Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – December 2004

Volume 4 Number 12


 1. Welcome

 2. Promoting Responsibility

 3. Increasing Effectiveness

 4. Improving Relationships

 5. Promoting Learning

 6. Implementing The Raise Responsibility System:

    Your Questions Answered

    Free Mailring

    Impulse Management Posters and Cards



A mother passing by her

daughter’s bedroom was astonished to see the bed was nicely made and everything

was picked up. Then she saw an envelope propped up prominently on the center of

the bed. It was addressed, “Mom.” With the worst premonition, she opened the

envelope and read the letter with trembling hands:

Dear Mom,

It is with great regret and sorrow that I’m writing you. I had to elope with my

new boyfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Dad and you. I’ve been

finding real passion with John and he is so nice even with all his piercing,

tattoos, beard, and his motorcycle clothes. But it’s not only the passion, Mom.

I’m pregnant and John says that we will be very happy. He already owns a trailer

in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. He wants to have

many more children with me and that’s now one of my dreams, too.

John taught me that marijuana doesn’t really hurt anyone, and we’ll be growing

it for us and trading it with his friends for all the cocaine and ecstasy we

want. In the meantime, we’ll pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so John

can get better; he sure deserves it!

Don’t worry, Mom; I’m 15 years old now and I know how to take care of myself.

Some day I’m sure we’ll be back to visit so you can get to know your


Your daughter,


P.S.: Mom, none of the above is true. I’m over at Monica’s house. I just wanted

to remind you that there are worse things in life than my report card, which is

in my desk drawer. I love you! Call when it is safe for me to come home.


+ + +.


As I focus on this fleeting

year, I have tried to keep and balance my responsibilities. They fall into five

foundational categories:

Family – immediate and far-reaching

Finance – and contributory fulfillment

Fitness – physical and psychological

Faith – religious, and optimism in resolving failings

Friends – to feed and find anew

I hope to have been successful and to be even more so in the coming year..


There are emotional

challenges that all of us have. One of them pertains to worrying about the

future. Worry is fear of the unknown. It is negative self-talk. If you reflect

on the things that you have worried about, you will conclude that they rarely

occurred in reality.

As with worry, some people live with past failures, with past hurts, and thereby

bring past negative emotions into the present.

One of the keys to happiness is to practice thinking in the present–rather than

dwelling on the worry of the future or negativity of the past.

Controlling our thoughts to stay in the present by redirecting negative thoughts

into positive ones is a habit which can be developed.

I think of a short sentence and a reflective question which help me move from

future worry or past negativity to “present thinking.”

The sentence:

     “Future worry and negative memory are my creations.”

The reflective question:

     “What else can I think about?”


I have heard it said that

the three most powerful words are, “I am sorry.”

Far more powerful are the words, “I love you” or “Please forgive me..



How do you encourage kids to

do homework?

I feel like I’m constantly chasing after students to do it.

I find that it’s a reflection of my teaching that they’re

not putting effort into it.


In order to differentiate

between EFFORT in EMPLOYMENT and

EFFORT in LEARNING, I avoid the use of the word, “work.”

Rather than referring to homeWORK, I refer to home


The only reflection on your teaching should be to ask

yourself whether or not the assignments are relevant,

meaningful, and/or useful.

Following are some suggestions:

1. Give choices – Give more than one option for the

assignments and have students choose their preference.

2. Explain that there is not enough time to cover everything

in class. Also, as it takes practice to learn any skill it

also takes practice to reinforce learning. Inform students

that the brain retains little unless there is reinforcement,

much the same way that a person improves skills only with

practice. Emphasize that home assignments are given to help

the students become more successful–that the assingments

are in their best interests, not yours.

3. Have a classroom meeting. Put on the table that the class

is a learning community and everyone needs to participate in

order for the class to be successful. Ask the students to

suggest ideas of how to help students who are not helping


4. Many of these students have little encouragement and

little structure at home. Help students establish procedures

for doing assignments, e.g., regular time and place each


5. Relationships can be critical. Empower by positive

comments, such as, “I know what you are cable of doing.”

Some students need to believe in someone else’s belief in

them before their belief in themselves kicks in. In such

situations aiming at level C is fine, e.g., “Don’t

disappoint me. I’m looking forward to seeing what you have


FROM A POST at the RRSystem


After fuming last night and deciding I would throw extra

homework at them and demand it back the next day and if not,

they’d be in at play time, I took many deep breaths and took

a different approach.

I started math class with a fun, interactive group activity.

Then, I brought us all together and asked why we have

homework. The kids generated a great list–about exercising

our brains, reviewing what they’ve learned, becoming more

independent to do work without the teacher’s help, and to

challenge themselves. I was really impressed!

Then, I put a copy of some exceptional homework, completed

by one of the kids in the class, on the overhead projector.

I asked the class what they noticed about it and we talked

about how this one pupil went above and beyond–how neat it

was and so clearly labelled, how he showed his work and

explained his answers. Then, instead of giving them extra

homework, I gave them a homework assignment to complete

right there in class in their HW books. That gave me a

chance to walk around and encourage them and make

suggestions about using rulers, labels, etc. We ended the

lesson with all of them having a model for what an

exceptional piece of work should look like for homework.

They have now hopefully internalized exactly what I expect

of them. I must say, I NEVER would have taken this positive

approach prior to the RRSystem, so thank you to all of you

for your constant thoughts and ideas.

Year 6 (grade 5) teacher, UK



(For those who missed this posting of last month):

I have a student who doesn’t do his homework and who

struggles in the class. Last year he would have had several

detentions from me and a failing grade. I would have forced

him to come in to do his homework and we would have been in

a power struggle.

This year I purchased several school supplies for him and

have always had a kind word for him. I recently found out he

is actually homeless and that he and his dad are living in a

cheap motel. Recently he has started spending his break time

in my class, by his own choosing, doing his math homework.

He also drew me some pictures on binder paper that he wanted

me to have. It breaks my heart to think of all the

opportunities I have missed for this type of relationship

with students.



How do we reduce noise

levels–especially in the hallways and in the cafeteria?

(This section was written on the way home from a follow-up presentation in

Vestavia Hills, Alabama. The first thing one notices upon entering the school is

a large banner that reads,

“The first thing we are going to do is an awful lot of believing in ourselves.”

–Marva Collins

I had the pleasure of first presenting a seminar to the staff of this 4th and

5th grade school in July. This second session on December 2 had a half-hour

introductory meeting with the entire staff, small meetings with groups

of teachers during the day, a faculty review at the end of the day, and then a

parent meeting in the afternoon.

NOTE: The discussion is included here because the response, like the RRSystem,

starts with teaching a hierarchy.

The school had previously sent me a list of concerns. Reducing noise levels was

on the top of their list.)


-In conjunction with a series of

posts at the RRSystem Mailring:

1) When I taught this (hierarchy below) to the children, I asked them what they

knew about using different voices. I told them I was thinking of giving numbers

to noise levels and wrote the level numbers on the board. I then asked them what

they thought each level might sound like, starting with zero. THEY PROVIDED THE


Level zero – Silence



Level 1 – Whispering


(Only the person you are

whispering to should hear you.)

Level 2 – Speaking voice


(The one you use when having

a conversation)

Level 3 – Group voice


(The voice you use when

giving a report to a group.

This is the voice I use when teaching.)

Level 4 – Playground voice


(The voice you use when you

are playing games

or shouting to your friends)



(This voice is what you use

when you are hurt or in danger. The only time you might use this voice when you

are not in danger is when you are cheering for a sports team.)

2) Kids don’t really know how to control their voices very well and need specific

instruction on how and why to do so, as well as a way to remember. I have been

telling them that when they are sitting at their table group that they should

have “Table Group” voices. That means that only someone at their table group

needs to and should hear their voice. If someone at the next table hears them or

if I hear them, then it’s too loud. Yesterday, I added “Partner voice.” They

were doing an activity in pairs and I explained that their partner was the only

one who needed to hear them. We talked about sitting close to their partner and

making sure that he/she was the only one to hear. IF WE MAKE A GENERAL STATEMENT



3) I use soft music to set the tone in my room. Justin Knight

http://www.justinknight.com/cds.htmlhas several piano Cd’s to choose from.

I use “Piano Therapy.” I tell my students if they talk they can’t hear the

music. I find that if I allow my students the opportunity to talk using level 1

(whisper voice) they can share ideas and work, too. I tell them that if they are

using level 1 the only person that will hear them is the person right next to

them. If I hear them, they know automatically that they will be told to use zero

level voice. The choice is left for them to decide.

If they come into the class using a level 2 or 3 voice, I instruct them to

return to the hall and enter again because I know they can do a better job. It’s

amazing how they respond when they are challenged or if they feel it’s their


Voice levels are the only way to go!

Discussion with the staff

centered around being proactive by

setting up a system (as the examples above that inherently

engender expectations), eliciting samples of the levels

from the students, and then practicing the acceptable


For eliminating noise when in the hallways, set up the

procedure by having students line up and then elicit a

course of action in case someone were to talk during the “no

talking in the hallway” on the way to the cafeteria.

The importance of ELICITING a “consequence” ahead of time

cannot be over emphasized. When students have set up the

procedures and then don’t follow them, adversarial

relationship are not developed when consequences are

enforced. For example, if a student were to talk on the way

to the cafeteria and the “consequence” were to go to the

front or the rear of the line, a pause and a look by the

teacher actuates the student to voluntarily follow the

“consequence.” Again, this would have been practiced in the

classroom before leaving for lunch.


You can share and learn more about the




Learning a procedure for

responding appropriately to

impulses is described on the Impulse Management link at


Return to Top



“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: