Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – March 2003

Volume 3 Number 3


  1. Welcome
  2. Promoting Responsibility
  3. Increasing Effectiveness
  4. Improving Relationships
  5. Your Questions Answered
  6. Implementing The Raise Responsibility System:
  7. Free Mailring
  8. Your Questions Answered


“I think; therefore, I am” is perhaps the most famous statement in the history of philosophy. The statement by Rene Descartes, written in 1637, still has a significant influence on our thinking in the 21st century.

The statement is the foundation of Cartesian dualism that separates the brain from the body. In his book, “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain,” Antonio Damasio challenges Descartes’ pronouncement.

Damasio, a Portugese-born M.D. and Ph.D., professor of Neurology, and head of the department of neurology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, and adjunct professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, is the recipient of scores of scientific honors and prizes. He is internationally recognized for his research on the neurology of vision, memory, and language along with his contributions to the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.

He contrasts the brain (neurological) with the mind (psychological) and postulates that the brain, body, and mind are so interwoven by collections of systems that they cannot be separated.

Contrary to traditional scientific opinion, Damasio provides convincing evidence that feelings cannot be separated from cognition. In fact, our emotions significantly effect our thinking.

He also postulates that internal communications are image-based. This is especially dear to me since my approach is based on communicating positive images.

Damasio gives the example that many people fear flying more than driving in spite of the fact that a rational calculation of risk unequivocally demonstrates that we are far more likely to survive a flight between two given cities than a car ride between the same two cities. The difference, by several orders of magnitude, favors flying over driving. And yet most people FEEL safer driving than flying. The reason may be that we allow the image of a plane crash, with its emotional drama, to dominate the landscape of our reasoning and to generate a negative bias against the correct choice (pages 191-192).

Damasio shows neurologically two basic foundations of my approaches to promote responsible behavior and learning:

1. A change in behavior is as much emotion-based as it is cognition-based, and

2. The human mind thinks in pictures, images, and visions. My corollary is that if you want to influence a person to change behavior, empower them with positive images–rather than overpowering them with negative ones.


In a recent article entitled, “Teaching Your Children Responsibility,” the author stated the following:

“When you give a child an allowance that’s tied to doing chores or work, it becomes much more meaningful and begins teaching children about the rewards and frustrations of having to earn a living.”

This reasoning is very common: REWARDS ARE THE RESULT OF WORK.

HOWEVER, THIS THINKING IS MISDIRECTED. Employment is contract-based. A wage is compensation for services.

Therefore, tying an allowance to work is misdirected. The purpose for giving an allowance is to generate an understanding of finance, budgeting, and experience scarcity and wealth.

Let the youngster know that the reason for the allowance is to have some spending money coupled with the experience of handling money.

Regarding chores: They are a natural result of living–be it with a family or by oneself. Performing chores is an aspect of performing a service. It is this “giving”–this service–that is the key to growth and a successful, happy life.

Young people deserve to have these basic understandings explained to them–both the purpose of allowances and the purpose of chores.


President Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

How many times have we given up only to find that one more attempt would have brought success.

As a salesman and later a sales manager, my mantra was a four-letter word:

“Next!” Every rejection prompted this thought, which gave me optimism and kept me going.


What we think is a simple sharing of opinion can be construed by the other party as denigrating.

In such cases, it doesn’t do any good to try to convince the person that the way he or she feels is wrong. You need to deal with the way the person feels to effect their thinking.

The most effective way to do this is to apologize–that your intent was not to prompt poor feelings but rather just to share an opinion. Then acknowledge that you accept their opinion–even if you differ with it.

That’s what diversity means.



Dear Dr Marshall,

I am mother of two young children (age 3 and 2). I just finished reading the second chapter of your book about motivating. How can I apply the theories for young children? I think without giving rewards and punishments it is hard to make them learn appropriate/inappropriate behavior. Is it too abstract for a preschooler to understand internal motivation?


Yes, your children are too young to understand the concept of internal motivation. However, you can teach them appropriate behavior without using rewards or punishments.

Here are a few techniques:

  1. When the child does something that is not appropriate, lightly touch a wrist and move your head sideways (in a “no” “no” motion). Persevere. You may have to do this a number of times before comprehension sets in.
  2. When the child starts to cry because he does not receive what he “needs” (read: “wants” or “seeks”), hug the child. If crying continues, hug harder.
  3. Divert the child’s attention with another activity.
  4. When your three-year-old is able to understand, continually use two phrases:
    • A. Show me what is the right thing to do.
    • B. What would a responsible person do?

Download “Tips for Parents.” Enjoy their childhood.


A free mailring–allowing you to pose questions and give and get feedback–has been established for the RAISE RESPONSIBILITY

SYSTEM. To join, go to http://www.groups.yahoo.com.

Then insert “Raise Responsibility System” in the search box.



I have heard you say that not knowing a consequence is more effective than telling a student what the consequence is. How is that since we are required to post consequences for inappropriate classroom behavior?


When the concept of posting consequences was first introduced, I was an assistant principal of a high school of 3,200 students. My experiences at that suburban school, as well as my counseling and administrative experience in urban schools in Los Angeles, prompted the thought–which I still believe: When dealing with inappropriate behavior, not knowing is more powerful and effective than knowing.

When someone knows a consequence for an inappropriate behavior, the risk is reduced. But when the person does not know the consequence, the mind cannot make a connection and leaves the person “hanging.” The insecurity of not knowing what will happen is unnerving and is more effective than the security of knowing.

You can prove this to yourself. The next time a student is behaving on an inappropriate level on the hierarchy of social development, just whisper in the student’s ear, “Don’t worry about what will happen. We’ll talk about it after class.”

The student will immediately stop the disruption (your desired response) and think about what is going to happen.

In addition, an imposed consequence has little effect on changing future behavior. The proof of this is the number of times the same student is sent to detention or referred to the office. The reason is that something IMPOSED lacks ownership. Ownership of a consequence is necessary for promoting responsibility, and it is essential for long-lasting behavioral change.

A more effective approach than imposing a consequence is simply to explain that the behavior was inappropriate, and then ask, “What do you suggest we do about it?” In the process, develop a procedure to help the person respond to his impulses in an appropriate way. Without some procedure, some technique, the youngster is just as likely to become a victim of his impulses in the futre as he has been in the past.