NASSP Principal Leadership Magazine: Discipline.

What’s better than the February 2012 edition of Principal Leadership?Principal Leadership:  February 2012.

The February 2012 digital edition.

It includes my take on discipline.

Remember:  Discipline is what you do to a student.  It’s what you do for a student.

I wish I had invented that saying, but I didn’t.

I stole it.  Which is where I get all my best ideas.

Enjoy the magazine.

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There is a Complete Lack of Discipline in My House.

It’s borderline ridiculous.He is Cute.

Part of my job is trying to promote good discipline among a large group of students.

It’s not any easy job, but someone has to do it.

Talk nice.

Treat each other with respect.

Don’t cheat.

Don’t touch each other (this means you junior high boys).

Pick up trash.

Easy on the texting.

Use your indoor voice.

Don’t put anything on Facebook that we will all regret (and cause me to contact the school lawyer).

Basically, just do the right thing.

It doesn’t always go smoothly, but for the most part students seem to listen.

Then there’s my house.

And the two people who live in it and eat my food.

They have no discipline.

Specifically, they have no discipline in regards to the other "thing" that lives in my house and eats more food than anyone.

Buddy the Dog.

It seems that hundreds of children of all ages will at least fake respect when I’m in their vicinity.

My dog?  It’s like he’s an animal. 

And deaf.

Even worse, my wife is evidently trying to win the Mrs. I’m a Dog Owner and I Have No Interest in Making the Family Animal Follow Any Rules Because I Find Him Handsome Pageant.

Why does he get to do what he wants when he wants?

Why is there always time for his every want and need?

Why does he get to crawl inside the dishwasher and look for scraps?

Why do we call my bed "my bed" when HE seems to spend more time there?

Why does he get so much attention?

And most importantly, why does he get all of this special treatment when I work and all he does is nap?

I can’t pinpoint the exact date where I lost control of our home, but it seems to be about the exact same day in which he showed up.

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The Golden Rule: Scream at Others and They Will Scream at You.

I can neither confirm nor deny any or all of the following is true.

Parents are crazy.

I’m not talking about all parents, just the ones who are insane.

The actual percentage of parents who suffer from this disease runs from 32.4% to 99.9%.

The parent in this story is not affiliated with my school in any way, shape, or form (and if my luck continues they will never purchase a house, rent, or visit a town where I work or reside). The Woman in Question is Not Nearly This Nice.  Or So I Heard.

In fact, as far as you know this story was told to me by a complete stranger who I inadvertently bumped into on a busy street in a city that I’ve never visited.

As the story goes, the woman gave birth to a young man who I don’t even know.

If I did know him, I can promise you I would want to thump him right upside his little head in the hope of closing that mouth which is constantly running but has yet to say anything worth hearing.

The woman, who may be the loudest most obnoxious person I have never been in contact with, is roughly 25 years old.

Did I mention she was loud?

And obnoxious?

I’m not being mean (after all I’ve never seen her… as far as you know), I’m simply passing on a story.

You might wonder how I know she’s loud if I’ve never been around her. That’s a fair question.

The answer is… trust me, she’s loud.

At least that’s what I’ve been told.

The first time I didn’t meet her she was screaming at her son. The second time I didn’t meet her, she was screaming at her son.

The third time he was standing on the hood of her car and yes… you guessed it… she was screaming at him.

In fact, every single time I haven’t seen her she has been screaming. At her son.

If you’re like me, you are starting to notice a pattern.

I’m no parenting expert, but sooner or later even the worst kids have a day when they don’t deserve to get yelled at.

I was almost starting to feel sorry for the young man (if I knew him) and then it happened.

He started screaming at her.

You might think I would experience some sort of joy from watching (or not) him stand up for himself, but that’s not the case.

It just made me want to thump them both upside their heads.

The latest screaming match took place (allegedly) during an 8 year olds soccer game.

While I had gotten used to the mother screaming at her son (if I had been present at this soccer game that didn’t take place), I was dumbfounded to hear him scream at her.

As he was playing in the game.

As he was dribbling the ball up the field.

Right in front of all the parents. Of both teams.

Right in front of all the players. On both teams.

The horror.

The language.

The decibel level.

At that very moment (if I was there), I thought the referee should have thrown them both out of the game.

Then I came to my senses.

He should have thrown them both out of society.

In her defense, I don’t think she has any idea that she is treating him in a way that isn’t productive. In fact, I’m willing to bet she thinks her actions are those of a strong disciplinarian.

On the other hand (if I knew him), he is an idiot.

He treats his mom worse than she treats him. The sad part is, his attitude will undoubtedly get worse as he gets older.

I’m afraid her troubles will be compounded (times 47) by the time he makes it to high school.

Neither one of them has any idea how to treat one another.

I’m far from perfect, but I feel pretty confident in the following statement. My daughter has never cursed me during the course of a soccer game as she was dribbling the ball up the field in front of 75 spectators, 4 coaches, 3 referees, 2 old ladies walking, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Now behind closed doors… in her room… who knows? .

Maybe I’m wrong about these two.

Maybe they have a great relationship and they will both thrive as they grow older.

Maybe she won’t be in a high school principal’s office asking for help in controlling his behaviors when he’s a sophomore.

Maybe he won’t have kids of his own and treat them just as badly as he is getting treated.


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Great Discipline at School Starts with Bad Kids.

Someone asked me what they needed to do to be a successful school administrator.

Since I was unusually polite that day, I didn’t respond “blind luck and lots of it.”

The old saying is that to be successful as a superintendent the finances of the district must be in good shape. If they are, you get to keep your job. If they aren’t, you get to look for a new job.

For a principal, it is all about discipline. If people perceive you to have good discipline and it’s implemented fairly, you will get to keep your job. At least temporarily.

The question now becomes how does one have good discipline over a large group of students?

Especially when these students are dealing with personal issues, puberty, phones (cell), peer pressure, parties, and parents (I think I just made up a cool list of things that start with the letter P).

Easy. Go back to my original thought of blind luck.

If you aren’t abnormally lucky, I have another suggestion. Some Students Just Know...

Student population in regards to discipline can be broken down to the 33/33/33 Rule.

33% of the students will always do the right thing. Good kids with good parents (the ones that want to know immediately if their child is causing trouble… and of course they never do).

You will often find these students in the library, at a student council meeting, or volunteering.

These kids don’t need a principal. If fact, you could give them your keys to the building and they could start the school day without you. This is good to know if you are ever running late.

Teachers love these students. Consequently, as the principal you will never see them.


They don’t need you. Unless they need a letter of recommendation.

The second group of 33% belongs to kids who want to do the right thing, but they could go either way.

You will see them… in the hallways, the parking lot, and occasionally in your office.

They will be on the fringe of both good behavior and bad.

If they do make their way to your office, it is usually just once a year. Most of their troubles are dealt with by the teachers.

Talking and tardies are their big crimes.

As long as these small issues are addressed, quickly and fairly, these students will do the right thing.

So 66% of all kids are pretty low maintenance.

That leaves a principal in charge of only a third of all students.

Not a difficult job. Quite manageable if you can control them.

How does one do this?


Not really, I am just trying to build your confidence.

The plan is relatively simple.

Focus in on this last group. Pick out the meanest and most difficult students and hone in on them.

Every day.

Not by badgering them, or following them around. But by talking to them.

Every day.

Did I mention it has to be every day? Good.

Don’t spend your time with the quarterback or class president (remember, they will find you when they need that letter of recommendation).

Spend your time finding a kid who may get into trouble and speak to them.

Every period. At lunch. Before school. During their study hall. As they leave (hopefully this is at the end of the day and on their own accord).

Will this fix all of your problems? No.

Will it fix all of their behaviors? Are you kidding?

Not a chance.

But it will establish a relationship with the group of students that you will be working with most of the time. And it will make it easier for them to trust you when they do get sent to the office.

You don’t want them to think that you are only interested in them when they are in trouble.

A good principal should know their schedule, their friends, their hobbies (legal and otherwise), where they live, where they work (legal and otherwise), and their parents.

This 33/33/33 Plan won’t fix all of your problems, but it may help you survive.

What about the other 1%?

Don’t even get me started about the 1 Per Centers.

This 1% will take up 99% of your time.

As principal you will know them, their schedule, their parents, their grandparents, and maybe even the lawyer they keep threatening to hire to sue you.

You hope they do the right thing at school, but mainly you hope they don’t know where you live.

They are an entire blog series on their own.

As of now, I don’t have an official plan for them.

Unless you count blind luck as a plan.

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Maybe Punishing Parents Isn’t Such a Bad Idea After All.

I've Got an Idea!Every so often a student will get in trouble at school.

I know, I know… this comes as a shock to most of you. This is the dirty little secret of education. Students don’t always do exactly what they are told.

But wait, there’s more. You may want to sit down.

Students almost always know the difference between right and wrong. It’s true. I seldom run into a kid who doesn’t understand this concept.

Don’t get me wrong, they may not care but they know.

This knowledge of what is right certainly doesn’t stop them from testing the rules from time to time. Hopefully, this only happens occasionally (because the 1% who are chronic wear me out…)

And when these little bumps in the road happen, it’s okay. Kids are in school to learn. About math, science, social skills, being part of a team, appropriate behavior, and how much they can push the system before they get pushed back.

In my estimation, it is a good thing that students test the boundaries. This is how they learn. And they often pick up these valuable skills from others (sometimes they gain invaluable knowledge from the worst kid in your class… like don’t set the garbage can (or a freshman) on fire).

As educators, our job is to teach students these lessons along with a thousand more (it’s a big job, but it beats working for a living).

Our students need to learn these behaviors before we send them out in the real world.

Of course, while I believe in this, it would be nice if they didn’t test my limits late on Friday afternoon. Or Monday mornings. Or any day where I was up late the night before. Or especially during my lunch break.

Students will make mistakes and it is our job to correct them (consider it job security).

This part of the process never frustrates me.

I have found some of my most loyal students are the ones I have had to discipline in the past.

Once you get them through the process, they are better off for it. And they know it. They may not admit it, but they know it.

Now parents, they are a different story.

I particularly enjoy parents who want to take the blame for their child.

As in “It was my fault they were late. Punish me.” Or “They didn’t get their homework done because I had to go to (fill in the blank). You should give me the detention.”

My response is always the same. We aren’t here to teach parents a lesson.

Although once, just once, I think I would like to punish the parent.

Maybe a Saturday School, a suspension, or even an expulsion.

I truly believe this idea has some merit because just like with kids, you wouldn’t have to punish all the parents to make a point. Just a few.

Bad news travels fast.

And the rest of your parents would learn a valuable lesson.

A lesson they evidently didn’t learn when they went through school.

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Parent Your Kids Early Because You’re About to Get Demoted.

Cigarettes Will Be the Least of My Troubles.As I continue my career as a school administrator (unless you’ve heard something, and if so please send me an email ASAP… it could be awkward if I show up at work tomorrow), I have learned that parents have a limited amount of time to raise their children.

If I wasn’t employed in education, I would have missed out on this lesson in life.

When I was younger (much, much younger), I thought the parenting cycle was from birth to the age of 18. I believed parents were in charge of their kids until they left for college and moved out of the house.

After working with students and parents for the past several years, I have gained a much broader perspective.

I have discovered parents have only 14 short years (give or take a few months) to instill their values and beliefs into their kids.

After a child celebrates their 14th birthday, parents are no longer calling the shots but are merely acting as consultants.

At this point, teenagers start to take their advice and guidance from anyone and everyone not named mom or dad.

This is tough for some parents to believe, but I think it is true.

If parents have a good relationship with their child during their younger years, they have a much better chance of becoming a full-time, well-thought of consultant (doesn’t pay well, but beats the alternative).

If they have not had a quality relationship, they may end up getting fired as consultant (this is the alternative and it pays much worse… in fact it can cost you money).
14 years. It isn’t a very long time. And as I head into year 7 of my parenting cycle, I am quickly realizing how quickly this time passes.

In a few short years you have to give your kids structure, discipline, manners, kindness, worth ethic, common sense, and an appreciation for education.

It is a big job, but it can be done.

And it has to be done. Because while you can continue to offer advice and guide them for the rest of their lives, their basic values have already been set.

I believe that parents who think they can jump in and fix their kids when they are 15 or 16 or 18 are in for a rude awakening.

At that point a team of the consultants may not be able to change them (or lawyers…).

Then a parent’s best hope is that the child changes themselves. And that doesn’t always turn out very well.

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Discipline Isn’t What You Do to a Student, but What You Do for Them.

The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Kids... Discipline.This week I had the opportunity to visit with a retired principal. The fact that he made it to retirement gives me hope. And makes me a little jealous.

He has survived an entire career of board meetings, parent concerns, athletic issues, graduations, field trips, bus trouble, thousands of Mondays, etc.

I had lots of questions for him about his career and how education has changed over the years. It seemed that most of our discussion centered on discipline. It is amazing how the methods for keeping students in line and respectful have changed over the last 30 years.

Turns out 20 years ago you could slam a student into a locker and their parents wouldn’t sue the school district; who knew? I wrote this little nugget of information down, so I wouldn’t forget.

“Lucky Retired Guy” told me as he gets older his memory tends to focus on all of the good things that happened during his career. He seldom spends time remembering incidents when he had to discipline a student, or even hand out a suspension.

He says the only time he thinks about these situations is when a former student brings them to his attention.

Students who graduated (maybe) years ago come up to him and are excited to share a story or experience about how he disciplined them. This may include when he did one or more of the following to them: paddled, detentions, kicked them out of class, kicked them out of school (before graduation rates), suspensions, expulsions, or corrected them in the hallway (by corrected, I mean yelled).

Retired Guy says he always try’s to act like he remembers these incidents, but most of the time he doesn’t have the faintest recollection of what they are talking about.

He has long forgotten what happened with a particular student.

No matter the situation, it made an impression on the student. But for him it was only a split second in a long career. And more likely, a very small part of what had been a very busy day (if you don’t believe me, try and recall everything you did 3 Thursdays ago).

The one thing that amazes him is the former students who walk up and want to talk. It isn’t the valedictorian or the student council president; it is the boy who got in trouble in shop class or the girl who was involved in a fight during lunch.

Just for the record; girls’ fights are a thousand times worse than boys’ fights (and they seem to hold a grudge for 2 weeks past forever).

The students he had to discipline consistently are the same ones who want to walk up and visit.

He thinks this is the biggest surprise of his retirement. How these students remember him; not as a mean old principal, but as someone who wasn’t afraid to correct them if it was needed.

So it may be true. Kids want discipline. Even when they act like they don’t.

They can thrive when there are boundaries set for them. The only catch is that the boundaries must be fair, consistent, and enforced.

Try and remember this the next time you have to discipline your kids or students in school. And make sure you remind them that one day they will thank you for the structure you are providing them.

Someday. Not today or tomorrow. Or in the next 5 years. But someday.

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Rule #1: Don’t Bleed in the House.

Band-aids Were Cheaper Than a Doctor at My House.It may just be my imagination (or possibly the voices in my head), but are parents getting soft with their kids?

Maybe I am old (that’s a yes if you are keeping score at home) and I am only able to remember how tough parents where when I was a kid.

If memory serves me correct, we had it rough in regards to how our parents treated us.

I distinctly remember living in a cave. We had no money. No cars (unless you count the 85 foot station wagon with fake wood paneling on the side). Four television stations, if you count PBS. No electricity or food and we certainly didn’t eat out, go on vacation, or visit a doctor.

My parents had a theory on doctors. They felt they were expensive. You have to admit, while their theory is very basic, there is some genius hidden in its simplicity.

As parents, they made the difficult decision that it was cheaper for their children to die, than it was to take them to the doctor. Actually, as I recall, they really didn’t struggle with this decision that long.

A shallow grave near the family pets’ graveyard can make a lovely resting place for a teenage boy.

You may be thinking, what about the funeral? You can’t be serious. Do the math. Too expensive, plus they had three kids just in case one was damaged beyond repair.

One kid goes down and they would still have two more than when they started. Again, simple- but genius.

Since we were not allowed to go to the doctor, we were encouraged not to get hurt.

If we were hurt, there was one basic rule that had to be followed. No exceptions and no excuses. The rule was “Don’t bleed in the house.”

If you were bleeding, you were quickly ushered (pushed) outside in the yard.

How my parents were not elected King and Queen of the United States Association of Parents, I will never understand.

These days it seems like kids go to the nurse’s office and the emergency room for any reason. A good school nurse does more business on a Monday morning than four overpriced Starbucks.

Students are just looking for a reason to go see her. Cough, running nose, head hurts, broken bones, loss of an eye in PE, etc. are all reasons to run to a paid, very expensive medical professional. Not in my day.

When I was a kid, I could have come home with a shiv stuck directly in my heart and I would have gotten yelled at for bleeding out in the living room.

After the screaming died down, my parents would have pointed out (if I could still hear them before I crossed over to the other side) how I just ruined my family’s evening.

I can hear my dad now, “Quit crying, it is a long way from your heart.” Which I would have replied, “Actually the shiv is in my heart.”

“Don’t be a baby and don’t bleed in the house.”

It takes longer than you think to dig a shallow grave.

My wife found this entry disturbing. She wants everyone to know that parts of this blog were embellished. I must admit that she is correct. The station wagon wasn’t really that long and I wouldn’t have been allowed to pass on until I dug my own grave.

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Don’t Let the Screen Door Hit You on the Way Out.

Our Screendoor Wasn't This Nice.People will try to tell you that young people today aren’t nearly as smart and focused as the kids 30-40 years ago. Kids under 18 are considered slackers and lazy.

This argument is mainly made by people who have forgotten how we were as kids.

I think older generations maintain a fear of a certain amount of kids in general. In particular, one strange and mysterious group who will from here on out be referred to as teenagers.

I am not sure from where this fear and trepidation comes, but I do think TV shows play a role by giving teenagers a bad name. Most of the high school kids on TV are pregnant, runaways, in a gang, drug users, thieves, steroid users, murderers, or at the minimum (and most likely) a smart mouth and know-it-all to their parents.

Today, I am here to make the argument that teenagers today, are not only as good as previous generations, but in fact they are better and even smarter than we were at the same age.

The reason they are smarter today, because they have better games to play. In particular, video games.

Think about it, kids 30-40 years ago had no video games. We lived in some sort of prehistoric world, where our form of entertainment was going outside and getting fresh air.

If we could round up enough kids from adjoining farms we might have been able to get a pickup game of tag or hide-in-seek going, but mainly we would chase cattle, throw rocks, and go to sleep at 7:00 p.m.

In the early 1900’s the most popular toy was Crayons (the word toy is questionable here). Our society advanced during the 40’s when Candyland was the number one choice. We tried to get smarter in the 1970’s when the Rubik’s Cube was the top seller, so we have made progress with our toys and our children’s intelligence (even though most of us couldn’t solve the Cube).

As old people we can’t even try and compare ourselves with today’s kids who play a minimum of 143 hours per week of X-Box.

Have you seen today’s video games? To anyone with a brain older than 27, they are unbelievably complicated. We have a better chance of understanding the depressed mind of a 15 year old girl, than we have of successfully playing and mastering a video game.

If you purchase a video game (for yourself), you might as well as throw your money in the sewer.

For one thing, you can’t hook-up the machine by yourself, and simply by trying you are guaranteed an aneurysm. You will be as confused as Paris Hilton at a spelling bee or Miss South Carolina on the topic of geography.

Items sold in stores come with labels that say things like “must be 6 years old” to play. Video games should say “if you pay for your own health insurance don’t even think about buying this because your head will explode”.

If by accident you can get the game hooked up, there is no chance you can actually play it.

There are too many buttons to push at once. There is a reason cell phones have a green button with a picture of a phone on it to push when we want to make a call, and a red one to push when the call is over. They are made for us, people who grew up playing Candyland.

So, there you go. Young people are smarter because they can play video games. We try and shame our kids, by convincing them that if they don’t go outside and play they are wasting their lives, but if there was an X-Box in the 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s our behinds would have been parked in the house on the couch (or davenport for you 50’s kids).

Don’t kid yourself about the good old days. We went outside because there was no air conditioning. In addition, our parents couldn’t stand listening to us any longer, so they didn’t allow us inside until they screamed for us (conveniently it was usually after dark).

If you don’t buy my argument, challenge a 12 year-old to the video game of his/her choice. If you can beat him/her then you can make the argument that we are smarter.

Actually if we were smarter than the average teenager, we wouldn’t have spent 12.5 billion dollars on video games in 2006.

We would just give our kids a Candyland game, a Rubik’s Cube, and send them outside until we called them in for dinner (most likely, well after dark).

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If Your Dad Says, “This is Going to Hurt Me More Than You”, It’s Not True.

Discipline is Good.  In Moderation.Has our educational system taken a step backwards due to a lack of discipline? We are certainly a kinder and gentler society than a couple of generations ago, but is that a good thing?

Growing up I never feared for my safety (a pain free behind to sit on- yes, safety-no), but I did have a certain amount of fear that my dad could take away my ability to sit pain free if I gave him a reason.

In the last twenty-five years we have made real progress in how we treat others and how we discipline our kids.

I wonder though, have we gotten to be so nice and so politically correct that while we are more humane in our treatment of kids, we have gone too far the other way and become too passive?

Life has a way of swinging back and forth like a pendulum. You can make the argument that while we were once too harsh, we may now be too easy on our kids. We need to realize that we are not doing our young people any favors by being so easy on them.

There is no doubt that some adults went too far in their discipline techniques with their children (I still have a sore butt from 1974). I don’t think there is ever a good reason to beat your kids, but in my mind there is a big difference between beating and spanking.

There is something to be said for the improved behavior of a 7 year-old boy when he realizes that the authoritative figure he is dealing with actually means business (by business, I mean stop misbehaving- NOW).

There is a reason that the saying “talk is cheap” is actually a phrase that we all recognize. It should be a felony for parents to threaten their kids without following through.

Kids should be frightened of their parents (re: 1974). Not that they should be afraid to speak, or laugh, or share their opinion, but they should know that there is always a possibility that someone is going to put them back in line when they need it.

A problem that is getting more difficult for children to recognize: Who is in charge? Is it Dad? Mom? Stepdad? Stepmom? Grandpa? Grandma? Dad’s friend? Mom’s friend? Some kids don’t know to whom they answer and that isn’t a good thing for them, our schools, or society in general. If kids can’t clearly tell who is in charge, they begin to think it is them (which reflects every bad family sitcom on TV). Never good.

Someday, I am going to compile statistics proving the link between the majority of teenage boys who get in trouble at school in relation to having no authority figure in their lives.

Everyone needs rules. Discipline isn’t what you do to a child; it is what you do for them. Although on a side note – if you spank your child with a yardstick, (not recommended) it isn’t the kid’s butt’s fault if the yardstick breaks in half.

It is only fair that every kid goes to bed with the knowledge that a loving authority figure would spank their behind until it looks like a monkey’s butt if the need presented itself. (cha ching- I have been dying to use the phrase- monkey’s butt for weeks).

Actually, the secret is not spanking your kids every two minutes, but putting the fear into them that you just might spank them in the next two minutes. This is why the wait is far worse than the spanking when you are sent to your room until your dad gets home.

We are cheating our kids of discipline and wasting too much time in schools when undisciplined students waste other students’ and teachers’ time.

In my estimation, it is quite simple; children should know that their parents brought them into this world, and if need be, they can take them out.

If every kid grew up knowing this one sentence was true, they would be a lot better off.

And the next time you see a parent in Wal-Mart swat their child’s behind, you may want to consider; isn’t that kid lucky to have a parent who loves them?

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While this site operates with the knowledge and awareness of the Tuscola CUSD #301 School Board, Tuscola, Illinois, the content and opinions posted here may or may not represent their views personally or collectively, nor does it attempt to represent the official viewpoint of Tuscola CUSD #301 administrators or employees.