Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – November 2001

Volume 1 Number 4


  1. Welcome
  2. Promoting Responsibility
  3. Increasing Effectiveness
  4. Improving Relationships
  5. Your Questions Answered:
  6. Chat Room / Bulletin Board
  7. Public Seminars
  8. What Others Are Saying About The Book
    How Teachers and Parents Promote Responsibility & Learning”


This issue of PROMOTING RESPONSIBILITY is dedicated to my dear friend, Ivan Smith, who taught Spanish and English for well over four decades with the Los Angeles Unified School District. Ivan left us on Sunday night, November 4.

During his long and successful career as a middle, high, and adult school teacher, Ivan influenced thousands of youths and adults in ways that consistently brought him accolades from his students. He encouraged those under his tutelage to perform at their highest levels.

Ivan had a unique style of encouraging his students that raised their expectations and lifted their aspirations. He truly carried the torch of young peoplesÍs souls and touched their futures. He shaped their mindsets, their characters, their attitudes, their empathy for each other, and how they cared for their fellow human beings.

Every so often, some students have a an opportunity to have as their teacher a unique individual with special talents who can make learning challenging, enjoyable, and even fun. Ivan Edward Smith was this kind of an educator.

I and thousands of others will long remember him. We can best perpetuate his memory by encouraging and empowering others as he did.


I recently attended the international Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) conference. Much controversy exists about labeling of students as having attention deficit disorder(ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Professionals refer to the false use of the label — which was born in 1972 when education psychologist Virginia Douglas correctly realized that the most important feature of this phenomenon was distractibility resulting in difficulty to sustain attention. So the new name “Attention Deficit Disorder” was born.

People so categorized — when given something they enjoy doing — can have laser-like attention; they are just easily distracted. Also, AD/HD is not a disorder; it is a neurological condition. Professionals have identified the following as the core behavioral traits: distractibility, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity.

CHAD is highly subsidized by the pharmaceutical industry, so it was no wonder that many of the booths displayed drugs. The argument for administering drugs to children and adults so categorized runs the gamut from avoidance to dependency.

Parents who are concerned that their child exhibits distractibility, impulsivity, or overactivity can reduce stimuli which contribute to these behaviors. Among these are limiting the exposure to rapid-fire action video games and similar television programs.

Another consideration

pertains to food. In Pat WolfeÍs new book, “BRAIN MATTERS – Translating Research into Classroom Practice,” (Association for Supervision and Curriculum

Development — 800.933.2723), she notes, “The neurotransmitters that allow our neurons to communicate are made up of amino acids, which we obtain from the foods we eat. This fact gives new meaning to the saying, ‘You are what you eat.'” (p. 65).

(This short, clearly written book about how the brain learns contains an excellent explanation about the physiology of the brain, how scientists monitor its activity, and also includes applications to learning.)

Parents who have an interest in fostering effective learning have a responsibility to their children of nourishing them with those foods rich in nutrients for effective learning.

Feeding excessive sugar to young children at breakfast is a sure way to increase overactivity and reduce concentration for learning.

Another consideration pertains to food sensitivities and allergies. The Feingold diet should be investigated for children with tendencies towards AD/HD.

Parents can also promote exercise. Physical and especially aerobic exercise not only reduce stress, they also contribute to a good nightÍs sleep — which, in turn, assists in increasing attention span.

Controversy will continue regarding whether AD/HD is attributed to modern life styles or has always been with selected humans but only became apparent when literacy sit-down learning was imposed.

Either way, parents have a responsibility to investigate all available possibilities before labeling a child or subscribing to pharmaceuticals. Drugs may assist in controlling symptoms but do not alter the neural connections necessary to modify distractability, impulsiveness, or hyperactivity.


Dodie Owens is the West/Southwest representative for the Library Journal and School Library Journal. I stopped by the Journals’ booth last spring in Chicago at Book Expo America — the largest congregation of book people in North America.

While chatting with Dodie, I mentioned how much I appreciated the write-up the Library Journal gave my book. We started talking about some ideas and strategies mentioned in the publication. One topic was about how we can most effectively influence others to change their behaviors by what we ourselves do first. This discussion led to the concept about how eliciting a consequence is more effective than imposing one. Dodie related the following episode to me about Paul, her son, when he was six years old.

He and two other kindergarten boys got into a tussle on the playground, and they were disobedient. Paul knew that if I ever got a call from school about his behavior, it would be met with disapproval. When I went to pick him up, he said right away, “What’s my punishment going to be?”

I said to him that he knew what he had done wrong, that his behavior was inappropriate, and that he had to decide for himself what his punishment would be. He thought about it for awhile and decided that six days of being “grounded” should be his punishment — no electronic games, no friends over, no extra activities, no dinner out.

This happened on a Monday, and he told me that he picked six days because if he was good for those days, he would be un-grounded by Sunday and would still have one day to play on the weekend. It was a long six days for him, but he made it and actually had a friend over to play on Sunday.

When I went to pick him up on Monday from school, he was very excited and, as he left the building, he yelled out to one of his friends and a teacher’s aide, “It’s good not to be grounded!”

Perhaps you should know that

Paul started putting himself in time-outs when he was 3! Probably because that’s what I did with myself. If I became frustrated or mad or impatient with him, I would excuse myself. I would say, “Paul, I’m going to go sit on the porch and take a break. I’ll come back and talk with you when I’m calm.” He usually came to look for me to apologize for his behavior or to see if I was alright.


I have found the easiest way to improve relationships is to have procedures that can be implemented immediately.

The reason a procedure is so necessary is that emotions supercede cognition. Danial Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence,” refers to this as emotional hijacking.

One of the first procedures my wife, Evelyn, and I initiated on our honeymoon was never to go to sleep when we were angry with each other. True, on occasion we have gone to bed with feelings that have not ranked among our most pleasurable, but we never went to sleep angry. Interestingly, we discovered that talking — regardless of how difficult it was to start — always resulted in good feelings.

We were reminded of this procedure at a family affair in San Jose last weekend. My cousin, a child psychiatrist, and his wife wife, an expert in special education, reminded us of this ñadviceî we gave them some twenty years ago at their wedding. They mentioned that they are still following the procedure.

Following are a few

additional procedures which can improve relationships.

Focus on observable behavior — rather than on motivation. It is difficult if not impossible to correctly

identifying that which motivates a person. “I would like to finish my thought; then it’s your turn,” is more effective than, “You donÍt want to hear me because you want to defend her.” (My assumption of the motivation may not only be irrelevant, it may be totally wrong.)

Break tension by movement.

This can be by raising a hand, sitting down if standing, extending a hand with an open palm shaped to hold a drinking glass or some other kinesics (body movement) to momentarily alter the mood.

Have an effective, self-evaluative question ready. For example, when someone expresses anger, be ready to ask, “Are you angry with me or the situation?” This immediately prompts reflection and often dissipates anger.



We have been discussing how to use the Raise Responsibility System in our classrooms and we have a question.

When checking for understanding, if the student identifies the level correctly, do you still give a referral to fill out or do you only use a referral if the student does not give appropriate responses to the teacher questions?



A prime reason why the levels are taught (Phase I) is to create a benchmark or reference frame.

Checking for understanding (Phase 2) is the second step of simple cognitive learning theory. First we teach (levels of social development); then we test (check for understanding).

The key to the success of the program are these first two phases. When a youngster acts inappropriately, the teacher asks in a simple, inquiring tone using relaxed body language (kinesics), On what level is that behavior?î The question prompts the student to reflect on the level. That is why it is essential to teach the levels of social development first — so that the youngster has a benchmark or framework upon which to reflect.

Using phases I and II separates the act from the actor, the deed from the doer, a good kid from inappropriate behavior. The result of the procedure is that the youngster does not have to self-defend. It is defensiveness on the part of the youngster that usually results in a confrontation between adult and child. In most cases phase III,

Guided Choices, (authority without being punitive) is unnecessary — especially when the student does not acknowledge an inappropriate behavioral level. Merely ask the class, “What level do we call it when someone makes his own standards or rules?” The class will give you the answer and you continue teaching.

However, if disruptions continue then a choice is given the student, e.g., completing the essay or self-diagnostic referral by oneself, with another student, in the seat, or in the office.

The vision to keep in mind is that the most effective ways to change behaviors are: (1) using noncoercion, (2) prompting the person to self-evaluate, and (3) if authority is necessary, have the student own the consequence. When a consequence is imposed, the youngster feels the victim. But, when a consequence is elicited, the child owns it and grows from his own decision.

Remember, the vast majority of situations are handled just by using phases I and II. Phase III is used when a student has already acknowledged inappropriate behavior and continues it. The purposes then is for the teacher (1) not to become stressed and (2) to return to teaching as soon as possible. This is accomplished by isolating the student and by completing one of the self-evaluative forms.


— Chat Room/Bulletin Board

I recently received the following e-mail:

It would be great if somehow a chat room could be set up for like-minded teachers. It could be a site for those who wish to be positive and non-punitive in their methods in dealing with youngsters, where they could share their trials, their successes and their concerns, and perhaps obtain some advice and feedback from colleagues and experts such as yourself. Dr. Marshall, do you think anybody would be interested in something like this? If so, maybe you could perhaps incorporate something like this into your web page.

First, a clarification:

A chat room is a real-time live environment that requires two or more participants to be typing back and forth, similar to an AOL chat room.

There is also the bulletin board where people can post questions or thoughts and then others can view the postings and post replies at any time.

If you would be interested in a chat room or a bulletin board, please indicated your interest and

preference by e-mail. Mailto:Newsletter@MarvinMarshall.com.

Thank you.


For Educators, Youth Workers, and Parents|
Promote Responsibility and Learning

SPONSOR: Staff Development Resources.

Request a brochure for complete information. Call 800.678.8908.

Chicago, IL November 14
Milwaukee, WI November 15
Minneapolis, MN November 16
Burbank, CA March 14
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Sacramento, CA March 19
So. San Francisco March 20



   How Teachers and Parents Promote Responsibility & Learning”

“Marvin Marshall’s insights, innovative ideas, and ingenuity provide a clear plan for raising responsible

children. The benefits to schools and families are enormous.”

Gene Bedley, National

Educator of the Year


Carried by:

National Association of Elementary School Principals
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National School Boards Association
Phi Delta Kappa International