Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – July 2004

Volume 4 Number 7


 1. Welcome

 2. Promoting Responsibility

 3. Increasing Effectiveness

 4. Improving Relationships
 5. Promoting Learning

 6. Implementing The Raise Responsibility System:
Free Mailring
Your Questions Answered
Impulse Management Posters and Cards


At a recent Texas conference, an elementary school assistant principal approached me and said, and I quote verbatim, “I’m addicted to you.” Needless to say, this captured my attention, and I asked for an explanation to this rather embarrassing compliment.

She explained that after reading the Kappan article, she decided to try the approach.

After she told me of her immediate successes using the levels of social development, I encouraged her to consider writing an article which perhaps could be published in a state or national journal. She sent the beginning few paragraphs of the article to me. The following is from her writing:
I had 20 students on behavior contracts that ranged from kindergarten to fifth grade that would talk to me at 2:45 p.m. before they left for the day. The eagerness of trying this out on them made my excitement grow. I also asked my principal to come watch me talk to each student.
She and I could not believe how easy and how articulate the students were being about their behavior when I used the (levles of social development) chart and only asked questions.
We all know that the best advertising is a referral. When you see an enjoyable movie or read a good book, there is a natural inclination to share what you have enjoyed. The same holds true for learning. If you have learned something, there is a desire to share it with others.

Please take a moment and reflect on your successes with (1) understanding the differences between discipline and classroom management, (2) using the three principles to practice (positivity, choice, and reflection), and (3) the three parts to the Raise Responsibility System (teaching, asking, and eliciting).

If–by using these–you have become more successful in promoting responsible behavior, increasing your effectiveness, and/or improving your relationships, please consider one or both of the following:

1) The newsletter is continually growing and, with this issue, now has over 6000 subscribers. July–a less hectic month for some–is a good time to share this newsletter with others. Please think of just three people you believe could profit from this monthly sharing and forward this e-zine to them. If only one in three were to subscribe, by the end of the year we would double the number of people helped in learning how to promote responsibility, increase effectiveness, and improve relationships.

If you did this now by just clicking your forward button to three people in your address book, you would still have this newsletter on your computer screen and you would have shared some valuable information.

2) Think of a state or national journal and write an article about what you are doing and your successes. Although my website has dozens of testimonials, they are not nearly so effective in prompting people to practice the principles or teach young people the levels of social development and difference between external and internal motivation as are others’ personal experiences.

The noncoercive and positive approach is spreading and people are “joining up.” “Join Up” is the title of Monty Roberts’ approach. Roberts was the model for Robert Redford’s film, “The Horse Whisperer.” As with the strategies I share, his approach is one of noncoercion and trust to effect behavior changes and improve relations. If you have not read how Roberts tames a wild mustang in less than 30 minutes in front of hundreds of people, click here

Thanks for encouraging others to “join up.”


A photographer was taking the graduation picture in a large middle school. The girls positioned themselves in the front rows as directed–with the boys in the rear rows.

To ensure that the boys acted on their best behavior, one of the teachers approached a group of boys who were just standing there and said, “Now boys, don’t push the girls down the risers.”

The boys hadn’t even thought of it!

The next time you don’t want someone to do something, consider whether your meessage will tempt in a way which is counterproductive.


In last month’s e-zine, I told the story of how a noncoercive and creative approach solved a challenging problem with a disrespectful teenager.
Promoting Responsibility June ’04

Dr. James Sutton, http://www.docspeak.com, a consulting psychologist, authority on oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and long-time friend wrote me the following:

Marv, I loved the story about the girl, the newcomer, who refused to make her bed. To me, this is about fear of new situations and circumstances, a feeling of being terribly vulnerable, rather than a really deep defiant stand.

I’ve seen it with adults coming into drug and alcohol treatment. When they are terrified of being thrust into a new and semi-threatening situation, their response is almost always one of anger. Although this anger is generally directed at the closest authority figure, it’s not really personal, but it can sure LOOK that way.

Coming down hard on either an adult or child in these circumstances causes them to verify to themselves that their defiance is, indeed, justified. Result: more defiance and more problems … not less.

I still very vividly remember a burly, muscular man coming into drug and alcohol treatment. He walked into his counselor’s office screaming, “I ain’t got no sheets!” His counselor simply said, “What’s the matter, really,” and the man broke down and sobbed like a baby. I watched that counselor put his arms around him and hug him like a small child. End of

Sometimes we need to get past the sheets.
I responded to Jim:

Your take on the story is really appreciated. It gives reinforcement to the advice I often give teachers, viz., ask the student, “Are you angry at me or the situation?”

Precautionary note:
It is possible for an angry child to say he is angry at the teacher–even when the youngster is not. It sometimes is better not to say much at all to the child who is upset (initially) as ANY requirement of a verbal response might not produce the results desired. When a child (really, anyone) is upset, it is best not to press for too much information.


How can you say “No!” without saying “No!”
Acknowledge the importance of the request.
I understand why that’s important to you.

Inform the person that you have a problem with it.
But I have a problem with it.

Describe the problem as you see it.
Your doing that would mean it would put a burden
on everyone else.

Elicit from the person something else.
Let’s think of something that would be fair
to everyone.


The opening paragraph of my book deals with mindsets. It sets the stage for the entire book because my purpose is to influence young people to have mindsets where they WANT to be responsible and WANT to learn.

The following exercise (shared with me by Jack Canfield– coauthor with Mark Victor Hansen of “The Aladdin Factor” and the “Chicken Soup” series) gives students an experience of the power of imagery for both behavior and learning.

Students will need as much room as they would have in an aerobics class.

Divide the class in two groups, A and B. Say the following to group A:

I want you to close your eyes and imagine in your mind a seagull floating gracefully in the air. See it gently, easily, effortlessly gliding through the air. When you have the picture of a seagull vividly in your mind, nod you head. Now with your eyes a quarter of the way open so that you can see the floor in front of you and have a sense of where your neighbors are, move like a seagull– keeping the image of the seagull vividly in your mind. Continue that while I go over to the other group.
Say the following to group B:

Close your eyes and imagine a jackhammer. See it moving rapidly up and down in short, jerky, staccato movements. When you have that picture of a jackhammer vividly in your mind, nod your head. Now with your eyes a quarter of the way open so that you can see the floor in front of you and have a sense of where your neighbors are, move like a jackhammer–keeping the image of the jackhammer vividly in your mind. Continue that while I go over to the other group.
Turn back to group A and continue:

Once again, close your eyes and imagine that effortless, graceful seagull floating on an air current, barely moving its wings. When you have that picture vividly in your mind, nod your head. Now keeping that image of the seagull vividly in your mind, I want you to open your eyes a quarter of the way and move like a jackhammer.
Most students will have a great deal of difficulty moving like jackhammers while thinking of a seagull. Their movements will be somewhere in between jerky and graceful, or they will be frozen and unable to move at all.

Turn to group B and say:

Close your eyes again, and imagine that jerky, staccato jackhammer bouncing up and down on the pavement. When you have that picture vividly in your mind, nod your head. Now keeping the image of the jackhammer vividly in your mind, open your eyes a quarter of the way and move like a seagull.
Again, students will have a tough time making their bodies move counter to the image they are holding in their heads.

This is a very dramatic exercise–one that easily and quickly makes the point that our bodies cannot do anything counter to the images we hold in our minds.

Have the students share anything they noticed about their bodies the second time when they were holding an image counter to how they were trying to move. If any students claim that it was easy to move the second time, ask them if they were holding the image firmly in their minds. Most will admit that they had to let go of one image in order to move.

Ask them if a friend has ever asked them to do something unusual, and they responded, “I couldn’t do that; it’s not me.” The reason we say that is because we look inside our minds and see if what our friend has asked us to do fits our
perception of ourselves. If it doesn’t fit, we don’t think we can do it; so we don’t even attempt it.

Emphasize the following point: The body literally cannot move contrary to a vividly held image. Therefore, in order to change a habit or behavior, we must change our perception to include the new habit or behavior. Otherwise, any changes we make will be difficult and short-lived.


I am a psychologist who wholeheartedly supports your approach and philosophy. I am also part of a local community visioning process. Our juvenile justice system is working to introduce a “Balanced and Restorative Justice” initiative, which is a wonderful concept that aligns beautifully with your system. However, they have been approached by another project. Not surprisingly, many of those involved (probation officers, etc.) want to implement this other program as soon as possible.

However, as I reviewed its manual, I found that at its core it is about controlling kids through a one-size-fits-all “consequence” (taking away everything they want) and trying to censor and control everything the kids hear, see, wear, and do–simply another behavior-mod program.

Do you have, or do you know of any programs that focus on adolescents that are acting out in destructive/violent ways, “out-of-control” kids, that embrace a philosophy similar to yours? It would be especially helpful if they included a strong facilitator training and/or if they have been implemented in conjunction with juvenile justice systems in some way. I would be so grateful for any input you may have.


I know of no other program that is proactive, creates a DESIRE for change, and places total responsibility on the other person–rather than on the supervisor.

There are a few underlying, fundamental truths to my approach.
A person can be controlled–but only temporarily, and no one can control how another person thinks or WANTS to behave.

Although you can influence people, you cannot change them. People change themselves.

The least effective approach to influence a person is by using coercion.

Obedience does not create desire.

Two requirements are necessary for long-term change: (a) acknowledgment that a change is necessary and (b) ownership. Any IMPOSED punishment lacks the second requirement. This does not mean that expectations, standards, rules, and responsibilities are not necessary. Obviously, they are–but imposing the same punishment for all (one size fits all) (a) is not fair, (b) affects different people in different ways, and (c) is counterproductive to the objective of promoting long-term responsible behavior.

Cognition and emotions cannot be separated. One affects the other. Anything imposed–especially if it is related to punishment–puts the receiver in a victimhood mode and prompts ill feelings toward the enforcer. Good relationships are essential to prompt positive change. People do good when
they feel good. One does not ordinarily do good when feeling bad. This is a prime reason that traditional, coercive approaches are not successful and the recidivism rate is so high.
Check into what the juvenile justice system is doing in Missouri. They are more aligned with my approach and are meeting with much greater success and at half the cost than other states. (Shelly Adams is the assistant director of the
Missouri Division of Youth Services in Jefferson City, Mo and can be reached at 573.751.3324.)

The key to changing behavior is to project high expectations and then empower–rather than overpower. These young people need structure–but they have rebelled against authority all their lives. The program being considered may work–as
punishments may work–in the short term. However, these external and imposed approaches are not nearly so effective as internal and elicited approaches that CHANGE DESIRE so people WANT to be socially and individually responsible.
Share the article referred to above under “Increasing Effectiveness” click here

You can share and learn more about the

Learning a procedure to respond appropriately to impulses is described on the Impulse Management link at
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“You have greatly added to our school leaders’ arsenals for helping teachers look freshly upon a major issue.”

Patricia A. Romandetto
Superintendent Community School District 3
City of New York Board of Education