1.                            Determine the Purpose for the Behavior     

2.                            How to discipline without punishment

3.                            Motivate Students to Learn Without Using Punishments or  Rewards.

4.                            Discipline Dilemma

5.                            When Children Resist Instructions

6.                            The Guilt Trap

7.                            The Solution Isn't Just Bigger Consequences

8.                            Good Parenting Sometimes Doesn't Work

9.                            Understanding Attitudes and How To Change Them

  1. Bad Attitudes Come in Three Arenas


Understand the Purpose of Behavior:

There are several reasons for the display of inappropriate behavior. There are also 'age stages' for unacceptable behaviors and these types of behaviors are often outgrown when handled properly. We need to remember that it is not wise to accept unacceptable behaviors. There is no reason to expect or accept inappropriate behaviors.

We need to understand the behavior, realize that it's not appropriate regardless of the age or stage the child may be going through and help to positively influence and curb the behavior. Unfortunately, it's too easy to turn a blind eye to the behavior and in so doing, the behavior continues and in many cases gets worse.

Determine the Purpose for the Behavior:

Typically there are 4 reasons for inappropriate behavior (according to Dreikurs):

Attention: When a child can't get your attention, they'll often act out to get it.

Revenge A child doesn't feel loved for some reason and seeks revenge for attention, they feel important when they hurt others or hurt the feelings of others.

Power These children need to be the 'boss'. They only feel important when they are the boss. Power struggles become numerous in these situations.

Display of Inadequacy These children usually have low confidence and self-esteem levels and will give up quickly thinking they can't do anything. They don't often have a sense of doing something successful.

Once you've determined the goal of the inappropriate behavior, you are much more equipped to turn it around.

In a nutshell, here is what you need to remember in order to change the inappropriate behaviors:

Always show respect, when you give respect, you'll get it -- eventually. Model the behavior you want to see at all times.

Encourage the child, boost their self-esteem, convey that they are loved and give them the attention for acting appropriately.

Never engage in power struggles, refrain from becoming angry. Do not retaliate.

Recognize that ALL inappropriate behaviors stem from needing attention.




Young people today come to school with a different orientation than past generations. Traditional student disciplining approaches are no longer successful for far too many young people. For example, a parent related the following to me after a discussion of how society and youth have changed in recent generations:

The other day, my teenage daughter was eating in a rather slovenly manner, and I lightly tapped her on the wrist saying, "Don't eat that way."
My daughter replied, "Don't abuse me."
The mother had grown up in the 1960s and volunteered the point that her generation tested authority but most were really afraid to step out of bounds. She related that her daughter was a good child and added, "But the kids today not only disrespect authority, they have no fear of it." And, because of rights for young children—which we should have—it's hard to instill that fear without others claiming abuse.

So, how can we discipline students, so we as teachers can do our jobs and teach these young children who refuse to learn?

In many cases we resort to punishment as a strategy for motivation. For example, students who are assigned detention and who fail to show are punished with more detention. But in my questioning about the use of detention in hundreds of workshops around the country, teachers rarely suggest detention is actually effective in changing behavior.

Why detention is an ineffective form of punishment.

When students are not afraid, punishment loses its effectiveness. Go ahead give the student more detention that he simply won't show up to.

This negative, coercive discipline and punishment approach is based on the belief that it is necessary to cause suffering to teach. It's like you need to hurt in order to instruct. The fact of the matter, however, is that people learn better when they feel better, not when they feel worse.

Remember, if punishment were effective in reducing inappropriate behavior, then there would be NO discipline problems in schools.

The irony of punishment is that the more you use it to control your students' behaviors, the less real influence you have over them. This is because coercion breeds resentment. In addition, if students behave because they are forced to behave, the teacher has not really succeeded. Students should behave because they want to—not because they have to in order to avoid punishment.

People are not changed by other people. People can be coerced into temporary compliance. But internal motivation—where people want to change—is more lasting and effective. Coercion, as in punishment, is not a lasting change agent. Once the punishment is over, the student feels free and clear. The way to influence people toward internal rather than external motivation is through positive, non-coercive interaction.


1. Great teachers understand that they are in the relationship business. Many students—especially those in low socio-economic areas—put forth little effort if they have negative feelings about their teachers. Superior teachers establish good relationships AND have high expectations.

2. Great teachers communicate and discipline in positive ways. They let their students know what they want them to do, rather than by telling students what NOT to do.

3. Great teachers inspire rather than coerce. They aim at promoting responsibility rather than obedience. They know that OBEDIENCE DOES NOT CREATE DESIRE.

4. Great teachers identify the reason that a lesson is being taught and then share it with their students. These teachers inspire their students through curiosity, challenge, and relevancy.

5. Great teachers improve skills that prompt students to WANT to behave responsibly and WANT to put effort into their learning.

6. Great teachers have an open mindset. They REFLECT so that if a lesson needs improvement they look to themselves to change BEFORE they expect their students to change.

7. Great teachers know education is about motivation.

Unfortunately, today's educational establishment still has a 20th century mindset that focuses on EXTERNAL APPROACHES to increase motivation. An example of the fallacy of this approach is the defunct self-esteem movement that used external approaches such as stickers and praise in attempts to make people happy and feel good. What was overlooked was the simple universal truth that people develop positive self-talk and self-esteem through the successes of THEIR OWN EFFORTS.

If you follow the advice above and in my book "Discipline without Stress, Punishments or Rewards" and you will promote education and social responsibility in a positive learning environment.

Discipline Dilemma: "Why Can't She Tell the Truth?"

Reform a little liar by tweaking old discipline tactics to fit new circumstances

Knowing why kids lie at each age and stage helps you encourage candor, and so does your unconditional support. Your best bet: create a nurturing environment so your child knows she can talk to you about anything, anytime.

3 to 5: Preschoolers do not yet understand the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie, so responding in an angry or accusatory voice gets you nowhere. Instead of asking, "Did you spill the juice?", focus on what happened ("Hmmm, the juice spilled") and suggest a way to rectify the situation ("Let's get paper towels and wipe it up"). Tall tales and exaggerations ("I can do 1,000 cartwheels!") are also evidence of a rich imagination, not a deceitful child. "That's what you wish for, right?" acknowledges her dreams and gently clarifies the line between reality and fantasy.

6 to 10: Masters of denial, kids this age lie because they want to please you, squirm out of responsibility, or escape punishment. They may also lie to get what they want (permission to watch a TV show) or to win friends. Never call a child a liar, but make it clear that you won't tolerate dishonesty. Try saying, ''It's important to tell me the truth. I will still have to give you a consequence, but I won't be angry or yell at you — I'll be proud that you didn't lie.'' Let him know that everyone (even you) makes mistakes, and that you still love him, even if he did break your mother's porcelain vase. If he lies about a routine matter — say, not finishing his math homework — that didn't harm anyone or breach a safety rule, a disapproving look and a reminder that you expect him to tell the truth will get your message across ("Okay, buddy. It's important to keep up with your assignments. Let's look over that math sheet together").

11 to 14: Privacy is paramount, and he may "forget" to tell you something or omit certain details. (Technically, you see, he didn't have any homework tomorrow, but he has plenty due the day after, plus a science test Friday.) Friends and social status reach critical mass, so fabrications designed to avoid ridicule or impress peers multiply ("My Dad's taking me to the Super Bowl this year"). Instead of trying to "catch" him in a lie, make it clear that you know he's not being truthful and that you take lying — including lies of omission — seriously. ("That doesn't sound like the truth to me. Want to think for a minute and start over?")

Skip the lectures. A calm, steady voice, minus sarcasm or criticism, wins cooperation. When he admits the truth, acknowledge it and move on. Never embarrass a child in front of his peers, but do take him aside later and say, "The Super Bowl would be great, but you know it's not happening." Discipline only works when done in a way that makes your child feel valued and accepted, not criticized and shamed. Kids this age are hungry for approval, Giving praise widely when they do something right will guarantee a replay  



When a child continually demonstrates resistance to instructions, then it's time to decide whether you need to emphasize relationship more or you need to discipline for a lack of responsiveness.

Sometimes we take our children for granted, order them around, and don't appreciate them enough. The result is children who tend to resist instructions. If that's the case in your family then it's time to show more love and emphasize the value of your relationships together.

On the other hand, some children resist instructions because of poor character. Training is work and some children need to learn how to demonstrate genuine responsiveness when someone wants to talk with them. If you ask your son to come help in the kitchen, and before you finish your instruction he's whining and complaining, then stop the process. You may have to postpone discipline for a time because you need to get the table set in order to stay on schedule, but don't just let it go. After dinner, talk to your son and confront him about his poor attitude. Explain the importance of cooperation and that you're going to have him help you with dinner every evening for a while. Increasing the workload to give more opportunity to practice may be just the constructive consequence needed to build a cooperative attitude.

Kids want life to be easy. The reality is that life is hard. Cooperation is an essential character quality all children need and now’s the time to teach it.


Some parents look at the pain their children have already experienced in life and then use leniency to try to compensate. The leniency then often results in demandingness and poor character in their children.

Children who have suffered through divorce, death of a family member, or have had a major illness need extra care and love but they don't need parents to just give in. These parents end up with kids who have two problems: they are hurt and they lack character. Because you love your children you may feel like you want to spare them any more pain so you hesitate to confront, correct, set limits, or discipline. This can be counter-productive. Instead, increase the love while continuing the firmness your child needs.

When you hear those words in your head, "she's already been through so much. . ." then it's time to step back and evaluate the situation and what you're teaching about life. One helpful solution is to develop a philosophy of discipline. Actually write out some key principles that will carry you through when you feel weak:

A. We all must learn to live within limits.
B. Unfairness is inevitable in life so our response to it is more important than balancing the scales.
C. Character is important and is often learned through difficulties.
D. Trials and problems can bring out the best in people.

Children who have struggles in life not only need heavier doses of love, but they often need heavier doses of firmness too in order to overcome a tendency toward self pity, demandingness, or selfishness. Lovingly guide your children to gain the most from their struggles and develop the character they need to be successful in life.


Some problems that children face are more difficult than others. The child who is annoying, who habitually teases, or who is explosively angry are just a few examples. Out of frustration, some parents think that the child needs bigger and bigger consequences. They believe that the bigger the consequence, the faster the change.

Remember that the goal is a changed heart, not just punishment for doing wrong. A larger consequence may be needed to get the child's attention but the real work takes place by helping children adjust the way they think and the patterns of behavior that have developed over time. Often many small corrections are more effective than one large consequence.

Mature people will feel an internal pain when they discover that they’ve made a mistake or done the wrong thing. This is normal and healthy. Your child may not experience that same inner sense yet. Consequences create a kind of pain for children. This pain can motivate right behavior and get them moving in the right direction.

One example of this is the parent who decided to take away the privilege of riding a bike from her nine-year-old son. She said, "Son, I'm not just taking the bike away for a day. I'm taking the bike away until I see some progress in the way you're treating me when I call you in for dinner. We'll see how you do for two days and if I see a good response then you can play with your bike again." Mom turned the discipline around so that the child had to earn back the privilege. She wanted to see several positive change points before she allowed her son to ride his bike again.

Kids often need a multi-faceted approach to help them change. Teaching about sensitivity, self-control, respect or another quality will also go a long way to help children change their minds and thus free them to change their hearts as well.


As a parent, you've probably discovered that even when you do right things with your kids, at times problems develop and you have to make adjustments. As you examine your current routine, you may discover that in an attempt to do something helpful such as talk things through, you've actually encouraged something unhelpful such as arguing. You may find that you're not actually doing something wrong but the pattern that's developed has become unhealthy.

After thinking about what happens when her son badgers, one mom told us, "All I do is respond to his questions. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I thought it was good to talk with your kids.… It's just that he won't quit." It's true that talking with kids is helpful most of the time, but when parents indulge a badgering child, they become part of the problem.

After you identify negative patterns in your relationship, you don't have to feel guilty that you've been doing it all wrong for years. The fact is that you've probably been doing a lot of things right. You just need a change because it's time to emphasize something different. We find that many parents feel like failures when problems come because they've been doing what they think is right but it isn't working. The fact is that one particular right thing may not be the best thing for your family at this time. The sooner you can see problems and make adjustments the better.

Parents must make changes regularly. It's part of the job. Flexibility is important. In fact one mom said if Jesus would have written beatitudes for parents he would have said, "Blessed are the flexible" and "Blessed are those who know when to take a stand for righteousness and when to just love 'em." Pray a lot and ask the Lord for wisdom. In the end you'll be surprised at the progress your children make.


"Attitude" is a shorthand term used to summarize many different feelings, thoughts, and behaviors all at the same time. Various triggers provoke attitudes and simply hearing a word or seeing a sign can change a person's perspective. All Mom has to do is say Derek with that certain voice, for instance, and Derek knows she is going to ask him to do something. He responds with "Yeah, wadaya want!" Victoria gets to school and sees a pink slip taped to her locker again. She doesn't even read it but rolls her eyes and groans knowing that it's a call to the office. Triggers like these quickly move people into attitudes that help determine how they will respond to a situation.

Attitudes actually have three components: acting, feeling, and thinking. Each one is useful in the change process. The behavior is a flag to see the problem and know where to target the change. The emotion helps you know when to correct, and the thinking shows you what you need to address.

Many parents only focus on the first component, behavior, telling kids to "stop pouting," or "Don't roll your eyes at me." Furthermore, these parents tend to focus only on what not to do instead of what the child should do. It usually isn't helpful just to tell a child to "Stop having a bad attitude" without giving more guidance for developing a better response.

Remember that the goal of discipline is not just to make your children less annoying. As you correct your children for bad attitudes, you are preparing them for the future. After all, they will experience similar situations continually throughout their lives.

Look for ways to help your children think differently. Listening carefully to your child can help you identify thinking errors that lead to a bad attitude. What hidden belief might Jeremy, age ten, have? He complains and argues when you ask him to do the dishes? Maybe he believes, "Chores are an interruption to my life." If pressed, he may also reveal a belief, "All work is hard and unpleasant, and I must try to avoid it." A positive attitude about work comes from several new values such as "Work is necessary in order to brings benefits to me and to others" or "My contribution to family life is a statement of gratefulness for what I have."

Changing attitudes requires exposure to new ways of thinking. You can provoke your children to more healthy attitudes through dialogue, modeling, and correction.


A bad attitude is a challenge to family life and frustrates many a parent. Furthermore, if children don't learn how to deal with their attitude, they grow up to be adults with bad attitudes. One way to help children overcome a bad attitude is to take it apart and help them deal with it in smaller pieces.

Children are tempted to have a bad attitude in three prominent areas: when given an instruction, when corrected, and when given a "no" answer. One mom put a sign up in her kitchen listing those three areas with the heading, "Three opportunities for a good attitude."

Take time to talk about attitude with your children. Discuss the importance and benefits of a good attitude. Help your children understand these three areas and even warn your child when one of them is coming. Coach your children to have a better response.

The next time your child demonstrates a bad attitude, don’t just point out the negative but teach how to respond rightly. When given an instruction, a child might say, "Okay Mom," in a pleasant tone of voice. When corrected, it would be helpful to say, "I'm sorry." When receiving a "no" answer, children might say to themselves, "Okay, maybe another time."

A bad attitude is often a sign of an angry spirit and the groaning, rolled eyes, sarcasm, stomping feet, or disgusted look are all attempts to communicate dissatisfaction with the situation. Gently point out these bad habits and help your children to practice better responses. Be careful of your own harshness in the process and look for ways to break the problem down into manageable pieces.