Educators educating Educators

Jan 19

Discipline with Dignity

“A classroom management approach that teachers responsible thinking, cooperation, mutual respect, and shared decision-making.”

Developed by Dr. Richard L. Curvin and Dr. Allen N. Mendler

All of the information contained in this section was developed by Discipline Associates and obtained from a post-graduate course. The following is only an overview of what I consider the most engaging topics of Discipline with Dignity.

Discipline with Dignity

Discipline with Dignity is a flexible program for effective school and classroom management that teaches responsible thinking, cooperation, mutual respect, and shared decision-making. Drs. Richard Curwin and Allen Mendler, the internationally acclaimed authors of Discipline with Dignity, developed this approach.


Before we start, let’s Pause and Reflect

Something to think about:

All interventions can stop misbehavior for a short time. More important is: How the intervention affects behavior and learning over time.

Something to Remember:

Students need dignity and control. Give control by giving choices and setting limits

Something to use:

Reframe student behavior in a way that allows you to be a teacher rather than a policeman. Think in terms of opening doors, not closing them.

The word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina, which means “instruction given to a learner.” Therefore, one of the main functions of discipline is to perceive discipline as a teaching process rather than a process of intimidation and humiliation.


Practical Discipline Guidelines

1. The most practical discipline technique is to welcome every student.

2. It takes less time at the end when you spend more time in the beginning.

3. When students withdraw, make an even bigger invitation.

4. Discipline responses require a two-stage approach: stabilize & teach

5. Model effective expressions of anger with your students.

6. When you take something away, give something back.

7. Never use something you want a child to love as a consequence.

8. Eventually you must face a student who misbehaves; no one can do it for you.

9. When disciplining students, always provide choices and limits.

10.No one can change his or her behavior without a commitment.


Typical Ineffective Methods of Discipline



Taking away unrelated privileges

Sending to office

Public apologies


Writing name on board

Serving time after school



Five Strategies for Valuing Effort

Emphasize right answer

Count improvement

Use “works in progress”

Build on mistakes

Issue personal challenges and goals


Five Alternatives to Threats


Real choices

Give “one time” trial offer

Help student(s) find alternative routes to their goals

Validate the parts you can agree with


Comparing Two Types of Discipline Systems

Obedience Responsibility

Based on rewards and punishments Based on values; learning right from wrong

Focuses on deterrents Focuses on instruction

Works best with students who don’t Helps all student

need it

Appropriate for safety Appropriate for all situations

Woks fast, doesn’t last takes longer, lasts longer

A Good Rule

Good Rule Is…

…Based on principles

…Clear and specific



…Stated positively when possible

…Clear: Succinct and parsimonious


Good Consequences

A Good Consequence…

… Is clear and specific

…has a range of alternatives

…is not a punishment

…is related to the rule

…is natural or logical (when possible)


Avoiding Power Struggles

Power struggles get worse if escalated

When the issue is dignity vs. dignity, it is impossible for either side to back down. As each side tries to win, they dig in deeper and fight harder, use more weapons and escalate the struggle.

Neither the student nor the teacher will win

As the stakes get higher, it becomes more and more impossible for either party to feel like a winner regardless of how the original issues turns out. Because the game no longer includes the original issue, it is now based on dignity.

Use active listening

Active listening is a technique that can be used to diffuse the power struggle. When a teacher uses active listening, he neither agrees nor disagrees with the student, but rather acknowledges the student’s remarks by paraphrasing it without judging it.

Agree to speak with the student later

Usually both parties are hot (full of emotion) it is very difficult to reach any sort of resolution. After the use of active listening, set up a time to speak with the student later.

Keep all communication as private as possible


Goals for Defusing Power Struggles

Dignity for student

Dignity for educator

Keeping the student in class

Teaching an alternative to aggression


Methods for Defusing Power Struggles






Do not think in terms of winning and losing. You and your students are both on the same team.

Control anger. Expressing genuine anger shows you are human, but a chronically angry teacher is not effective.

Do not accept excuses.

Sometimes it is best to let the student choose the consequence.

Avoid traps: diffuse power struggles.

Avoid behaviors that make you a victim. Excessive passive or aggressive behavior tells students you are out of control. They have won the battle: they are now in control because you are out of control.

Alter conditions to reach your highest goals. Change discipline and classroom structure to support students acting responsibly.

Take a professional stance. Do not interpret student behavior personally.

Communication is better than force.


“If we can control the attention of the child, we solve the problems of education.” Maria Montessori

This month Ed Tip will examine how to improve students' learning by activating their attention.