How to Foster Initiative in Students

Recently a teacher asked me, “Can we really expect ALL children (even kindergartners) to understand and abide by the Discipline Without Stress’ 4 levels of behavior without ANY rewards?”

Here is my reply:

YES, but you start by differentiating between ACCEPTABLE levels and UNACCEPTABLE levels. See the posters and cards at http://marvinmarshall.com/sync/shop/impulse-managementlevels-of-development-cards/.

Also (and this is critical), be sure you have taught, practiced, and practiced again EVERYTHING you want your students to do. A MAJOR ERROR EVEN EXPERIENCED TEACHERS MAKE is ASSUMING that students, of any age, know what to do without first learning, practicing, and ritualizing the procedure or skill.

Once STUDENTS (especially young ones) HAVE LEARNED what YOU want them to do, they will want to do it. Learning for them is fun. If you are POSITIVE with your kids, they will like you and will want to please you. Boys and girls have a natural desire to please their teachers (level C–external motivation). They will readily do what you ask them to do if they know HOW to do it.

Once young students have learned what you have taught, many will TAKE THE INITIATIVE to do exactly what you have taught because they then KNOW HOW TO and WANT TO do the right thing, simply because it is the right thing to do. This describes level D—internal motivation.

Guided Choices in the Classroom

In the Discipline Without Stress methodology, Guided Choices are used when a student has already acknowledged level B behavior and disrupts the lesson again.

The most effective approach is to ELICIT a consequence or procedure to help the student help himself to avoid future unacceptable behavior. This should be done in private by stating, “What you have done is not on an acceptable level.”

Then ask, “What do you suggest we do about it?” Be ready to ask, “What else?” “What else?” “What else?” until what the student says is acceptable and will assist the student in not repeating the behavior.

The advantages of ELICITING the consequence are multiple:
1. An adversarial relationship is avoided.
2. The student has ownership in the decision.
3. Victimhood thinking is not encouraged because the student is empowered rather than overpowered.
4. The student has developed a plan to avoid repetition of the inappropriate behavior.

When talking with the student in private may not be immediately practical, one of the Discipline Without Stress discipline forms can be used. (K-1 teachers can have the student draw the situation.)

When handing the discipline form to the student, give the student choices. Three (3) choices are more effective than two because any sense of coercion is eliminated with a third choice.

Quietly ask, for example,
–Would you prefer to complete the activity in your seat?
–At the rear of the room?
–Or in the office?

The teacher controls the situation using this approach because the teacher is asking the question(s), and as long as the student has a choice, dignity is preserved and confrontation is avoided.

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