Tom Sawyer vs. Skinner

Tom Sawyer was a much better psychologist than any behaviorist. Why? Because he inspired others to whitewash Aunt Polly’s front fence. He prompted them to feel good about doing the chore, because he showed them how much fun they could be having. He triggered the internal motivation that prompted them to want to whitewash the fence.

Behaviorists believe that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. They rely on external sources to actuate change. They completely neglect the internal, which is a prime reason that neuroscientists do not rely on these approaches for humans.

Unfortunately, a carrot and stick approach—used to train rodents, birds, and animals—is employed in much of education and parenting. Although behaviorism is touted for special education students who are given tangibles to reinforce desired behaviors, this approach is often used now (and in some cases mandated) for all students. Although external sources can control, they cannot change people. People change themselves. In addition, external sources focus on obedience, but obedience does not create commitment.

In contrast to using external, manipulative, and reactive behaviorist approaches, Discipline Without Stress is so successful because it is proactive, totally noncoercive—yet not permissive—and inspires, prompts desire, and drives commitment for responsible behavior and learning.