Posts from the “Jim Roy posts” Category

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.

==========================

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.”

========================

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?”

LEAVE-695x361

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 . . .”

smiling-face-to-face-300x200

“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.

images-6

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.

0bd6b3d20ffb7bf72d3f9b1106d62801-2

 

“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.

============================

“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!

edutopia-300x116

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.

======================

* 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.

 

7 Cardinal Rules for Life

Cardinal

I’ve appreciated the stuff that often is posted by the website at www.lifehack.org, like the 7 Cardinal Rules for Life that follow here. (What cardinals have to do with rules for life, I’m not sure.) Along with the Rules, I share a choice theory response to each of them. (Of note: The Better Plan workshop dates for this summer have been set and are listed at the end of the blog.)

7 Cardinal Rules for Life

Rule #1 – Make peace with your past, so it doesn’t spoil your present. Your past does not define your future – your actions and beliefs do.

It would be hard to come up with a more choice theory statement than this one. I think the phrase “make peace with your past” is important. We’re not trying to run from the past, hide from it, cover it, or deny it. We come to desire our joy in the present and realize our need to see the past for whatever it is and, like it says, make peace with it. I like the statement’s emphasis on thinking and acting, too, which supports the idea of every behavior being a total behavior. It really is pretty amazing that we were created to have direct control over what we think and what we do.

Rule #2 – What others think of you is none of your business. It’s how much you value yourself and how important you think you are.

Choice theory emphasizes that the only person we can control is ourselves, but I like how Rule #2 is worded. It is such a debilitating condition to be worried about what others think of you. It is so freeing to let this particular worry go.

Rule #3 – Time heals almost everything, give time, time. Pain will be less hurting. Scars make us who we are; they explain our life and why we are the way we are. They challenge us and force us to be stronger.

I hesitate to write about #3. The topic of wounds, especially emotional and spiritual wounds, is a sacred space to me and deserves a special respect. That said, it is apparent to me that some people allow healing to take place and continue to want to make the best of life, while others seem to want to nurture the hurt and hold onto it.

Rule #4 – No one is the reason for your own happiness, except you yourself. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside.

The world of choice theory is a place of responsibility. A key, though, is that responsibility is something that dawns on a person, rather than it being a message that one person enforces on another. Responsibility functions best when it is like the sun coming up in a person’s life, providing light to see the world in a new way.

Rule #5 – Don’t compare your life with others. You have no idea what their journey is all about. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we would grab ours back as fast as we could.

Comparing our life to that of others traps us in thinking that our happiness depends on our circumstances being different. Or worse, that our happiness depends on our circumstances being better than someone else’s. Choice theory keeps bringing us back to our happiness coming from within, not from without.

Rule #6 – Stop thinking too much. It’s alright not to know the answers. Sometimes there is no answer, not going to be any answer, never has been an answer. That’s the answer! Just accept it, move on, NEXT!

I’ll have to think about this one.

Rule #7 – Smile, you don’t own all the problems in the world. A smile can brighten the darkest day and make life more beautiful. It is a potential curve to turn a life around and set everything straight.

A smile is a choice. Yes, sometimes we laugh as a reflex, but sometimes we just need to choose to smile. And in making that choice, in a small way, the day does get just a little bit better.

++++++++++++++++++

Which of the Life Hack Rules do you relate to? Did any of them get you thinking about choice theory ideas? Let me know.

Reminder – Middle School and High School teachers can share the Rules with students and have them respond to them and evaluate them. They can be a great springboard for talking about choice and responsibility. Tie a writing assignment to them. Discuss them in a life skills class.

++++++++++++++++++

Important Dates

The Better Plan workshop dates for this coming summer at PUC have been set.

The Better Plan 1 –  June 25 – 28

The Better Plan 2 –  July 9 – 12

If you have questions about the workshops get in touch with me at jroy@puc.edu.

++++++++++++++++++

* 7 Cardinal Rules for Life first appeared as a Better Plan post on January 25, 2014. It has proven to be a popular post and I wanted to share it with those of who may not have seen it yet. Remember that the Year At a Glance pages have a lot of choice theory articles that you can easily access at the touch of a link.

Led Zeppelin and Internal Control Psychology

Glasser referred to Choice Theory as an internal control psychology. Gaining an understanding of Choice Theory means coming into an understanding of internal control and that our thoughts and behaviors are from within us, rather than externally imposed on us. What follows are a couple of short stories that highlight this internal control thinking process –

                                                      STORY ONE
A few weeks ago I was sitting in a high school Art classroom, observing one of my student teachers as she did her practice teaching. Her lesson went very well and led to students having time to work on their individual art projects. The mentor teacher asked if he should put some music on as the kids worked and my student teacher said, “Sure.” Soon the tunes of Led Zeppelin were filling the classroom, a pleasant surprise for me, given my own 70s exposure to rock and roll.

I took a short video clip of the classroom, with music pulsating in the background, and sent it to my son, now grown and a lawyer, thinking he would get a kick out of it since he came to appreciate Led Zeppelin, too, during his 90s exposure to the music world.

My text message to him (which accompanied the video clip) said, “I am in the Calistoga High Art classroom, observing one of our candidates doing her student teaching. The Art teacher put on some tunes after the lesson was done, and the kids were working independently. Thought of you.”

Several hours later he replied, “I must have gone to the wrong school! Though I’m not sure I would’ve liked it as much if my teacher had played it.”

What a great example of the internal choice process happening within each of us all the time. My son’s comment reveals that there are many reasons a young person might be drawn to certain kinds of music. The tone and beat of the music itself can appeal, as can the lyrics, as can how edgy the performer or group is. Kids like music for social reasons, including the idea that it gives them a way to assert their independence, much to the chagrin of adults wanting to control that independence.

“I’m not sure I would’ve liked it as much if my teacher had played it.”

All of these reasons are internally based and uniquely unpredictable. Teenagers choose music for reasons that are important to them, including whether or not adults like their particular music, too

                                                   STORY TWO
My wife and I were driving to the Sacramento airport a couple of weeks ago. We went through Napa, which eventually brought us to Hwy 80 toward Sacramento. People drive fast on Hwy 80 (like 80 is more the speed limit than the highway number). We were in the fast lane, but it was raining off and on, and when it rained it was raining quite hard. As a result, I wanted to keep a safe distance between me and the cars ahead.

My wife frequently reminds me about tailgating and will sometimes ask me to slow down if she thinks I am driving too close, although in this case I was already driving slower and keeping a safe distance. At one of these rainy, slow-down moments she said, “Thank you for not tail-gating.” Almost immediately, instead of thinking thoughts like thank you for noticing, I found myself thinking thoughts like I am driving this way because it is safe for these circumstances, not because you want me to drive slower. I am a bit embarrassed to admit this about myself, but it is one more example of the internal thinking process.*

=============

Consider for a moment the phrase internal locus of control. If we look it up we find that “In personality psychology, locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control.” This definition is helpful because it explains what internal control isn’t, rather than what it is. Choice theory, and the internal control that it describes, isn’t about having control over the outcome of events. Choice theory describes how people can intentionally control their own thinking and behavior and in the process very much affect their emotions. Choice theory describes how our motivation comes from within for reasons that are uniquely personal.

We cannot control events, but we can intentionally affect our
cognitive and emotional response.

Choice theory does not guarantee that we can change the outcome of events in our lives. It does guarantee that we are capable of changing our thinking and our emotions in ways that improve our mental and emotional health.

==============

Exercise: Begin to identify examples of your own personal internal control psychology. Identify moments in your thinking that are entirely generated by you or that are unique interpretations of events that others most likely see differently. Practice acknowledging your viewpoint as just that, simply your viewpoint. Consider what your viewpoints say about you – Are you an acceptor? A blamer? An encourager? A critic? A risk-taker? A worrier? The viewpoints that we nurture are in some way need-satisfying. Not always helpful to ourselves or others, but need-satisfying none-the-less. When it comes to our mental health and our relationship health, our internal control viewpoints are everything.

=============

EDUTOPIA and Social-Emotional Learning

Reality: Educational journals and a growing number of school districts are emphasizing the need for social-emotional learning in schools (SEL). Increasingly, educators are realizing that academic success is less about amount of content covered and more about becoming a competent learner. For such learning to occur, schools must be emotionally safe and students must learn to self-manage their own thinking and emotions. These are mandates that if ignored, will only postpone the success of our students, and ultimately our country.

===============

* Do you have personal examples of internal control thinking? I’d love to hear them!! Share them as a response to this post.

How Emotions Are Made

I love it when research and science confirm Glasser’s beliefs, and Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book, How Emotions Are Made (2017) does just that in a big way!

HowEmotionsAreMade

Glasser wanted people to understand the concept (and reality) of internal control, that is, that they are not controlled by circumstances outside of them nor are they victims of life’s curve balls, but rather they are the architects of their thinking and their behavior.

Glasser created the concepts of total behavior to give people insights into their choices. Using the graphic of a car, he emphasized that thinking and acting are represented by the two front tires, the two tires that a driver can directly steer and control. Glasser’s point was that similarly people can have direct control over their own thinking and acting. The remaining two parts of a total behavior are feelings and physiology, or our emotions and all the ways that our bodies come into alignment with the other parts of our behavior. He believed that we can have only indirect control over our feelings and our physiology. For him, the key was that our total behaviors throughout the day always come into alignment with each other.

Total Behavior Car

The tires on a car are used to represent the four parts of total behavior.

How Emotions Are Made does nothing to argue that point and, if anything, Feldman Barrett goes farther than Glasser in explaining that not only are we the architects of our thinking and behavior, we are also the architect of our emotions. Check out the TED talk that follows for her brief presentation –

The TED talk is good, but I want to share some quotes from the book that reveal why a Choice theorist would especially be interested in her findings.

Emotions are not reactions to the world. You are not a passive receiver of sensory input but an active constructor of your emotions. From sensory input and past experience, your brain constructs meaning and prescribes action.*

Glasser made a case for our behavior coming from within, rather than being controlled by others, and Feldman Barrett believes the same as it relates to emotions. In this next quote, she reminded me of Glasser and the way he would state the terms he really didn’t want to use – terms like mental illness, schizophrenia, and bi-polar, to name a few. Read her quote that follows and you’ll see what I mean.

images

Lisa Feldman Barrett

Likewise, we do not “recognize” or “detect” emotions in others. These terms imply that an emotion category has a fingerprint that exists in nature, independent of any perceiver, waiting to be found. Any scientific question about “detecting” emotion automatically presumes a certain kind of answer. In the construction mindset, I speak of perceiving an instance of emotion. Perception is a complex mental process that does not imply a neural fingerprint behind the emotion, merely that an instance of emotion occurred somehow. I also avoid verbs like “triggering” emotion, and phrases like “emotional reaction” and emotions “happening to you.” Such wording implies that emotions are objective entities. Even when you feel no sense of agency when experiencing emotion, which is most of the time, you are an active participant in that experience.*

If by introducing you to How Emotions Are Made, and sharing these quotes from the book, I have ignited more questions that answers – good. I encourage you to read the book for yourself. I am convinced Glasser would have added it to his book collection, right there on his office shelf alongside other books like Mad in America (2001), by Robert Whitaker.

We’ll end the post today with this last quote, which summarizes her Glasser-like findings –

After conducting hundreds of experiments in my lab, and reviewing thousands more by other researchers, I’ve come to a profoundly unintuitive conclusion shared by a growing number of scientists. Emotions do not shine forth from the face nor from the maelstrom of your body’s inner core. They don’t issue from a specific part of the brain. No scientific innovation will miraculously reveal a biological fingerprint of any emotion. That’s because our emotions aren’t built in, waiting to be revealed. They are made. By us. We don’t recognize emotions or identify emotions: we construct our own emotional experiences, and our perceptions of others’ emotions, on the spot, as needed, through a complex interplay of systems. Human beings are not at the mercy of mythical emotion circuits buried deep within animalistic parts of our highly evolved brain: we are architects of our own experience.*

Feldman Barrett’s work will help anyone trying to better understand human behavior and motivation, and especially those of us interested in the emotional pieces of what Glasser referred to as total behavior.

* Sorry about not having the page numbers. I purchased the book on my iPad, which doesn’t have the same page numbering as the hard copy.

=========================

Human beings are not at the mercy of mythical emotion circuits
buried deep within animalistic parts of our highly evolved brain:
we are architects of our own experience.
Lisa Feldman Barrett

 

 

 

 

Too Big a Deal?

I was recently asked to write a 500-word article on school discipline as a non-coercive process. The short essay appeared in Leading the Journey, a newsletter for SDA school administrators. As a result, a few of you may have already read it; I reprint it here for those who haven’t –

Sometimes I wonder if I make too big a deal out of the Choice Theory thing, or if it is even a thing at all. Doubts and stinkin thinkin seem to lurk. Yet while distracted by these temptations to doubt, I soon come back to what, for me, are unchangeable realities. These realities include –

  • God places an exceptionally high value on love and freedom.
  • He designed and created humans for free will and internally driven choices.
  • He died to redeem us, to restore us, and to preserve our freedom to choose.
  • The sanctified life is about our becoming, through Jesus, loving, powerful, and joyful self-managers.

Regardless of where my thoughts and feelings may want to take me, these truths are not going away. These are the truths that jolt me out of my occasional sulking and doubting.

God Values

Adventist schools have a tremendous opportunity and, indeed, responsibility to teach students what it means and what it looks like to be sanctified self-managers. Whether we’re talking about how learning is organized, or about how classroom Procedures are implemented, or about how discipline is applied when serious infractions occur, students need to be shown how to evaluate their own behavior and make choices for improvement.

For students to gain this important (eternal) life skill, Adventist schools must let go of management strategies based on rewards and retribution and instead pursue strategies based on redemption and restoration. Reward and retribution (punishment) strategies are tools for controlling students from the outside, even though humans were designed for internal control. Attempting to externally control students is like putting regular gasoline into a diesel engine. The sputtering results are predictable.

God Values-3

We tend to like students that comply, even if it places their ability to self-manage at risk. The prodigal son’s brother was compliant and we can see what that led to. And so our challenge is to outline behavioral standards that are realistic and relevant for kids and then to artfully support them toward achieving their learning and living goals. Redemption and restoration don’t have to be words and concepts only associated with the mysteries of Bible class. Instead, they can be concepts that become very real to students as teachers and principals model the spirit of redemption and provide students with a means to on-going restoration. For instance, when we problem-solve with students do we tell them how it is going to be or do we help them effectively self-evaluate; when students get in trouble do we simply apply a punishment or do we ask them how they are going to resolve the problem?

In the book Education, EGW made a very powerful point when she described that “In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one . . .” (p.30) To this end may we each become fully-equipped self-managers and as we do, may we help our students become the same.

===========================

The Better Plan workshops this summer at PUC are designed to help educators become fully-equipped self-managers, with the hope that you will then be able to share these insights and skills with students.

The Better Plan 1    June 25-28

The Better Plan 2    July 9-12

Contact Jim Roy for more information on the workshops at thebetterplan@gmail.com or at jroy@puc.edu.

%d bloggers like this: