Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – October 2004

Volume 4 Number 10


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



Please consider this a personal thank you for joining the increasing number of leaders, parents, teachers, schools, and school districts who believe that promoting responsibility is significantly more important in the 21st century than aiming at obedience by using coercive and manipulative approaches.

The word is spreading.

The most referenced book in education is Dr. Harry Wong and
Dr. Rosemary Wong’s book, “How to Be an Effective Teacher:
The First Days of School.” Their book has sold over 2.3
million copies and is purchased for new teachers in
thousands of school districts, in over 50 countries, by over 400 colleges, and for the vast majority of teacher training programs.

The new, 2004 edition lists and gives websites for eight discipline approaches. However, only one is described in
detail: The Raise Responsibility System. The Wongs captured
the soul of the system:

“The essence of the plan is to teach that democracy and
responsibility are inseparable.” (p. 164 in bold font)

Incidentally, the Wongs still keep active a wonderful
website where they offer considerable assistance in
classroom management with structuring, teaching routines to
the point of rituals, and establishing procedures. Every teacher, new or experienced, should visit this website: http://www.teachers.net.

On Monday of this week, I received a copy of C.M.
Charles’ (with collaboration by Gail Senter) eighth edition
of the classic college text, “Building Classroom
Discipline.” Chapter 6 is entitled, “Marvin Marshall’s ‘Discipline through Raising Responsibility.'”

Following is a summative quote from the text:

“Marshall’s Raise Responsibility System has major
strengths beyond those found in many other systems of
discipline. It makes sense and rings true for teachers.
It focuses on developing responsibility, an enduring
quality that remains useful throughout life. It removes
the stress that students and teachers normally experience
in discipline. It is easy to teach, apply, and live by.
It is long-lasting because it leads to changes in
personality. Educators find these strengths especially
compelling, hence, the surge of interest in Marshall’s
model.” (pp. 106-107)

In an effort to spread The Raise Responsibility System even more, my website describing the system will be announced in a number of journals this year for the following associations: National Association for the Education of Young Children (September), Phi Delta Kappa (October), National Staff Development Council (Winter), National Council for the Social Studies (November), National School Boards Association (November), American Association of School Administrators (December), Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (February), National Middle School Association (February), National Association of Elementary School Principals (March), National Association of Secondary School Principals (March), National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (April), National Catholic Education Association (April), Association of California School Administrators (May), and American School Counselors Association (July).

Again, thanks for your efforts and letting others know
about the RRSystem–described in detail at http://marvinmarshall.com/rrsystem.htm


Kerry Weisner shared with me some information about Dr. Martin Brokenleg, a Native American who also promotes self-discipline. He uses high expectation from a Native American or a First Nation’s perspective.

Rather than coercive or manipulative approaches, Dr. Brokenleg advocates noncoercive influence: modeling, group influence, discussion, and positive expectations. Rather than a father’s saying, “You have to do this,” instead he would often say something like, “Son, some day when you are a man you will do this.”

What a powerful way to encourage, nurture, empower, and establish expectations!


Giving three options works wonders.

Let’s assume your airline flight has been delayed (as mine was for three hours earlier this week) and you finally get to your hotel room at midnight. The hotel clerk informs you that your hotel room has been given to another guest.

Your response is that the hotel has three options: (1) give you one of the suites they reserve for their special guests at the rate originally given you, (2) their paying for the transportation AND room charges for another hotel which they arrange, or (3) their calling the general manager of the hotel. The result: You will be given one of the hotel’s special room for the amount of your original reservation.

The same approach of giving three options can be used with anyone and in any situation. Of course, it takes practice. The way to do it is to regularly ask yourself, “What three options can I present in this situation?”

Here is how it can be applied with a student in a classroom who continually misbehaves: You have three options: (1) explaining to your parent over the phone what you have done,
(2) having your parent come to school for a conference, or (3) developing a procedure to be in control so the next time you get that same urge, you wont be a victim of your impulses.


Here are some random thoughts on the subject:

Logic prompts people to think, but emotion prompts them to act. Communicate on both levels.

Focus on the behavior or comment that prompted upsetting or negative feelings–rather than on the person.

Share your feelings about the effects of what someone does or says. It’s healthy and aids relationships to say, “That comment really hurt me.” If you don’t tell the person what is bothering you, you may not fix what really is just a misunderstanding.

Don’t universalize a specific. If another person acted rudely, that doesn’t make the person an ogre for a lifetime.

Describe breakdowns as “mutual” difficulties or challenges, rather than as something inflicted upon you by another person.

Much anger expressed maliciously is actually self-anger, which is being transferred to protect one’s own self-image. In this regard, one of my favorite questions as a classroom teacher was, “Are you angry with me or with the situation?” The question immediately prompted reflection and often resulted in an apology.

On occasion, let silence reign. These can be healthy periods for reflection. Resist the temptation to think of silence as a means to infuriate you.

Break tension through a nice, minor gesture. Offer something to drink, a kind word, a pleasant mutual memory, or something to momentarily redirect attention.

Ask for the other person’s help. It is a rare situation when you will ask someone (especially a younger person) for assistance and receive a negative response. Preface the request by saying, “I need your help on this.”


Create (or have a student create) a large poster with the following questions clearly visible: 1. What am I learning? 2. How am I learning? 3. Why am I learning? 4. Who am I becoming?

Primary students can share their responses with each other. Older students can reflect on the lesson/day in their journals.

Create a small poster for yourself. A pocket-size card will do. Place these questions on the card for a morning glance:
1. What am I doing to start my day in a positive way?
2. What do I get to do today?

Place these questions on the reverse side of the card for an evening glance: 1. Did I enjoy myself today? 2. What can I do to ensure that I will tomorrow?



I asked a student (middle school) on which level he was choosing, and he answered, “On a lower level.” He did this a few more times, so I gave him the reflection form and he still operated at a low level. I’m going to tell him that now he has a detention. Do you have any other suggestion?


Hopefully, both “reflection” forms were used: Essay and Self-Diagnostic Referral.

Think “Elicit”–rather than “Impose.”

After the student has acknowledged lower level behavior and continues to act on level B, ask the question, “What do you suggest we do about it?” Then follow up with the next question, “If you get the urge to do this again, what procedure will you use so that you will be a victor, rather than a victim of your impulses–unless, of course, you want to remain being a victim?” (This paradoxical questioning is often very effective with this type of person.)

The key question to keep in mind is, “What can I ask to make the responsibility his?”

After a procedure has been elicited to redirect future impulses, then elicit a consequence in case irresponsible behavior continues. In this way, the student has ownerhip of the consequence. People don’t argue with their own decisions.

When a consequence is imposed, negative feelings erupt in
both the student and teacher. This not only damages relationships but often is not very effective. If the same students keep getting detentions, one should–in my opinion–conclude that detention is not effective with these students.

When anyone TELLS or IMPOSES a punishment, the other person
is being deprived of an opportunity to become more

You can share and learn more about the


Learning a procedure for responding appropriately to
impulses is described on the Impulse Management link at


“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 rewards.”

Phelps Wilkins, Principal
Eisenhower Elementary School, Mesa, AZ