Posts tagged “deadly habits

Always Default to Compassion

By my definition, she is a special missionary. The article she wrote doesn’t talk about which religion she follows, or that she is of any religious persuasion at all. Yet, as an urban middle school teacher where 99% of the students, because of grinding poverty, receive free lunch, she fits that definition in my book.

Elizabeth Peyton teaches at an urban middle school for refugee and immigrant kids. In describing herself she writes, “I spend all day with the most challenging, hilarious, exhausting group of people I can imagine, and I’m extremely grateful for it!” Her love, enthusiasm, and insight caught my eye and the points she made in her article took on a special significance to me.

A 12 year veteran teacher, Peyton admits that early in her career she tried to rely on everything from discipline models that sweated the small stuff to positive reward systems that affirmed the good stuff. Such strategies might in some way work for some, but she has embraced another approach. “Here’s the secret I’ve found for working with poor kids,” she writes. “You ready? It’s pretty simple. Always default to compassion.”

What does compassion look like and sound like? She offers –

A kid shows up late. “Everything ok. We missed you.”

A kid doesn’t have his homework for the fourth time this week. “Hey, is something going on that making it hard for you to get your work done? This is really important, and I want to make sure you’re able to do what you need to do.”

A kid throws a tantrum in class. “Wow, you’re really struggling with self-control. Can you tell me why? Are you hungry or tired?”

For those whose basic needs are being met, it is all too easy to underestimate the trauma kids experience outside of school (and sometimes, unfortunately, in school). When mom and dad are under stress, when living conditions are at risk on a daily basis, when it is “tough to sleep because people are constantly screaming or shooting off guns in your neighborhood,” it is hard to get homework done and even to be able to concentrate in school.

Peyton shared a situation she worked through that really represents what she is trying to say –

Starting with compassion increases the odds that you’ll find out what’s really going on and be able to actually help your students. A couple of years ago, one of my girls stopped doing her homework and paying attention in class. As a new teacher, I’d have assigned a detention and hoped that solved the problem.

Instead, I asked her what was going on. I found out that her dad – her sole surviving parent – had been arrested the week before for driving without a license. This seventh grader had been living on her own for close to a week, and getting herself to school on time every single day, but the food was running out and she was hungry and afraid. We bought her groceries and bailed her dad out, and her grades went right back to where they should have been.

Compassion builds relationships,
where a more aggressive approach will burn bridges.

Will kids ever take advantage of this kind of compassion? Peyton says that it has happened to her, but not very often. Compassion more often leads to the truth, and for that reason, she points out, “it’s better to err on the side of understanding than to be overly harsh.”

Punitive discipline is harmful wherever and whenever it is used, but especially so to vulnerable students. In the end, Peyton offers, “Compassion is the way out. I don’t promise it’ll solve all your classroom management problems, but it’ll go a long way. Treat a kid like a decent person and, more often than not, he or she will act like one.”

I don’t know if she has had Choice Theory training, but if not, Elizabeth Peyton is well on her way to being a Choice Theory teacher. Because they tap into principles and the deeper truths of life, she discovered the ineffectiveness and harm of the Deadly Habits and the effectiveness and healing of the Caring Habits.

 

Besides William Glasser, an architect of Choice Theory, I recall another choice theorist who would very much agree with Ms. Peyton. That other choice theorist, Ellen White, an insightful, and even inspired educator, wrote in 1903 –

In gentleness teachers will set before the wrongdoer his errors and help him to recover himself. Every true teacher will feel that should he err at all, it is better to err on the side of mercy than on the side of severity.   Education, p. 294

I wrote a book comparing William Glasser’s ideas to those of Ellen White, an unlikely duo, yet their beliefs are amazingly similar. That book is called Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Educators (2005). Should I ever update Soul Shapers, I would definitely want to include the ideas of Elizabeth Peyton, too.

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Just a reminder: I will be teaching a summer class at PUC based on Choice Theory concepts called The Better Plan. It would be great to have you be a part of it. Get in touch with me if you have questions.

The Better Plan 1   June 26-29

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 It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
e.e. cummings

 

What Do Women Most Desire?

What do women most desire? Some would say the answer to this question is elusive, even though we have known for almost 600 years. Indeed, the answer was clearly shared within the 15th century romance tale – The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle. Few are aware of this important tale, but through unique advantages that I possess as a professor in a teacher credential program I have learned the secret.

One of my roles involves the supervision of student teachers. I set up student teaching placements in local schools, and then coach and mentor students toward mastering the essentials of teaching. One of the benefits of being a supervisor is that I get to be in classrooms. I get to observe classrooms in action. From the elegance of Math problems to the English class challenge of writing an impactful paper on the book The Chocolate War; from the fun of learning to hit a forehand on a tennis court in Physical Education to a Social Studies debate on the issue of building a wall along the U.S. / Mexican boarder, these are the kinds of rich learning experiences I get to observe. It is common for me, actually, immediately after leaving a classroom in which I have been observing, to get out my iPhone and order a book I just saw the classroom discussing. Their dialogue inspired me so much that I had to read it, too. Such was the source of my learning of The Wedding and, more importantly, the secret of what women most desire. For it was a high school English class that was studying the tale I am about to share with you. As a result of learning the secret, whether you are man or woman, your life may never be the same again.

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The tale tells of an adventure during the time of King Arthur, a time when “chivalry was paramount.” It begins with King Arthur on a hunting trip. Separated from his knights while chasing a particular deer, he comes upon a knight not of his group, a knight of great might and fully armed. The knight intends to kill King Arthur for a wrong done many years before. Arthur delays the knight’s intention by talking with him and trying to convince him that it is no great thing to kill him when he isn’t in armor or armed really at all. So the knight agrees to let Arthur go for exactly one year, with the agreement that Arthur would return at the end of the year and tell the knight “what women everywhere love best.” If Arthur returned with the answer, he would live, otherwise he would die.

This Arthur agreed to, including that he wasn’t to tell anyone of their deal. But when he went back home many people could tell that he wasn’t himself. Finally, one of his most noble knights, Sir Gawain, approached him and asked what was wrong. Arthur ended up telling him about the unfortunate incident in the forest and the need for him to come up with what women truly desire most.

Gawain quickly came up with a plan. He would get on a horse and ride in one direction and Arthur would get on a horse and ride in the other direction, whereupon, as they rode far and near, they would ask people what their answer would be to this question. Surely, the answer would eventually come out of all this wisdom. The king liked the idea and they each set upon a journey of many months seeking the answer to this important, yet puzzling, question.

While on his journey Arthur met a lady that was as loathsome a creature as he had ever met. “Her face was red, and her nose dripped snot; her mouth was wide; her teeth were completely yellowed, and she had bleary eyes larger than a ball. Her mouth was overly large; her teeth hung over her lips.” There were many more details describing her foulness, but you get the picture.

Quite quickly the lady hailed the king and confidently explained that she knew the answer to his plight. She knew the secret; she knew what women most desire. “Grant me, sir, just one thing, and I guarantee you will live.” The king was not pleased with this lady, but he inquired as to what she wanted. In reply, she said “You must grant me a knight to marry. And his name is Sir Gawain.”

The king said he couldn’t do this and that it wasn’t for him to decide who Gawain would marry. But the lady was adamant, stating again that she could save his life. So the king reluctantly agreed to see what he could do.

When the king met Gawain he was discouraged, certain that he would die. Soon he shared with Gawain the offer of the foul lady and the deal she wanted in trade for her wisdom. As noble a knight as ever was, Gawain quickly agreed to marry her. “I shall marry her and marry her again. Even is she were a fiend. Even if she was as foul as Beelzebub. I will wed her, or could I really be your friend?

And so the king met again with the foul lady, whose name was Dame Ragnelle, and let her know that Gawain would indeed marry her. “Now,” said Arthur, “tell me your answer at once and save my life.” Ragnelle reviewed aloud many of the things that men thought women wanted – to be beautiful, to be in friendship with many wonderful men, to have pleasure in bed, to wed often, to be young, etc. “But there is one thing,” she said, “that we all fantasize about. Above all other things we desire from men to have sovereignty.” By this she meant that women want the ability to choose, whatever the situation may be. Sovereignty.

So the king went on his way and at the appointed time, exactly one year after first meeting the awful knight, met him where they had met before. Arthur told the knight what women most desire and the knight had to agree that it was a right and good answer. Arthur’s life was spared.

Gawain, though, believing in chivalry as he did, had to go ahead and marry Ragnelle. In spite of her ugliness, Gawain pledged his fidelity to her. People cried at the wedding for Gawain, but he married her nonetheless. During the reception banquet, true to her loathsome ways, Ragnelle ate more than any other guests. She probably ate more than any three guests put together.

Later that night, Gawain and Ragnelle were in their chamber when Gawain turned to her and instead of seeing an ugly, loathsome woman, he saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He rejoiced at her beauty, and embraced her, but she interrupted him.

“Sir,” she said, “thus shall you have me.
Choose one—may God save me,
My beauty will not be permanent—
Whether you will have me fair at night
And ugly by day to all men’s sight,
Or else to have me fair by day
And at night one of the foulest women.
One of these you must have.
Choose one or the other.
Choose one, Sir Knight, whichever pleases you more.”

“Alas,” said Gawain, “the choice is hard.” And he thought about which choice would be best, the advantages and disadvantages to each. In the end, though, he said –

“My beautiful Lady, do as you please.
I put the choice in your hands.
Just as you wish—I give you control.
Free me when you choose, for I am constrained.
I give you the choice.”

And because he honored her in this way, the sorcery placed on her by her stepmother was broken. For until the best man in England had truly wedded her, she would appear as the exact opposite of what she was. So courteous, chivalrous Gawain came to her rescue. Out of love for his king and a willingness to keep his promise he came to be with the beautiful Ragnelle.

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The tale, thought to be written around 1450, reveals a great, enduring truth – the human race was built for freedom. We function best, whether man, woman, or child, when we have autonomy and the ability to weigh our choices.

The tale is also a good example of curriculum content that can serve as a springboard to teach the elements of Choice Theory. In this case, the tale could be used to –

+ emphasize the basic need for freedom.

+ identify the Caring Habits and Deadly Habits of characters in the story.

+ examine the role of gender through the centuries since the tale was written.

+ discuss the factors that can contribute to unhappy marriages.

+ consider the concept of chivalry and its relationship to the basic need of freedom.

These are just a few classroom applications from the story. I would love it if you would respond and suggest additional teaching applications. If you have stories that you are already using in this way, it would be great if you could share them with us as well.

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The month of June is just around the corner and with it comes The Better Plan classes that I teach at Pacific Union College as a part of the summer school schedule. Those dates are –

The Better Plan 1   June 26-29

The Better Plan 2   July 5-7

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The Better Plan workshops can also be scheduled at your school, conference, or district. Let me know if you are interested.

What Makes Choice Theory So Hard To Do?

It has been said that Choice Theory is easy to understand, but hard to do. What do you think? And if this is true, what makes it so hard?

There’s good news in Choice Theory, like the fact that it means –

+ I no longer have to control everyone around me.

+ I can talk to people in a way that helps us work through a problem and stay connected in the process.

+ I can self-evaluate my own behavior and make a new plan for the future.

So what makes these three “good news” pieces of Choice Theory hard to do? Consider the following –

+ I no longer have to control everyone around me.
This Choice Theory truism should come as a relief, and when you first hear it in a workshop setting or read it in a book, it does feel like a relief. Then you drive home after the workshop or head to your classroom the following day and suddenly it feels more like a restriction than a relief. Control, we come to realize, isn’t something from which we really want to be relieved. Of course, it’s more about the feeling of control, since Choice Theory reminds us the only person we can control is ourselves. This feeling of control is more than alluring, though; it can become a part of our identity.
It is hard to let go of something that means as much to us as being in control, even if it is pseudo-control. It is hard, too, if we don’t yet feel skilled in how to live without controlling others. The skill lies in identifying our own needs and boundaries and then living a caring, connecting life within them.

+ I can talk to people in a way that helps us work through a problem and stay connected in the process.
It is easy for us to agree that using the Caring Habits (accepting, trusting, listening, encouraging, supporting, respecting, and negotiating differences) is better than using the Deadly Habits (criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding to manipulate) when it comes to how we relate to others, but it is still hard to do. One of the things that is hard is to really listen, to really focus on understanding what your child, your student, your spouse, or your colleague is saying. We listen to reply, rather than listening to understand. As a result, we are quick to tell a child or student what to do, rather than helping them arrive at and verbalize a plan. Maybe a desire for expediency urges us to tell and direct her/his behavior; maybe it is a way to meet our own need for influence and power. Whatever the case, it is hard to focus on asking good questions, rather than telling what we think are good answers.

+ I can self-evaluate my own behavior and make a new plan for the future.
For me, this is one of Glasser’s most important contributions to the field of mental health, that being that people can learn to monitor their own psychological health and make choices to maintain or improve it. It is hard, though, to escape the gravitational pull of stimulus-response thinking. Stimulus-response is an outside-in world. In other words, we are what the circumstances around us make us. There is a strong appeal to this way of thinking because somehow we are drawn to being the victim. Somehow there is something need-satisfying in victimhood.
Choice Theory is about an inside-out world in which people choose their course of action and choose their responses to circumstances, whatever they may be. Living in an inside-out world means recognizing our own responsibility for our thinking and our actions. This, you may have noticed, is hard to do.
It is easy to blame and to criticize, especially when we do it silently and resentfully, all the while building a case for our rightness. It is harder to look into our own psychological mirror and admit that we are criticizing or blaming to try and get what we want. It is harder to choose to be positive and caring, regardless of what people do in return.

It is hard to escape
the gravitational pull
of stimulus-response thinking.

It is hard to switch from a stimulus-response approach to a Choice Theory approach to life. Glasser felt that it took him two years to make the switch. I think it is taking longer for me. In fact, I think I think I will always need to stay intentional about this switch. More and more I come into an awareness of the ways in which I choose irresponsible misery, rather than responsible joy, and I want to change that. If a Choice Theory approach is taking longer for you, I want to encourage you to stay on the journey. Insights will continue to dawn in your thinking; breakthroughs will emerge in your experience. Resist the pull of stimulus-response.

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I finished the Anatomy of Peace book, by The Arbinger Institute. I can very much recommend it. It describes a Choice Theory approach to life from a unique angle that even experienced choice theorists will benefit from. Again, I want to thank my friends at Livingstone Adventist Academy for sharing the book with me.

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I’ve recently been alerted to the message of Michele Borba and her work surrounding the topic of empathy. Have you heard of her? Looks very good to me so far. More on her work later.

The Drive Home

 

Soul Shapers 1 class, summer of 2014; a talented group of teachers who taught me a lot.

Soul Shapers 1 class, summer of 2014; a talented group of teachers who taught me a lot.

I want to give a big thank you to the Soul Shapers 1 group from this past week! I said a few things, facilitated a few activities, and led a few discussions, but it was their openness, creativity, and insight that really made the week a fun and meaningful experience. For instance, the following chart presentation examples were all created by them.

Chart presentations: A teacher-created small booklet could by used by students to identify their basic needs.

Chart presentations: A teacher-created small booklet could by used by students to identify their basic needs.

 

Chart presentations: Puppets can be used to help students process their behavioral center choices.

Chart presentations: Puppets can be used to help students process their behavioral center choices.

 

Chart presentations: A creative role play format leads to a better understanding of total behavior.

Chart presentations: A creative role play format leads to a better understanding of total behavior.

Most of the classmembers headed out for home after class ended on Thursday afternoon, although not all of them. A few of them are sticking around for the weekend so that they can continue in Soul Shapers 2, which begins on Monday. One of the those heading home didn’t have far to go, as she works right here at PUC. Others from the class, though, had longer trips – five from locations around northern California, three from central California, two from southern California, and three from Salt Lake City.

The trip home after experiencing a choice theory workshop can be an intense time of reflection. So many new concepts that have us thinking about our motivations and evaluating our behaviors. I haven’t checked in yet with this class about their trip home yet, but former participants have shared things like –

“Well, my head was kind of spinning, that’s for sure. The choice theory ideas, plus the Scripture and Ellen White stuff, it was pretty clear, and it made sense to me. But hearing this stuff for the first time, I was like, now what?   RG

“Well, to be honest, I was a little bit discouraged as I drove home. I had great memories from the time in class, the new friendships and all, but as I really thought about how I had been showing up with others, especially my own children, I just felt a little bad. I really want to get rid of the deadly habits and use more of the caring habits.”   HR

“Hmm .  .  . the trip home? I think I was pretty obsessed with the whole concept of how we control for our perceptions, you know, the idea that we place a picture in our quality world and then live in a way to make that picture happen, including manipulation as needed. That really nailed me for some reason.”   PA

“I was pretty excited, actually! I was thinking of ways that I could present the choice theory ideas to my students. I agree with you that doing the ideas ‘with’ them will be way better than doing the ideas ‘to’ them. If all I did was teach them about their Basic Needs and the Quality World, that would be such a gift for them. I plan on doing more than that, but just those two concepts would make a huge difference!”   AS

“I found myself thinking about the classroom management things I am going to change next school year.”   DS

“It hit me how much I was in the habit of blaming others for stuff, which kind of absolved me from any role in helping to make things better. Like I would blame the kids’ homes for not raising them right, and I would blame the kids for their lack of performance in class. Of course, with this way of thinking it never occurred to me that how I set up the classroom and the learning may have had something to do with their poor performance.”  JJ

Choice theory does indeed invite us to reflect on our own thinking and our own behavior. Instead of our musings being aimless, though, or negative, choice theory helps us reflect in a positive way that leads to effective change. I look forward to checking in with the latest classmembers about their reflections as they traveled home.

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If you have read William Glasser: Champion of Choice, I encourage you to write a review of the book on Amazon. Together we can get the word out there that Glasser’s story and the ideas he championed are worth paying attention to. It’s not hard to contribute a Review of the book on Amazon and it doesn’t have to be long. Think about it.

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If you haven’t read Champion of Choice yet, then put it on your reading list for this summer. Besides a good story, you will learn a lot about choice theory and how to live your life.

photo

 

The Glasser Four

Glasser giving a talk in Ventura, California, in 2006.

Glasser giving a talk in Ventura, California, in 2006.

William Glasser was well-known for being able to speak to large audiences for hours without a script or even notes. And it wasn’t just that he could speak to an audience; he could teach and entertain in a way that people seemed to become unaware of the time. It was common for the stage or platform from which he was going to speak to have a few simple items – a chair or stool, a small table with a glass or pitcher of water, and a microphone. That was it. No lectern, no screen, and no media to help him get his points across. And yet, people listened, by the thousands, and by the hour.

I asked him during one of our interviews if he had an outline in his head of what he wanted to cover and he said that he did. Basically, he wanted to cover what he saw as the four essentials –

1. Basic needs

2. The quality world

3. Creativity

4. Total behavior

Other than this simple outline there was no script or set presentation. To some extent, each time he presented he wondered himself what he was going to come up with. If the talk was shorter, then he had to make his points quickly; if it was longer, then he could explain more deeply and share more anecdotes. Either way the success of his talks was dependent on his own creativity. He also described how much the audience’s interest and energy promoted or hindered his creativity. He tried to put into words how his creativity could almost be on fire when an audience was supportive.

This short outline gave him what he needed to share informative and impressive presentations. Chances are, though, an outline this short wouldn’t be enough for the rest of us. For the rest of us it would help if these essential areas were filled out a bit. So, let’s do that. Let’s fill them out and add some detail. I will start the process, however I would like a lot of you to send me additional bullet points that I can add to each of them.

In other words, for each of the Four Essentials think of a word or phrase that defines or describes that Essential in a way that helps to make it more clear. For instance –

Basic Needs
+ A unique set of urges / needs that constantly exert pressure on us to be met
+ Genetically passed on to us
+ Do not change over time
+ Are comprised of five psychological needs – purpose and meaning, love and belonging, power and success, freedom and autonomy, joy and fun – and one physiological need – survival and safety. (Glasser believed there are four psychological needs – love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.)

Quality World
+ A place in our head where we store pictures of anyone or anything that helps us to satisfy one or more of the basic needs.
+ QW pictures can be of people, places, objects, activities, and beliefs
+ The QW is an amoral picture book. In other words, we may collect pictures that help us to temporarily feel good, but that may not be good for us.

Creativity
+ Our brain is always creating potential behaviors in response to the changing circumstances around us.
+ Some behaviors become “old stand-by” behaviors for us and we store these for use as needed.
+ It is much preferable to depend on the Caring Habits as our go-to, “old stand-by’ behavior. The Caring Habits include supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, negotiating differences.
+ It is common, though, to use one or more of the Deadly Habits when our circumstances change in a way that we don’t like. Deadly Habits include criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding to manipulate.
+ We create behaviors that we think will satisfy our needs at the moment. A behavior we choose might not bring a lot of satisfaction, but it doesn’t take much for us to make this choice. For instance, we might choose one of the Deadly Habits because it gives us a very small feeling of control.

Total Behavior Car

Total Behavior
+ All behavior is purposeful.
+ Every behavior is made up of four parts that are best described by the words thinking, acting, feeling, and physiology.
+ We have direct control over two of the parts – thinking and acting.
+ We only have indirect control over the other two parts – feeling and physiology.

Help me improve these bulleted lists by adding things I have left out or by correcting any mistakes I may have made. Maybe some of them could be worded better. Let me know.

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One of the things we’ll be talking about during the Choice Theory Study Group tomorrow afternoon, March 15, is the concept of total behavior. We start in the PUC Education Building at 2:00 pm. I hope you can be there.

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Being honest may not get you a lot of friends,
but it will get you the right ones.
John Lennon

Behaviorism, Religion, Stimulus-Response, and the Character of God

Character of God

During the recent Soul Shapers class, I asked those in attendance to comment on four important areas or implications of choice theory. We had reviewed and discussed these areas in some depth and I wanted to check in regarding their level of understanding. In the activity format I used they each had two minutes to comment on each of these topics. Here are the topics and their answers. I think you will really find this interesting and useful. (After the topics and answers I also share how to set up a round robin activity.) If given two minutes to answer these questions, what would you write?

Something I have learned about –

. . . stimulus-response theory.

• May or may not work in the short term; does not work in the long term.
• It is a myth. May work with animals and people to a point, but is not how humans were made to respond or think. There are many factors involved in why we do what we do and this theory doesn’t address all of it.
• I learned that stimulus-response will work for some the kids, some of the time, but the students aren’t always responding to the stimulus for the reasons we as teachers think they should.
• The carrot trick can work, but the long-term effect is no good. EGW use the word disastrous. It destroys the ability to think for one’s self and it takes away the personality.
• We will never reach our full potential if we are chasing a carrot. We are not animals driven by desires or impulses. We need to be touched on a spiritual level for us to maximize our potential. Don’t drink the water in Mexico.
• Students naturally want to learn when they see the relevance of what they are learning, when it touches a chord within their hearts.

. . . the Caring Habits and the Deadly Habits.

• Criticizing, nagging, etc. are ultimately not helpful. Caring habits energize, enlighten, encourage, and help with choices.
• Use of the deadly habits will dull a student’s ears and prevent them from caring about learning.
• The deadly habits will ultimately destroy relationships, whereas the caring habits will build relationships. The caring habits take more time and energy to carry out, but the reward is worth it.
• That I am a more deadly person; I need to change. I have both, but I can see that what I fall back to mostly are more in the deadly list. I must make a conscious effort to change. My choice!
• Deadly habits are those I’ve been trained to use. I was amazed by how using these strategies “put down” or stifled creativity. I need to put a conscious effort into using “caring habits” and responses with all the people with whom I interact.
• No more smart-ass responses to smart-ass kids.
• How harmful criticism, nagging, and punishing are on relationships. How switching to using caring habits will increase connectedness and help engage students and even families.
• It is important to be aware of which habits you’re using when interacting with others. The deadly habits will push others away and cause damage, whereas the caring habits will open up doors and cause a deeper, more honest relationship to form.
• That healthy relationships are about building up the students, looking for wars to praise and spotlight. The deadly ones are about picking on faults and causing them to feel like they can’t measure to our standards. I love the Oakland A’s.

. . . Behaviorism and its effect on religion and spirituality.

• Behaviorism can be put on or taken off, but that does not necessarily affect or reflect what the heart is doing.
• It has eroded religion and spirituality. Religion focuses on the do’s and don’t’s. The focus should be more on God’s love for us.
• Behaviorism should not be the beginning of our relationship with God. Attempting to understand His great love for us and the freedom He gives us should be the most important thing. Unfortunately, we often start with the behavior, not the love.
• God will not pour obedience into us and bypass our will. The will and spirituality are linked. Being good is not the same thing as being whole and restored to the original image of God.
• God does not give us spirituality. God guides us, but with our free will we choose to obey God or Satan. My thoughts and behaviors are guided by my internal desires.
• Taking away free choice in religion and putting it in a box will turn students and adults away from the thought of any form of religion.
• That control takes away from the experience. Forcing kids to be baptized when they are 12 or pressuring people to believe or follow without choice makes the experience shallow or meaningless. Tacos are delicious.
• Forcing or not allowing choice in a religious setting will likely end up causing the person to turn away from religion as it becomes too legalistic.

. . . the character of God.

• God’s love is very deep. The power He gives us to choose is such an amazing gift. Wow!
• God’s love is so great for us that He has given us the power of choice. To love is not to force.
• Righteousness by choice; we choose our level of connectedness to Jesus. He does not force us on any front.
• God gives us free will. I may believe God is controlling me, but He is not. My behavior stems from my will to want to obey God and be like Him and like Christ.
• He loves a cheerful giver, not someone who gives under compulsion. This is probably why EGW says that rules should be few (but strictly enforced).
• From the beginning of the Great Controversy, God has let choice be the measure of your love. Decide today who you will serve. Love is not forced. Choice is not forced or coerced. That’s why prosperity gospel ministries are so shameful. God is love.
• That we have free will. God has the power to change – past, future, and present – but He allows us to choose, so that the universe can see what choices we make. I love burritos.
• God has given us free will to choose. God wants us to make the choices based on our connection with Him. God wants us to allow others to right to choose.
• He bravely gives me the ability to choose. I have been created in His same character and can reject His will or love in my life. His character teaches me to love others via His love for me.

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These topics and answers came out of a Round Robin learning format. The Round Robin format is simple to set up, yet it can lead to powerful learning results. To use a Round Robin in your classroom –

1. Identify four topics that students have recently been studying and develop clear, concise questions that can serve as writing prompts. It works best when the questions are open-ended.

2. Create quads. Divide students into learning teams with four on each team. (You can have a team of three, but don’t go more than four.)

3. Have team members number off from 1 – 4, and then provide every team member with a piece of paper.

4. Team member #1 will then write the first topic question, in bold letters, at the top of his/her paper; team member #2 will write the second topic question at the top of his/her paper; team member #3 will write the third question; and team member #4 the fourth question.

5. Each of the team members will now have a sheet of paper in front of them with a topic question headline written across the top. At the signal, students will have two minutes to write an answer to their sheet’s question. (The time can be lengthened or shortened as needed.) When the time is up, students will stop writing and slide their sheet to the team member on their left. Each team member now has a new question in front of them. At the signal, they will have two minutes to answer another prompt. This process continues until each team member has been given a chance to comment on each of the questions.

7. The round robin activity can help teachers check for understanding, as reading student answers to the prompts will show how students view the topics. Students can read what their team members wrote and then discuss their answers within the group. Small group discussions can then lead to a full-class discussion. In general, the round robin format is a good way to get 100% of your students engaging in the lesson content. And that’s a good thing!

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Dagnabit! Pt. 2

Besides the deadly habits derailing our New Year’s resolutions, something else to consider is the strength of the behavior with which we are dealing. Wanting to eat differently is a common New Year’s goal, and on the surface that goal seems simple enough, but our eating habits often revolve around much deeper issues in our lives than simply taking food and swallowing it. Behaviors can become forms of self-medication. We want to feel good and over time we discover behaviors that satisfy our needs. We don’t refer to certain kinds of food as comfort food for nothing.

Some self-medicating behaviors, like gambling or use of illicit drugs, are inherently destructive, while many others, like shopping or eating or even sex, are not necessarily bad in themselves, yet they can become destructive as we give them more power than they deserve. Self-medicating is by nature an addictive process, a complex process that involves nature, nurture, and choice factors. Engaging in a particular activity, or even thinking about the activity, bathes our brain cells in a way that results in either pleasure or a at least a release from the pain.

The power of addictive behaviors can be incredibly strong, leading us to do things that leave us incredulous at our own weakness and disgusted with our self-imprisonment. A book that compassionately, yet firmly and candidly describes the comprehensive and compelling power of addiction, especially drug and alcohol addiction, is titled In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts (2010), by Gabor Mate. Describing the lives of drug addicts in Vancouver, British Columbia, Mate persuasively explains why the current war on drugs does nothing to curb the addict’s drive for a fleeting moment of satisfaction. The book also makes a case for all addictions basically being the same. Whether we are a hardcore drug addict or a housewife desperate to do some online shopping, addiction is addiction. Behaviors that weaken us and lessen our ability to have control over our lives are negative addictions. It is possible, though, according to William Glasser, for certain habits (e.g.- exercising, devotional meditations, creative hobbies, etc.) to add strength and self-control to our lives, to literally be positive addictions. For more on Glasser’s views check out Positive Addiction, which was published in 1976.

At a New Year’s Eve gathering we got to talking about New Year’s resolutions and a friend shared that he had heard that as of June each calendar year, that of the people who had made resolutions, 40% of them were still keeping their new commitment. I felt that number was way high, but I do agree that a percentage of us are able to make and keep behavior change commitments. For some of us we know that we aren’t exercising enough and we start exercising; for some of us we know that we are eating to much sugar and we cut back; and for some of us we know that we’re spending too much time playing video games and we stop. For others of us, though, it isn’t that simple. Some of us are in a battle for our lives.

If a behavior has become a self-medicating behavior, then we need to acknowledge and respect it for what it has become. We made choices that invited that behavior into our lives. It felt right or important enough at the moment. And we have repeatedly affirmed that choice, sometimes for many years. The behavior has become a “friend” that we can count on. True, this “friend” is a bully and cares nothing for our real happiness. But we prefer a terrible friend we can count on over other options that seem out of our reach. If this kind of self-medicating behavior has become a part of your life, be aware that a simple resolution sometime around the end of December or beginning of January isn’t going to cut it. The cause of the challenge lies deeper than a New Year’s promise can affect.

Self-medicating, addictive behaviors can be dealt with! There is most definitely hope! To begin to gain the victory over behavior that weaken and trap, I recommend the following:
1) Take an honest personal inventory and admit the largeness of your addiction. Recognize that the behavior has become a thief of your power and your joy.
2) Bring your inventory to the Holy Spirit, admit your inability to effectively deal with the behavior, and seek His cleansing and strengthening might. He is anxious to share His insight and muscle with you.
3) Begin to learn about how our brains actually work. Seek to understand the source of your own motivation. For me, choice theory offered the best explanation of human psychology and provided details into how God created us a free will beings. (My goal is to write a follow-up book to Soul Shapers that will describe choice theory, along with how it shows up in our lives.)

Just remember that real change, lasting change occurs from the inside-out, and that not even pressure we afflict on ourselves from the outside-in, also known as the deadly habits, will make a positive difference. I am so glad that Romans 8:1, 2 comes right after Romans 7:18-25.

“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.* I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power* within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. Romans 7:18 – 8:2.

Hey, 2013! I’m makin a change, dagnabit!

More than any other time of the year, New Year’s has us thinking about choices. What follows are some choice theory thoughts as we ring in 2013.

We call them resolutions. When day 365 of 2012 is over we want a new beginning on day 1 of 2013. We know what we want, we know what’s needed, and we make a promise, a commitment. And not just any promise. This is really a promise, dagnabit! In spite of the intensity of their intention, for many their New Year’s promise goes by the wayside and the old habit rushes back in to fill its rightful place. As sincere as we are when we identify a new behavior that we want to become a part of our life, it may be that external control thinking is setting us up for failure.

External control thinking is based on a stimulus-response approach to life. This approach relies on the belief that people can be manipulated through well-placed rewards and punishments. Most of us know this approach pretty well. We were raised with it (often by well-meaning parents), and it was used on us in school. In fact, it seems to be everywhere. Choice theory explains that external control is destructive on so many levels. When used in management external control strategies ultimately reduce the quality of the product being sold, whether the product be a service or a thing. And more importantly, whether it is used in the workplace or at home, external control harms relationships. This seems to be especially true when it comes to the relationship we most value–that being our relationship with our spouse. A therapist once shared with me that over 90% of his clients would rather be right than married. I think it would be even more accurate to say that his clients would rather be in control of their partner than connect with him/her in unconditional acceptance.

Externally controlling behaviors are so destructive to relationships that they are referred to as deadly habits. Examples of deadly habits include criticizing, blaming, threatening, punishing, and bribing. To get others to fulfill our expectations (or even just to gain a slight feeling of control) we rely on these habits. Over time we can become especially good at one or two of these ways of being. It is interesting and sad that so many of us stick with the deadly habit approach, even as we can see that they don’t help us get what we really want. (What we really want is intimacy with our spouse–spiritually, emotionally, and physically.) I guess that little feeling of control we get when we use a deadly habit is worth it to us. Maybe it’s pride, too.

So, what do the deadly habits have to do with our New Year’s resolutions? Just this. For those of us who have marinated in an external control world, we not only apply the deadly habits with our colleagues and loved ones, we apply them to ourselves. We criticize and blame ourselves for eating too much, or not exercising enough, or not praying enough, or watching too much TV. And we bribe, threaten and even punish ourselves when don’t behave accordingly. I am convinced that the deadly habits work no better on ourselves than they do on others. The sincerity of our desire and the intensity of our commitment cannot overrule a foundation built on external control.

The key is understanding that we were designed by our Creator to be internally motivated and controlled, rather than controlled by others or circumstances outside of us. We behave in ways that are need-satisfying to us. Take note here — I didn’t say we behave in ways that are good for us. We behave in a way that satisfies a need. Coming into an understanding of our needs and the ways in which we satisfy them will help in our efforts to make better choices. Berating and bullying ourselves may have some short term success, but ultimately our success lies in understanding our internal control design.

More when New Year’s, Pt. 2 is posted.

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