

and I have the opportunity to train many of them in

Discipline without Stress! The word is being spread!

Jenny Beahrs

Akanksha Foundation, Chandrakant, Lane No.3

Wakdewadi, Shivaji Nagar Pune, 411 005