Every Parent and Teacher Should See This Movie

Time is of the essence, so I won’t say a lot at the moment, other than to say that you can see a movie for FREE this weekend, and that it is a movie you want to see. The movie is called Most Likely to Succeed and it will either change the way you see education or, if you are a fan of Choice Theory learning strategies, it will confirm what you have hoped for in classrooms.

The link is below. Scroll down and follow the simple logon instructions.

https://www.inc.com/joshua-spodek/why-every-parent-should-watch-this-movie.html

Remember, it’s FREE this weekend!

Check out the trailer –

 

Throwing Any Fish?

Behaviorism didn’t become an ism for nothing.

We are influenced by circumstantial stimuli, to events in the world around us, and there is no getting around it. Behaviorism responds to this point by saying, “Well said.” Choice Theory responds by saying, “Not so fast.”

Behaviorism, wanting more than just influence, though, goes on to claim the ability to predict behavior. In other words, certain stimuli will lead to certain behavior. Do A and you will get B. Animal trainers at Marine World, for instance, explain how the strategic use of food, like tossing a fish to a dolphin, will condition the dolphin to perform specific behaviors and tricks.

The strategies of Behaviorism have been less reliable when used on humans. Some level of success seems apparent, yet at the same time something seems not quite right.

Speaking of fish, Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird (1994), shared an interaction she had with her son when he was small.

I was teaching Sam peace chants for a long time, when he was only two. It was during the war in the Persian Gulf; I was a little angry.
“What do we want?” I’d call to Sam.
“Peace,” he’d shout dutifully.
“And when do we want it?” I’d ask.
“Now!” he’d say, and I’d smile and toss him a fish.

This story, an admission really, invites us to answer the question, How then do we teach others, especially children, what needs to be learned? How can we make sure this important learning happens? How can we, in the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, make it so? Anne Lamott went on to suggest that fish tossing may have more to do with the fish tosser than the fish catcher, or even the desired behavior –

The words were utterly meaningless to him, of course. I might as well have taught him to reply “Spoos!” instead of “Peace” and “August” instead of “Now.” My friends loved it, though; all three of his grandparents loved it. Now, how much does this say about me and my longings? I think something like this would tell a reader more about a character than would three pages of description. It would tell is about her current politics and the political tradition from which she sprang, her people-pleasing, her longing for peace and her longing to belong, her way of diluting rage and frustration with humor, while also using her child as a prop, a little live Charlie McCarthy. The latter is horrifying, but it’s also sort of poignant. Maybe thirty five years ago this woman had to perform for her parents’ friends. Maybe she was their little Charlie McCarthy. Maybe she and her therapist can discuss it for the next few months. And did this woman stop using her kid, once she realized what she was doing? No, she didn’t, and this tells us even more. She kept at it, long after the war was over, until one day she called to her three-and-a-half-year-old son, “Hey—what do we want?” And he said plaintively, “Lunch.”

A live, little Charlie McCarthy. You would have to be rather old (or be a whiz at Trivial Pursuit) to understand the significance of her referring to Charlie McCarthy in this way. Through much of the 1940s and 50s, Charlie was a radio and television personality. Debonair and quick-witted, he had a real following. He was known to sit a lot, though, given that he was the ventriloquist doll of the comedian, Edgar Bergen (the father of actress Candice Bergen). Charlie may have appeared like he had a mind (and mouth) of his own, however he truly was the parrot of his talented handler. Such an arrangement with a doll made from a block of wood is fine, certainly entertaining, but Anne Lamott recoiled in horror at the thought of her little boy becoming her own little Charlie McCarthy, mouthing her words and acting her behaviors on command.

Charlie McCarthy (on the left) and Edgar Bergen.

Where is the line between teaching and indoctrinating, between learning and brainwashing, between the pursuit of ideas and the pressuring of ideas? Are some ideas so important that they require indoctrination?

Such questions bring another McCarthy to mind, that being Joseph McCarthy of the 1950s Communist witch hunt. As a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, McCarthy claimed to have a list of Communist sympathizers and spies who had infiltrated the highest levels of government, the armed forces, and even the entertainment industry. He made unsubstantiated claims and attempted to smear the reputation of people he thought soft on communism and socialism. His tactics added to the already growing fears about Russia and communism and indeed swept the country. Fear, threats and force were his preferred tools and many people were unfairly affected by his attacks.

Joseph McCarthy

Two McCarthy’s – one a puppet that mirrored his owner and the other a politician who bludgeoned others with his ideology. The little-block-of-wood Charlie McCarthy reminds us of our temptation to craft our children into little blocks of our own making, while the-Senator McCarthy reminds us of the temptation to force others, maybe especially our children, to think and act in the way we deem best. The latter seems just as horrifying as the former.

Behaviorism and stimulus-response cannot with any level of certainty predict human behavior because humans are so .  . well .  .  unpredictable. Oh, we might be predictable now and again, but that isn’t really being predictable, is it? Some caved to Senator McCarthy’s attacks, while others stood up to him; and Anne Lamott’s son eventually said he was ready for lunch, rather than continuing to parrot about peace.

Choice Theory explains that we behave to satisfy a need, which may or may not jibe with the behaviors the fish-tossers in our life want. Better to focus on the needs of our children and then to teach them how to appropriately meet their needs. Besides helping children become self-managers, rather than parrots, getting rid of fish can improve the overall smell of things in general.

Brain Drugs, Children, and Teenagers – An Interview with Robert Whitaker

We have never met, but I feel a kinship to Robert Whitaker. We have both written about mental health topics, him much more impressively, and we both have a connection to William Glasser, me much more extensively. Whitaker has written several important books, including Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill (2001) and Psychiatry Under the Influence: Institutional Corruption, Social Injury, and Prescriptions for Reform (2015). I have written about his work in previous posts, which you can access by clicking on these links –

The Fox and the Chicken Coop

How Emotions Are Made

Glasser was very impressed with the ideas expressed in Mad in America and bought 100 copies of the book to share with people. I found it to be fascinating and troubling at the same time and referred to it in parts of the Glasser biography. I recently became aware of an interview sponsored by Parenting Today, and conducted by Heather Juergensen, that is entitled How Psychiatry Came to Be. The interview’s reach is much wider than the title implies, though, and includes the need for full disclosure before children, or anybody else for that matter, are prescribed brain drugs for conditions labeled as Attention Deficit or Bipolar.

 

The interview is almost an hour long, yet it is compelling throughout. Rather than looking at the clock I was caught up in Whitaker’s descriptions, explanations, and research. If you are thinking of the present state of affairs in mental health, and particularly of the use of drugs to modify thinking and moods, especially with children and teenagers, this is an interview you will want to hear.

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Just a reminder that the biography – William Glasser: Champion of Choice – is available through different sellers. Click on any of the links that follow to quickly get a copy of the book.

William Glasser Books

Amazon

Zeig, Tucker & Thiesen Publishing (digital copy)

 

Being the Best Me

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I really like a post on the Mental Health & Happiness website, which you can check out for yourself at http://mentalhealthandhappiness.com  Readers were asked to think about how they wanted the world around them to be different – maybe a loved one behaving differently or a circumstance changing. Then readers were asked to think about a world in which everything was indeed as they wanted it – all the changes they preferred had come to be. Sounds good. We’d all sign up for that.

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After being asked to reflect on how they would think and feel in this perfect world, readers were then challenged to act as if they actually lived in this world. How would you behave in a world that was just how you wanted it? Do you have a sense of what it would look like to not be burdened with anxiety? How would you enter the house after work if you were happy? Can you imagine how you would be with your friends if you didn’t worry about what they thought of you? How would you act with your spouse if the two of you were best friends and really trusted one another? You get the idea.

So (you probably know where this is going), readers were then challenged to live as if they were actually living in their “perfect” world, challenged to behave as if these pictures were reality. If I have a picture of what it would look like for me to walk in the front door of my house in a happy state of mind, what prevents me from going ahead and doing it?

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This collection of thoughts really got my attention for some reason, and I am still thinking about the implications of accepting this view of things. It is empowering to think that I can choose my behavior and that I can literally choose how I show up. In other ways, though, it feels disempowering when I think about not being able to use angering and depressing and sadnessing and headaching as a way to convey my difficult circumstances to others. Could it be that I can enter my house happily, even when I’m in the midst of a difficult circumstance? Could it be that I could talk to my spouse about how I felt about the difficult circumstance without needing to anger or withdraw?

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This is such a great Quality World activity. The theory behind the Quality World describes how we place need-satisfying pictures in our heads because this picture in some way helps us to feel better or to feel in control. Once a picture has been placed in our Quality World we go about behaving in a way that will help that picture become a reality. Why not choose to behave in a way that mirrors the world in which you want to live? Pretty cool!

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This post first appeared on Feb. 19, 2015. It is being re-posted because the questions it asks are still true. What if we showed up as if we were living in our perfect world? And what prevents us from doing that? For a lot of us, a lot of the time, it’s pride.

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“Our bodies are our gardens, to which our wills are gardeners.”
William Shakespeare, Othello

“One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.”
Leonardo da Vinci

 

Snookered by the Russians?

Of all the questions being asked regarding Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, the most important question is being overlooked. Instead of directing questions to Trump or the Russians, voters in America need to be looking in the mirror and asking  – Was I personally snookered by the Russians or by someone who wanted me to vote a certain way? And if so – What is it about me that is susceptible to being snookered?

Consider: the Russians, to my knowledge, are not being accused of stuffing ballot boxes or electronically screwing with our voting devices (not that they didn’t want to). Instead, if I understand correctly, they are being accused of flooding social media like Face Book with untruths and misstatements that would raise concerns and lead to a Trump victory. They didn’t mess with hardware or actual votes; they messed with our minds. Shouldn’t we be asking how it is that our minds are so easily messed with?

Easily messed with minds were around before the 2016 election. Jesus himself talked about screwed up thinking when He explained how it is possible to believe your thinking is filled with light, when in fact the light you think you have is actually darkness (Matt. 6:23). Dark thinking such as this, Jesus further points out, can even lead people to kill others and then claim they are doing it in the name of God (John 16:2). The apostle Paul wrote about people being capable of having an enthusiasm for God, but this enthusiasm being based on “misdirected zeal” (Rom. 10:2).

Easily messed with, screwed up, misdirected. Whatever you want to call it, the question remains – How do we achieve such confusion? And is it possible to break free of the psychological/spiritual fog and climb into clearer air?

Your Lying Mind, a recent article in The Atlantic (Sept. 2018), considers the phenomena of bias and the ways in which it influences, and even seems to commandeer, our choices. Ben Yagoda, the article’s author, refers to several biases, some of them significant, some less so. Examples include – Hyperbolic Discounting Bias: choosing to take $150 today rather than wait for $180 in a month (although when offered $150 in a year or $180 in 13 months, people consistently choose the $180); Actor-Observer Bias – the tendency for explanations of other individual’s behaviors to overemphasize the influence of their personality and underemphasize the influence of their situation, while explaining our own behavior in just the opposite); or the Zeignarik Effect – uncompleted tasks are remembered better than completed ones. And let’s not forget the IKEA Effect – where people place a disproportionate value on objects they assemble themselves.

Soon, though, Yagoda gets to a key point of the article when he writes, “If I had to single out a particular bias as the most pervasive and damaging, it would probably be confirmation bias. That’s the effect that leads us to look for evidence confirming what we already think or suspect, to view facts and ideas we encounter as further confirmation, and to discount or ignore any piece of evidence that seems to support an alternate view.” As I share this passage with you, my country – the United States – is anything but united and instead is wracked by political and social division; and my church – Seventh-day Adventist – isn’t doing a whole lot better. In both cases, I see confirmation bias as playing a key role in the problem.

Choice Theory offers that if we have a high need for power we may find fulfillment in dominating others; or that if we have a high need for purpose we may find it need-satisfying to embrace a rigid set of beliefs, even if these beliefs are racist and hateful. Of course, people can also have their need for power met through relating to and effectively cooperating with others, and the need for purpose can be met by clarifying one’s own beliefs without forcing them onto others. There is nothing that says we have to be one way or another. We do, though, place ourselves in a position of growth, that is being open to learning and change, or in a position of inertia, that is being firm in your course and unopen to change.

This post has me really thinking about the purpose of bias, and whether or not it has an important function. I can think of a lot of damaging biases, but I am hard-pressed to think of helpful biases. Can you think of a helpful bias?

I think fear is a big part of bias. A 2013 post – Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian? – referred to the phenomena of rationalization or what is known as motivated reasoning, where we choose what to believe and then go about finding information to support it. “We push threatening information away,” the author explains, “and we pull friendly information close. Our faculties are usually put to the task of trying to defend what we already believe, not towards developing a better understanding of the world.” A TED talk to which I referred in this same 2013 post described the difference between a warrior mindset and a scout mindset. The warrior is driven toward one goal, to survive through defending or attacking, while the scout is driven to understand and to gain a complete and accurate picture of the facts. Defending and attacking, again, are fear words.

I don’t like it when people, whether or not they are from another country, try to mess with us through social media, and I think steps should be taken to keep that from happening, but I’d like it even better if we as individuals became less .  . .  well .  .  .  easily messed with.  Fear, worry, and anxiety contribute to this kind of vulnerability.  The poet Hafiz (14thcentury) once said that “Fear is the cheapest room in the house; I’d like to see you in better living conditions.” His view echoed that of the Apostle Paul, who centuries earlier had penned, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7) Our power of choice gives us the ability to discern, to weigh the evidence, and to not simply look for information that supports our beliefs.

Fear is the cheapest room in the house;
I’d like to see you in better living conditions.

The Atlantic article asks whether or not it is possible for an individual to change or eliminate a bias. Experts were quoted that came down on both sides of the argument. From my perspective, Choice Theory lands firmly on the side that biases can indeed be changed. Hope for our planet now hinges on this belief.

 

Blaming Might Be Funny, If It Wasn’t So Darned Destructive

Check out Brene’ Brown’s three minute video on blame and discover why I relate to it on such a personal level.

A few years back, my family decided to go out to eat at a Mexican restaurant we liked. Our kids had invited friends over so the group that piled into our van that late afternoon was bigger than the usual four in our family. We lived in Spokane, Washington, at the time and it was cold. No snow on the ground, but definitely chilly. When I learned of the restaurant plan I found a jacket, threw on some boots by the door, and headed to the van myself.

Restaurants in cold-weather places like Spokane often have an alcove or entrance vestibule leading to the actual front door, which serves as a buffer between the dining area and the biting cold outside. After pulling into the parking lot, our group quickly exited the van and headed to the outer vestibule door. About to exit the van myself, I noticed that I hadn’t yet tied my shoelaces. The boots I had jumped into actually had long laces that now formed a willy-nilly pattern on the floor mat under my feet. I thought about tying them, but then felt it would be cool and casual if I left them to drag out behind me, a symbol of my easy going, devil-may-care attitude.

I joined the others in the vestibule, although part of our group had already entered the second door and was now spilling into the dining area. I could see my wife, at the front of the group, talking with the hostess about the size of table we would need. The group, probably because of the cold vestibule and the warmth inside, continued to creep into the dining room as the staff put a couple of smaller tables together and get place settings arranged for us. I ended up almost straddling the second doorway, between the dining area and the vestibule, holding the door ajar as I stood there (worried those dining were swearing under their breath at me for holding the door open).

A Thousand Words Is Worth a Picture

I was relieved when the hostess motioned for our group to come to be seated. Those in line in front of me started to head toward the table and I scrunched into those directly in front of me, which allowed the vestibule door to close finally. Soon, I could head toward the table, too, and began the process that has come to be known as walking.

Walking can be a little bit shaky when you are 10 months old, but soon you get the hang of it and can walk in all kinds of situations without giving it even a second thought. By the time you are 45, for instance, which is how old I was when this happened, you are quite good at it. It is necessary, at this point in the story, though, to dissect this skill which is, for the most part, invisible to us.

“Not a good situation!” the alarms are yelling.

Seeing the person in front of me move toward the table, I started the walking process by leaning forward ever so slightly. Just milliseconds after beginning this leaning forward, in a coordinated effort that plays out hundreds of times every day by countless fellow human beings, my right foot begins to step forward, following the subtle momentum that my upper body has started. My brain quickly notes, though, that my right foot isn’t moving, in fact, cannot move. Not a panic situation yet as the upper body momentum has only just started. I am, to the casual observer (of which, I will note, there were many), a man beginning to walk to his table. My brain now sends a message back to the right foot to try harder, a stronger effort, possibly violent, being in order. The foot obeys, only to discover the same determined fixedness, the same stubborn immobility. I must point out that the upper body has continued its slight forward momentum, fully expecting the feet to follow. Panic has still not set in, but alarms are now going off in the brain. “Not a good situation!” the alarms are yelling. “Get feet moving!” A decidedly firm and urgent message is sent to the left foot to take a step forward and bring the body back into balance, physically, as well as emotionally, since the alarms have now awoken various chemicals throughout the body system to respond to a potential .  .  . well .  .  . disaster. Remarkably, mixed with a fair amount of terror, the left foot responds that it, too, is fixed to the floor. Again, firmer and even violent effort to free the left foot meets with the same non-moving result. We should recall here the inevitable influence of physics on everyday life, for while much attention has been given to my feet, my upper body, obedient to my original directive has continued to lean forward, it’s slight, almost invisible, speed at first now picking up greater momentum. Those dining begin to become aware of something out of the ordinary and shift their gaze from their food to this event taking place right there in front of them. The brain is actually quite pragmatic when push comes to shove or when feet are somehow nailed to the floor. The legs, torso, and head, a one-piece unit, straight as a board, respond to the invitation of gravity and fall with alarmingly increasing speed, the eyes scanning for a landing place. The brain shifts from the feet, which turned out to be a huge disappointment, and now focuses on the arms and hands. The feet could not prevent this event, but arms and hands can soften the blow. The effects of the impending face plant can by minimized.

It is interesting, and here is where I am right with Brene’, that before I hit the floor I muttered a name loudly enough for many in the dining area to hear me. With frustration and accusation in my voice I muttered the name, RACHEL. Then bam, I hit the floor. Some in the restaurant, my family included, heard the commotion, however had not seen the whole drama play out. Of course, turning in my direction now they saw nothing. How could they? I was flat on the floor.

You may be wondering, What happened? My brain, quickly recovering from the mortification process, asked the same thing. What the *&%$@ just happened? Still laying on the floor, I turned to examine my feet and immediately ascertained the problem. I can be a quick study, to be sure. Mr. Cool and Casual had been bitten by the bug of his earlier decision. My laces, untied, dragging out behind me in a statement against societal norms, had laid neatly across the metal threshold of the vestibule door, which when I let the door close behind me had firmly pinned my shoelaces in a death grip between door and threshold. I looked around as onlookers politely stifled laughter and had to chuckle at the vestibule door’s efficiency.

My family was less polite in terms of the laughter thing. In fact, they seemed oblivious to my feelings and quite frankly laughed a bit harder than necessary. They seemed to be laughing so hard that I thought that some of them might pee, which would serve them right as far as I was concerned. Let them experience their own form of mortification. Eventually, maybe a couple of hours later, everyone stopped laughing and we were able to eat and I was able to relate the unfortunate details that I have shared with you.

How is it possible that I could be so quick to blame?

The thing is, how could I, in less than a second, while my brain is furiously distracted, have blamed someone so quickly. Rachel, I should tell you, is my daughter. She was 17 when this happened and had developed an excellent sense of humor, so excellent, in fact, that I immediately, even before hitting the floor identified her as the culprit. Like so many times when we resort to a deadly habit, the problem is more about us than it is about the person we see as the problem. In this case, Rachel had absolutely nothing to do with my face plant in front of a dining room full of people. It was all about me, about my desire to be cool and casual, and about my standing in an ill-advised location with my laces dragging behind me.

We so often see our blaming as the result of a circumstance or person outside of us, yet stories like these remind us that blaming begins within us and is a spirit waiting to be judgmentally applied to others. It’s hard for some of us, but the habit of blaming is one we need to break. Most of the time it’s nobody’s fault but our own.

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This post first appeared on March 12, 2015. I hope it has put a smile on your face, however more than that I hope it has reminded you how deeply the deadly habits can become a part of our way of being. If you have a deadly habit story you are willing to share I would love to hear from you.

Impossible to Love and Control at Same Time

Terry Crews, actor, author, and former NFL player, recently appeared on The Daily Show and spoke about #MeToo, toxic masculinity and domestic abuse. In the short video clip included here, he describes how he used to believe in the male stereotype of being in control, but that he came to realize that the important people in his life were distancing themselves from him. Now he realizes that love is the answer and that –

“it is impossible to love someone and control them at the same time.”

Click on the video link below and be touched and inspired and reminded – reminded that hope is still all around us.

 

It seems that wherever and whenever good things are happening the principles of Choice Theory are close at hand. Terry said so much when he stated –

“You telling other people what to do does not make you the boss;
you doing what you told yourself to do makes you the boss.”

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Schedule update – I have decided to cancel The Better Plan classes for this summer (2018) at Pacific Union College. Stay tuned next summer.

Before the Seminar Even Began

“How do you think I can make my wife do what I want her to do?” He said it louder than he needed to, but he wanted to get the attention of the man on the other side of the registration table.

“I don’t know. How do you get her to do what you want her to do?” The man behind the table replied.

“No, I’m asking, how can I make my wife, and my kids for that matter, do what I want them to do? That is what this seminar is about, isn’t it?”

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The man behind the table looked at the questioner for a moment, studied him actually, and finally replied, “Well, the seminar is about having a better marriage . . .”

“Exactly,” the questioner interrupted. “That’s why I’m here. I want a better marriage.”

“How did you find out about the seminar?” the table man asked.

“A friend told me about it, said I should check it out. I had been complaining to him about my wife and kids and he said this seminar might help. So here I am.”

“That’s interesting,” the table man replied.

“How so? What’s interesting?”

“Well, the seminar is about having a better marriage and a better home; it’s really about having better relationships, in general.” No interruptions this time, so the man behind the table continued. “This seminar is about freedom and power and joy . . .”

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“I like the sound of power,” the questioner again interrupted. “That’s why I’m here, like I said.”

“Power can be a very good thing . . .”

“Exactly,” the questioner affirmed.

“ . . . although this power, the power we’re learning about this evening, is about the power we have within us to not be controlled by our negative thoughts and feelings . . .”

“Excuse me,” the questioner questioned.

“It’s about being free to be who we really want to be, rather than being controlled by circumstances.”

“So what are you saying? You’re not going to show me some tricks to make my wife do what I want her to do?” The questioner’s concern was evident.

“The trick lies in being the best version of yourself, while supporting your wife as she becomes the best version of herself.” Their eyes locked, the man behind the table could see the questioner thinking this through.

Eyes still locked, “Can I get my money back?” The questioner thought he had heard enough.

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The countenance of the man behind the table changed and his tone changed as well, “Look, sir, I’ve had enough! No, you may not have your money back. Now get yourself into the meeting room and find a seat on the front row!” With anger and disgust he moved toward the questioner and handed him a packet of materials. “Go on, get moving!”

The questioner was taken back, for just a moment on his heels and retreating, yet he quickly recovered, his face becoming set in his own anger and defiance. The two of them now were only feet apart, both obviously frustrated and angry, the packet being held out by one of them, the other refusing to reach out and receive it. Their eyes again locked, the silence between them spoke volumes.

The table man let the moment continue, the anger palpable, the silence screaming, and then suddenly he changed. His face relaxed and a slight smile appeared. “I want you to remember this moment,” he said calmly to the questioner. “I want you to remember how you feel right now.”

The questioner was trying to process what was happening to him. His mind and body, which quickly had gone into an angry, defensive mode, now slowly began to relax. Yet he wasn’t sure he wanted to relax, wasn’t sure it was safe to relax. “What are you talking about?” he replied with a touch of disgust in his voice.

“I just tried to make you do what I wanted you to do. How did that work . . . do you think?

The questioner thought about this, a light ever so slowly dawning somewhere in his mind.

“Deep inside you, in the depths of your soul, you want to be close, really close, to your wife, and you want your kids to want you and to want what you can offer them. You just experienced how a person thinks and feels when force and power are used on them.” The man behind the table quit talking as he saw the questioner’s eyes become filled with liquid sadness.

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“You’re right,” the questioner responded as he wiped his eyes. “I do want to be close to my wife. She is a special person. And I do want to be close to my children. I love them so much.” Again, his eyes filled.

“Look, we don’t need to go through the whole seminar before it even starts. But I’ll just share a few of the key ideas we’ll be learning about. One of the things you will learn is that the only person you can control is you. That idea alone has pretty incredible implications. We’ll learn about habits that bring us closer to the ones we love and on the other hand, habits that hurt our relationships with others. And another thing we will learn, and this will be of special interest to you, is that as long as we are connected we have influence. That’s why our connection to our children is so important.”

The questioner was listening now, bringing it all in.

“A few moments ago,” the table man continued, “when I tried to make you do something, the connection between us was definitely hurt, on the verge of being broken.”

The questioner nodded in agreement.

“I wanted you to attend the seminar, but you wanted the exact opposite.”

“I was outta here,” the questioner agreed. “I was getting angrier by the second.”

“So that’s the point. The seminar is about how ineffective it is to try and make people do what we want them to do. It hurts our relationship in the process and we usually don’t get what we really want.” The table man thought for a moment. “The fact is that if you want your money back, and not attend the seminar, well, you can make that choice. You have that option. But I just want you to know how much I want you to be a part of it. I think you will benefit, however it strikes me that the rest of us would benefit from your being here as well.”

The questioner now smiled just a bit himself and reached out and took the packet of materials. “It looks like there is still front row seats available,” he said as he looked toward the almost empty meeting room.

This post is a re-print and first appeared on December 19, 2015. Quickly search the Year At a Glance links for easy access to many other posts on teaching, raising children, marriage, leadership, mental health, spirituality, and much more.

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“But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from,
we can still choose where we go from there.”
Stephen Chbosky

Look Into the Discipline Mirror

It wasn’t lost on me that my last blog post, Aiming for Discipline Instead of Punishment, used the word discipline rather freely.  This was not a big deal to many of you. For you the title made sense and alerted readers to the content of the post. To others of you with a Choice Theory background, though, the word discipline may have stood out to you. If it did, just know that it stood out to me, too.*

A brochure Glasser created in the mid-70s that described his 10 Steps to Discipline.

The reason it stood out to us Choice theorists is that, beginning around 1990, William Glasser came to reject the idea of discipline as it was being applied in schools. In fact, he came to the point where he flat out stated that he no longer believed in school discipline programs, including his own.*  Yet here I am tossing the word around like that never happened.

William Glasser, 1977

Drawing on portions of the Glasser biography – William Glasser: Champion of Choice (2014) – it is clear that he saw discipline programs as part of the problem, not part of the solution. Noting the key elements of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory, and also of the compelling ideas of W. Edwards Deming,* the biography describes how –

In the spirit of Reality Therapy, schools needed to place a high premium on supportive connections; according to Choice Theory schools needed to recognize that an individual is motivated to meet his or her needs in the best possible way at any given moment; and according to Deming, schools needed to relinquish the habit of coercing and forcing students to do school work and behave themselves. So important were these elements, especially the last element, Glasser would write The Quality School wherein he described the importance of managing students without coercion. He would later credit Deming with leading him to write The Quality School. The point is that as a result of these insights he began to disassociate himself from school discipline programs. “I was trying to get people to think in terms of preventing discipline problems,” he later explained, “and if I focused on discipline problems, I, in a sense, would be admitting that they’re going to happen, that they’re inevitable.” pgs. 296, 297

Dr. William Glasser (1990)

For Glasser, the focus had to be on the system, not on the student. Creative and committed efforts must be put into prevention of misbehavior that doesn’t rely on punishment. In one of his memos to his institute members he wrote that –

I believe that teachers are getting the wrong message: focus on the student’s misbehavior, not on the system. No matter how you do it, when you focus specifically on what a child is doing wrong, instead of putting all your effort into improving your relationship with that child, it is unlikely that the child will ever put you into his or her Quality World. pg. 311

And a short time later he wrote that –

I believe that discipline programs are stimulus-response based and focus on changing students rather than changing the system from stimulus-response to Choice Theory. I believe it is impossible for any school that focuses on discipline to become a Quality School. pg. 314

So now you may see why the word discipline should get our attention.

It is interesting to think about the origin and use of the word discipline. To do so is to look into a special mirror – a mirror that reveals your deepest management beliefs. For instance, you may see the word discipline and quickly think of definitions that hearken back centuries – definitions like penitential chastisement or punishment or treatment that corrects or punishes. Discipline from this definition family has everything to do with manipulating behavior through threats, discomfort, and even pain.

Hearkening back even further, though, is the word disciple, the root from which discipline comes. From this root, discipline is about instruction given, about teaching, and about knowledge. It is about mentoring and training. It is about a relationship and patient tutoring. Discipline, when seen through the lens of this definition family, becomes an act that is personal and supportive.

Discipline = Teaching and Mentoring Built on a Positive Relationship

It may be that your life so far, saturated in stimulus-response ways of being, has you seeing discipline as strategic manipulation, a necessary coercion in a world that operates according to external control. But as the two definition families remind us, there is another way. There is a discipline that focuses on relationship, teaching, and mentoring. Which do you want?

* I included this explanation at the end of the Aiming for Discipline post, which I want to say again here – Some of you may be like me and prefer the word management rather than discipline when talking about student behavior. However, the discipline word is the one I see presently being used in the educational literature. It may be that Choice Theory authors can in the future point out the importance of using the word management when referring to classroom behavior.

* Click here to link to a quick overview of what used to be Glasser’s Ten Step Discipline Model.

* Click here to access Deming’s 14 Management Points.

 

Aiming for Discipline Instead of Punishment

Edutopia* recently ran a short article that “hits it out of the park” – a home run! Reading about the author – Lori Desautels,* an assistant professor in the College of Education at Butler University in Indianapolis – I don’t see that she has RT/CT training, yet my goodness, does she hit the Choice Theory bulls eye here!

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My takeaways from the article include –

+ The difference between discipline* and punishment is effectively defined.

+ At-risk students, and those who have or are experiencing trauma, especially need comprehensive, compassionate discipline, not traditional punishment.

+ Such discipline is about guidance, prevention, and natural consequences. It teaches problem-solving and life skills.

+ Discipline must be aligned with what we know about the brain.

+ Prevention based on Procedures and Routines are a key to classroom success.

Read Lori’s wonderful article that follows and let me know what your takeaways are.

Aiming for Discipline Instead of Punishment
Brain-aligned discipline isn’t compliance-driven or punitive – it’s about
supporting students in creating sustainable changes in behavior

There are many perspectives on the topic of discipline in our classrooms and schools, and I’d like to explore the idea of using brain-aligned discipline with students who have adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Traditional punishment with these students only escalates power struggles and conflict cycles, breeding an increased stress response in the brain and body. Punishment is used to try to force compliance. The vast majority of school discipline procedures are forms of punishment that work best with the students who need them the least.

With our most difficult students, the current way schools try to discipline students does not change their behavior, and often it escalates the problems.

“A hurtful child is a hurt-filled child.”

Discipline, unlike punishment, is proactive and begins before there are problems. It means seeing conflict as an opportunity to problem solve. Discipline provides guidance, focuses on prevention, enhances communication, models respect, and embraces natural consequences. It teaches fairness, responsibility, life skills, and problem solving.

There are times when students need to be removed from the classroom and school for aggressive, volatile actions, but upon re-entry we should make a plan of action that begins to address these actions in these brain-aligned ways.

The neurobiological changes caused by chronic negative experiences and a history of adversity can trigger a fear response in the brain. As Pam Leo says, “A hurtful child is a hurt-filled child. Trying to change her behavior with punishment is like trying to pull off only the top part of the weed. If we don’t get to the root, the hurtful behavior pops up elsewhere.” In children the fear response often looks aggressive, defiant, and oppositional.

Young people with ACEs have brains that are in a constant state of alarm. In this alarm state, consequences don’t register properly. Discipline can only be done when both the educator and the student are calm and self-regulated. If they aren’t, behavioral difficulties will escalate.

The vast majority of school discipline procedures
are forms of punishment that work best
with the students who need them the least.

In a brain-aligned model of discipline, we must teach the behaviors we want to see, laying the groundwork for prevention systems and strategies.

PREVENTIVE BRAIN-ALIGNED STRATEGIES

Preventive systems are taught as procedures and routines. They are collaborative and filled with choice. Their purpose is to create a sustainable behavioral change, not just compliance or obedience for a short period of time.

” .  .  .  sustainable behavior change .  .  . “

I teach students about their neuro-anatomy, so they understand what happens in their brains when they become stressed, angry, or anxious. When we understand this, we feel relieved and empowered.

In morning meetings or whole class time, I discuss the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and neuroplasticity with students. We identify and make lists of our emotional triggers and coping strategies, and I teach students to use their breath and movement to calm their stress response systems.

Is there an adult in the school who connects with this student and has a space where the student can go if they need to regroup and calm their stress response systems? Are you teaching these procedures ahead of a time when a student needs to regulate away from the class?

Could your school create a area for both teachers and students to go to when they need to reset their emotional state? This area could be stocked with paper, markers, crayons, water, soft music and lighting, a jump rope, a stationary bike, lavender scented cotton balls, jars for affirmations or worries, or a rocking chair. Students will need to be taught ahead of time how to use this area, which they should need for just two to five minutes in order to feel refocused and ready to return to class.

EXAMPLES OF NATURAL, NON-PUNITIVE CONSEQUENCES 

Name-calling: Have the student create a book of positive affirmations for the class, or have them create a list of “kind words” and teach them to a younger class.

Low-level physical aggression (pushing, kicking, hitting): Some consequences could include giving the student a new learning space in the room or a new spot in line, or they could be tasked with performing an act of kindness or service for the hurt person.

If this occurs at recess, the student could be tasked with assisting a teacher on recess duty in monitoring the playground, noticing everything that is going well. They can roam around the playground, still getting the exercise they need. Or again they could perform an act of kindness toward the student who they hit.

Inappropriate language: This calls for a discussion when both student and teacher are in a calm brain state. Sometimes words that are inappropriate at school are used at home, so we need to understand the cultural context and have a discussion with the student.

An older student could research the words they used and report to you on why they’re not school words; younger students could try to write out what they were trying to convey using school-friendly language or drawings.

Incomplete assignments: Have a one-on-one discussion to convey what this behavior communicates to you. Ask if something has changed at home or school, or if the student doesn’t understand what is required. Make a plan with the student and possibly a parent for making up the work that has been missed. And consider assigning a student mentor to help the student.

The research is clear. Our brains learn best in a state of relaxed alertness. Our discipline systems must begin to shift toward creating this state in all the members of our school community.

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* If you are not subscribing to Edutopia, a free educational website sponsored by the George Lucas Foundation, you should. Check it out at https://www.edutopia.org

* Some of you may be like me and prefer the word management rather than discipline when talking about student behavior. However, the discipline word is the one I see being used in the educational literature. It may be that Choice Theory authors can in the future point out the importance of using the word management when referring to classroom behavior.

* As shared on Edutopia here is Lori’s full bio – Dr. Lori Desautels, is an assistant professor at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at Butler University in Indianapolis. Before coming to Butler University, Lori was an Assistant Professor at Marian University in Indianapolis and earlier on taught children and adolescents with emotional challenges in the upper elementary grades, worked as a school counselor in Indianapolis, was a private practice counselor and co-owner of the Indianapolis Counseling Center, and was a behavioral consultant for Methodist Hospital, in Indianapolis on the adolescent psychiatric unit.

Lori’s passion is engaging her students through neuroscience in education, integrating Mind Brain Teaching and Learning Strategies into her courses at Marian and now Butler University . Lori has conducted workshops throughout the the United States and abroad, recently returning from Dubai. Lori’s second book was published in January 2016, “Unwritten, The Story of a Living System,” co-authored with Michael McKnight.

 

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