Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – August 2003

Volume 3 Number 8


1. Welcome

2. Promoting Responsibility

3. Increasing Effectiveness

4. Improving Relationships

5. Your Questions Answered

6. Implementing The Raise Responsibility System:

Free Mailring

Your Questions Answered

Impulse Management Posters and Cards

7. Promoting Learning


Laura Hillenbrand’s award-winning book,

“Seabiscuit: An American Legend,” was first made into a PBS documentary and then

into a recently-released motion picture. The book has been referred to as the

best sports book ever written.

Seabiscuit–a descendant of the mighty Man o’ War–was an undersized,

crooked-legged racehorse but was the subject of the most newspaper column inches

in 1938. The horse was nothing short of a cultural icon in America.

In a test race, Seabiscuit once ran a quarter of a mile in an unheard of 22-2/5

seconds. It may have been the fastest quarter mile ever run by a yearling.

However, the horse was rather lazy–really lazy–so the trainer was confronted

with a behavioral problem.

When the rider asked him for speed, the horse slowed down. When he tried to rein

him in, the horse bolted. Asked to go left, he’d go right; tugged right, he’d

dart left. The beleaguered rider could do no better than cling to the horse’s

neck for dear life.

At only three years old, Seabiscuit had already run forty-three races, far more

than most horses contest in their entire careers. Raced constantly, he surely no

longer lacked for fitness. His problems were predominantly mental.

He was showing signs of burnout. He became edgy, stopped sleeping, and spent his

nights pacing around his stall. He fought savagely in the starting gate and

sulked his way through races, sometimes trailing the field from start to finish.

He was considered mean, restive, and ragged.

The horse was sold. Seabiscuit’s new trainer knew what he was seeing. The

horse’s competitive instincts had been turned backward. Instead of directing his

efforts against his opponents, he was directing them against the handlers who

tried to force him to run. The horse habitually met every command with

resistance. He was feeding off the fight, gaining satisfaction from the distress

and rage of the man on his back. The trainer knew how to stop it. He took

coercion completely out of the equation so the horse could rediscover the

pleasure of speed.

Neither the trainer nor his rider raised a hand to him. Their noncoercive

approach transformed Seabiscuit from a rogue to a pliant, happy horse. He never

again fought a rider and went on to win races–including beating War Admiral in

the “race of the century.”

The lesson as it applies to promoting responsibility, increasing effectiveness,

and improving relationships:

coercion gets you reluctance, resistance, resentment, defiance, and rebellion.

Nurture the nature of whom you are trying to influence –without coercion. You

will not only enjoy the process but the successes of your approach.


Earlier this week, I spent a few days at a

church campground conference center. Between my Sunday evening keynote and my

Monday afternoon seminar to the teachers of the denomination’s religious

schools, I invested some time in self-reflection.

Self-reflection focuses on looking inward–how to control passions, redirecting

impules, restraining oneself from temptation, monitoring one’s ego, assessing

the balance between the amount of time devoted to entertainment and time devoted

to learning, and such things as what the individual needs to do in order to

develop good character traits and become a good, contributing member of society.

Many of the early Americans–George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and of course

Benjamin Franklin, to name but few–focused on what they could and would do to

become better people.

Striving to improve oneself has long-been an American characteristic. As a

youngster, my New Year’s resolutions were always aimed at self-improvement. The

reflection time I invested at the campground reminded me that self-reflection is

an activity in which I should engage in more regularly.


There are three time-tested

approaches for putting your ideas across to arouse interest and enthusiasm.

The first is to use a fishing pole.

Since it is very difficult to ram a hook into a fish’s mouth, the fisherman

casts his pole temptingly near the fish. The fish is then enticed to come to the

baited hook. The point: don’t appear too anxious to have your idea accepted;

just bring it out where it can be seen. People will accept your idea especially

when they consider it their own. Say something like, “Have you considered this,”

instead of, “This is the way.” Similarly, “You think this idea would work?” is

better than, “Here’s what we should do!” Let the others sell themselves on your

idea; then they will stay sold.

The second is to let the other person argue your case for


Present your own objections first. People feel compelled to react when an

objection is raised. Ben Franklin said that the way to convince another is to

state your case moderately and accurately. Then he suggested saying that you may

be mistaken about it–which prompts your listener to convince you of the

correctness of your position. On the other hand, if you present your idea in a

tone of great confidence and arrogance, you may get an opponent.

Abraham Lincoln used a variation of this technique in selling his position to a

jury. He argued both sides of the case. But there was always his subtle

suggestion that his side was the logical one. An opposing lawyer once said that

Lincoln made a better statement of his case to the jury than he could have made


Technique three: Ask; don’t tell.

Perhaps the most famous such sell was made by Patrick Henry. In his famous

“Liberty or Death” speech, notice how he used this approach:

Our brethren are already in the field.

Why stand we here idle?

Shall we lie supinely on our backs?

What is it that gentlemen wish?

What would they have?

Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at

the price of slavery?

If the same were said in statements, the result would have been

antagonism–instead of a spur to action.

Again, three techniques for selling your ideas: (1) Use a fishing pole, (2) Let

someone else argue your case for you, and (3) Ask, rather than tell.


I believe most theories about the stress and

strain of adolescence have focused incorrectly on such factors as physical

changes, emerging sexuality, new social demands, struggles between being a child

and an adult, and other such reasons.

This period is difficult for both youth and parents largely because the

adolescent becomes so independent of parents that control of the youngster is

difficult. Attempts at continual control so often lead to a reluctance to do

what the parent wishes–which in turn leads to a power struggle, resulting in

even more reluctance, resentment, and


Parents assume that adolescent rebellion and hostility are inevitably a function

of this stage of development. I believe the real reason is that these young

people become more able to resist parental power. The typical adolescent behaves

as he does because he has acquired enough strength and resources to satisfy his

own desires and has attained enough of his own power so that he does not fear

the power of his parents.

An adolescent, therefore, does not rebel against his parents. He rebels against

their power.

If parents were to rely less on power and more on noncoercive types of influence

from infancy on, there would be little left for the child to rebel against when

he becomes an adolescent.

The use of power and coercion to effect change in the young (really, with any

person) has severe limitations. These limitations with the young come before

parents realize the power struggles they have created.



I have 2 sons, 13 & 15. They fight all the

time! It’s not just a punch here, and a shove there; it escalates to a down and

out brawl. My older son tells me I favor the younger. I try to be fair, but my

older son just likes to “pick, pick, pick” at the younger one, and my younger

son has a quick fire temper. He just can’t ignore the “picking.” He retaliates.

When they both tell me how a fight started, they each have a different story.

Whom do I believe?

How can I stop the fighting, and how can I make them respect me again?

The stress of these daily fights is affecting my health. It can’t be good for

them either.


Next time a fight occurs, have each of them

write down his version of how the fight started and then come up with a solution

to prevent it from occuring again.

After handing you their little assignment, have the brothers read the other’s

paper out loud. This will help each understand the other brother’s feelings.

The brothers are not “released” until they come to an agreement on how to

prevent a future incident. However, each brother can only say what he, himself,

will do (or refain from doing) in the future. (See solving circles in the book.)

Regarding respect for you, inform the boys that they lose respect for themselves

when they do not respect you. Then, stop telling them what to do or not do.

Elicit behavior from them by asking reflective questions, e.g., “What would a

responsible person do in this situation?”



You can share and learn more about the





Here are a few situations most likely to

occur in the classroom. They are all social situations. How do you respond using

the RRS system?

1. A student tells the teacher another student pulled her hair and won’t stop.

She asked the person to stop and she won’t.

2. A boy hits a girl. When asked about the situation the boy says, “She hit me

first.” (Usually it’s a tap on the shoulder interpreted as a “hit”)

3. A students says another student keeps calling her names likes “crybaby”.


The foundation of the Raise Responsibility

System is teaching the hierarchy–which does a number of things, but perhaps the

most significant is that it separates the act from the actor (to use Alfie

Kohn’s phrase), the deed from the doer, the behavior from the person.

As long as reference is made to a person’s action, that person will be prompted

to self-defend. By referring to a level of social development, self-defense is

unnecessary because reference is made to something “outside” the person.

Without teaching the levels and continually referring to them in examples for

both behavior and learning, you would not be using the system.

Assuming you and your students understand the levels, when an inappropriate

behavior occurs, the second phrase of the system is employed. This second phase

is referred to as “Checking for Understanding.” This two-step approach is simply

using cognitive learning theory. You have taught; now you check for


It is this reflection which prompts self-evaluation. And self-evaluation is the

most effective approach to influence a person to change.

The youngster has acted inappropriately, so the reflected question to be asked

is (privately, if practical), “On what level is that behavior?” Remember that

the person asking the question controls the conversation. If the student doesn’t

answer, continue to ask the same question. A “scripting” of sample conversations

is in the book.

If the behavior continues, then go to the third part of the system, “Guided

Choices.” The most effective approach here is to elicit a procedure by asking,

“What do you suggest we do next time so that you will not be a victim by letting

your impulses direct you?” “Do you really want to be a victim of your impulses?

If not let’s come up with a procedure so you can be a victor, rather than a

victim, when

you get that same impulse.”

Specifically in each of the situations above, I would respond by asking: “What

level is it when someone bothers someone else?” Then walk away. If bothersome

activity continues, go into “Guided Choices.”

Another approach is to say to the “bullying” student, “Don’t worry about what

will happen later. We’ll talk about it after class.” This approach will

immediately redirect the student’s thinking about his unacceptable behavior.

I would also use solving circles–described in the book.


Learning a procedure to respond appropriately

to impulses is described on the Impulse Management link at:



My PROMOTING LEARNING article on <teachers.net/gazette>

for this month is about business being a poor model for learning. Business is

competitive. Competition improves performance in athletics, music competitions,

and other activities where people are motivated to improve and win. However,

competition is devastating for improving learning.

Read why government, business, and educational leaders have based their

decisions about learning on faulty reasoning–which already is having disastrous

results as exemplified by third graders (especially conscientious ones) having

anxiety attacks and the surge of high school students giving up and just

dropping out of school).

People will look back twenty years from now (if not sooner) and ask, “How could

we have been so foolish as to allow this to occur?”

The article is at: