Hello Everyone! I hope this Newsletter finds you a little closer to BETTER this month!


This Month’s Issue:

For Everyone: Discipline Shouldn’t Hurt: Important Considerations for Learning

Getting to Better Kindness Partners and Friends

MYRIAD Update – Amazing Training Opportunities for Leaders and Frontline Social Service Workers

Exciting Announcement: We are honored to feature an Interview with G2B friend and colleague Dr. Michael Ungar, in one of the fall Newsletters. Michael shares his insights, gained from more than 25 years of practice experience and research, on the Importance of Resilience and our Children.  You won’t want to miss it!


Discipline Shouldn’t Hurt: Important Considerations for Learning

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel – Carl W. Buechner

When things are generally going well in work and/or life, we rarely hear about the word Discipline. It often surfaces at times that are not so positive. Discipline, in general, has developed a negative overtone. Think about the times that you hear the word Discipline. It is usually when something has gone wrong, when something needs to be corrected or when something or someone requires a consequence. Think about your own experiences with discipline. How have they felt? What was that experience like? According to most people their experience of Discipline falls within a range of slightly uncomfortable to outright painful.

As a matter of fact, discipline is not and should not be a “bad” thing at all. If we return to the root word of discipline we arrive at the word disciple; a person who is committed to learning. In the most basic sense, Discipline IS about learning. As a human being and professional helper, I have been baffled by the concept of and my own experiences with discipline. How can something so important, at times, feel so bad? Why would so many children, families, workers, supervisors and executives avoid discipline; an opportunity to learn?

While the answer to this question is complex and beyond the scope of this article, I think a great part of the problem lies in the confounded relationship between the ideas of Discipline and Punishment. While the terms discipline and punishment are often used to describe the same experience and are used interchangeably in the same sentence, discipline and punishment are not the same thing.

This article was developed for all human beings who occupy the role of mentor, parent, teacher, coach, human service worker, supervisor, director or executive; anyone operating in roles, responsible for the guiding, teaching or learning of others. This newsletter will differentiate between the concepts, experiences and implications of discipline and punishment and offer concrete guidelines for creating conditions for optimal learning that are applicable for a variety of settings and situations.


Discipline or Punishment?

 As stated, there has become this mix-up between the concepts and, by virtue of the association, the experiences of discipline and punishment. These two concepts have become so closely linked that they are often used in the same sentence to describe the same situation. Here is an example:

“What the heck! Did he do that again? When you consider his discipline, make sure you choose a punishment that works this time!”

While this relationship has developed between the terms and the concepts of discipline and punishment; we must be clear that they ARE NOT the same thing. They are very different; starting with meaning and intent of the two words.

DISCIPLINE                                                            PUNISHMNET

To Teach                                                                    To Harshly Impose

To Guide                                                                    To Inflict Discomfort

To Learn                                                                    To Bring about Harm

Discipline is really about LEARNING; teaching, guiding, or being taught. Punishment on the other hand is about harshly imposing, inflicting discomfort or bringing about harm. Now, it is important to note that sometimes learning can be uncomfortable, but that is not the intention. The intentions of discipline and punishment are different and therefore the potential consequences or implications of that experience will also be different. In the simplest terms, discipline is positive and punishment is not.

All human beings require discipline; it is the foundation for and leads to the development of responsibility, self control and personal growth. So, whether you are a parent, mentor, coach, teacher, human service worker, supervisor, director or executive, you will require the use of discipline in your role in order to support individuals to learn how to make good choices for themselves and others. Effective discipline results in an internal mechanism of learning; sometimes referred to as self-discipline. Principles of effective discipline respect the individuality and uniqueness of the person, and promote self-determination, empowerment and goal attainment.

We need to AVOID PUNISHMENT. Punishment does not promote the same type of experience or learning that effective discipline does. Punishment is often administered or imposed by others in a display of power over somebody else. It is not based on mutual respect, and often perpetuates mistrust, bitterness and leads to resentment and retaliation and a whole bunch of other not-so-good experiences. Punishment is ineffective for learning. It may seem effective at first, especially because of apparent “quick results” (often from fear, guilt or shame). However, with punishment, the behaviour trying to be corrected is only maintained in the presence of the punishing stimulus. In the simplest terms, this means that as long as the person doing the punishing is around the behaviour will stay corrected; however, when that person is not there, there is less of a need to maintain that behaviour – aka “When the cats’ away, the mice will play”. Energy is not placed into learning; rather it is placed more so in trying to get away with behaviour or avoiding getting caught by the “punisher”. This leads to a dependence on an external mechanism of control. With punishment, there is little if any development of an internal mechanism of learning.


Accidental Punishment

Most people I meet are well intentioned and the promotion of learning that they are engaged in comes from a place that is honourable, noble or good. However, sometimes, despite our best intentions and noble goals, the discipline that we are engaging in can be experienced, by the person being disciplined, as punishment. How does this happen? Well, for starters, all discipline occurs in a variety of situations; sometimes seemingly simple and sometimes quite complex. Also, discipline arises from intentions, goals and values and occurs in the process of communication. Therefore, there is lot of room for mis-perceptions and mis-communications between the disciplinarian and the individual being disciplined. Intentions, goals and values (what’s important) are often “invisible” or private unless made visible or public to others. If not, there can be confusion between what was intended and what is experienced; often creating a great deal of hurt, anxiety, stress and anger (qualities that are not good for creating an openness for learning) for the person being disciplined.

We can not assume that the people who are being disciplined know our intentions, goals and values. These must be made clear. Communication must also be clear and effective, if the process of discipline is going to be understood and successful for both parties.


Effective Discipline: Creating Conditions for Learning

For me, the idea that discipline is a “bad” thing has two problems. First, it encourages people to avoid discipline or opportunities for learning, if they do not feel good or, they feel they may be in trouble. Second, it encourages people to look only for opportunities to learn (discipline) when something is not “right”, something goes wrong or, someone or something needs to be corrected. If we only look for opportunities to learn (discipline) when something goes wrong (reflected in the human service adage, “No news is good news”) then we may miss all of those times that things are going well or right. The problem with the latter is that it discourages seeing strengths, successes or potential – because we are not looking for it….we are waiting and watching to “discipline”; for when something goes wrong.

As stated, discipline is about learning. Therefore, effective discipline is about creating conditions for learning to occur. It has already been touched upon that, meaningful learning can not be accomplished in a punishing environment that creates fear, hurt, confusion, anxiety, stress and anger. Further to this, learning should not be relegated only to the mistakes or screw-up moments, as we will miss all of the times that things (actions, interactions) are going well.

Therefore, when we consider effective discipline, we MUST consider the conditions that create the greatest openness for learning. When we do this, we also capitalize on the optimal opportunities to reinforce what we are hoping to teach and guide for others to learn.

The following are important areas to consider – they are foundational elements for creating openness to and optimization of learning:


There are 3 R’s that are critical for creating the best environment for learning. They are Relationship, Relationship, and Relationship. Whether it is a parent-child, teacher-student or supervisor-staff learning dyad the relationship is the most critical factor. A relationship based on acceptance, understanding, trust and mutual respect whereby people feel safe and good about themselves and each other is the most significant element for creating openness for learning. A relationship that optimizes learning is one where-in people can express themselves openly, make mistakes without being judged or criticised; a relationship where there is a feeling of being valued, validated and affirmed.

 Effective Communication

All learning happens through communication. Open, honest, straightforward communication is essential for learning. Feedback is critical for learning and, it is feedback (how we come to understand and appraise our own learning) that comes through communication. However, not all communication is verbal. It is important for individuals who are teaching and guiding others to consider what they are teaching or , what is being taught through their behaviours and interactions even when they are not speaking. There must be a consistency between the non-verbal and verbal messages in order to enhance learning and minimize mixed-messages and/or confusion. Further to this, is the importance of role modelling. Learning is enhanced when there is congruence between how the guiding person acts and what is expected of the learner.

 Collaborative Understanding

Learning is promoted when there is clear knowing and understanding of what is “appropriate”, what is “expected” and what behaviours and interactions are not. When rules are imposed or prescribed upon learners, there is a tendency that they are less likely to fully understand them, or buy in to them. When rules and/or definitions of behaviour are explained clearly so that the learner may understand what is expected, learning is enhanced. Further to this, when possible, learning is most optimized when the learner is involved in their own learning and can co-construct an understanding of mutually agreed upon definitions, expectations and rules. This will minimize confusion and create a collaborative understanding of what is to be learned, thereby increasing motivation and cooperation towards a collaborative understanding and achievement of shared expectations and goals.

 Goal Focussed

All learners share goals, however they also have individual goals of their own. Goals that are important to the learner and/or goals that they at least see the value in can be exceptional sources of focus, enthusiasm, and motivation. When learning can be built around goals that are important to the learner, there is an increased likelihood of buy-in by the learner and optimization of learning. Most teachers would like to have a focussed, motivated and enthusiastic learner. Without a focus on goals in the context of learning, that are significant to the learner, it is less likely that learning will be heightened.

Strengths Focused

Many learning models promote a focus on what’s wrong, what’s not going well or, what needs to be fixed. Such a deficit focus for learning can actually detract from the overall learning process. How do we learn what to do by focussing on what not to do? As human beings, learners do more right than they do wrong. Learners should not be hearing only about their shortcomings, for many reasons. First, it does not teach what to do. Second, it does not bring attention to successes or strengths. Third, and most important, it does not feel good to only hear about what is going wrong. For all of these reasons, and more that are beyond the scope of this article, a strengths focus becomes essential for creating an openness for and optimization of learning. Focusing on strengths feels good. It also allows the learner to experience a success and a feeling of competence. Further to this, it is easier to hear about areas that require development when they are couched in what is being done well. Strengths focus can also motivate excite and provide an avenue of positive focus for the learner.

 Appreciative Focussed

Just as a strengths focus is essential for learning, so too is an appreciative focus. An appreciative focus centres on acknowledging, appreciating and or admiring what is going well. Appreciative statements or questions help bring attention to positive and affirming things or experiences about or with the learner. They can illuminate important, known and sometimes unknown qualities. Appreciative statements are positive and affirming; they can also be viewed from a learning perspective as a type of positive reinforcement. According to research, positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful factors for positively influencing, enhancing and optimizing learning. The great thing about appreciative statements is that they can be used at almost any moment for anything and they do not cost money or take a great deal of energy. For tips on an appreciative focus, see the July 2011 Newsletter, “Simple Ways”.


Learning is impossible without appropriate boundaries and consequences. Consequences are essential for shaping agreed upon; desirable, “appropriate”, pro-social, goal focussed or expected behaviours. Consequences are an integral component for learning as they inspire the learner to think and act responsibly. There are two main types of consequences; natural and logical. Natural consequences are consequences that follow the natural order of things. For example, if you don’t eat, you are hungry or, if you go outdoors without proper attire, you will be cold. Logical consequences are consequences that are mutually developed by the person guiding and the learner. This type of consequence follows an understood logic, which should be understood by both parties. For example, if a staff is violent at work, they will be sent home on suspension or, if a youth breaks a window, they will have to work it off or pay for it in order to take responsibility. Regardless of the consequence, logical consequences, to be effective, should be co-constructed and agreed upon; implemented immediately, time limited and; they should be relevant and/or congruent with the behaviour being consequenced. Most importantly, logical consequences should be carried out in a dignified and respectful process.


Recognize – Return – Realign

I am not exactly sure why or how Discipline has become more and more like punishment; especially when the intentions of so many people, in a variety of situations, are noble and geared towards teaching and guiding for the purposes of learning. Such an exploration is beyond the scope of this article. However, there are three things we can do to move discipline away from punishment. That is: Recognize, Return and Realign.

We must RECOGNIZE that Discipline is being experienced as Punishment in many situations, by many people. Discipline has taken on a negative overtone, connotation, and experience. Recognizing that Discipline is about learning and that Punishment actually undermines learning is the first step towards positive change.

We must RETURN to the original definition, the spirit and intent of discipline – to teach, to guide, for the purposes of learning. When we return to the intention inherent in the purpose of discipline we will be better equipped to place efforts into creating conditions that are foundational for learning.

Finally, once we Recognize the Discipline-Punishment Dilemma and its implications and, we Return to the original meaning of Discipline we can work to REALIGN our actions and interactions in a way that is congruent with the spirit and intent of Discipline. We will be able to place our efforts into creating relationships and environments that are foundational and conducive to the most effective and meaningful learning.

Discipline shouldn’t hurt. Learning shouldn’t hurt. It should be exciting, invigorating, actively pursued and embraced – not feared and definitely not avoided.

If you have any questions about this article or, would like more information on effective discipline in the contexts of parenting, teaching or supervising, please do not hesitate to contact Steve de Groot.


Getting to Better | Kindness Partners and Friends

Life Vest Inside

The new Life Vest Inside  website has been launched and the Crowd Funding Campaign is almost over.

Remember that Getting to Better and Life Vest Inside are partners in making the lives of many people and the world overall BETTER. Please take a moment to check out the amazing projects we are working on HERE.

Thanks to all of you Beautiful People who have made contribution to the LVI movement. If you would like more information, would like to get involved and/or you would like to make a donation, please CLICK HERE!

See Beautiful

Another one of our Amazing World Enhancing Partners is See Beautiful. We have partnered on an unbelievable children’s book, written by See Beautiful  CEO and Founder, Lydia Criss Mays.  It will be featured in next month’s G2B Newsletter.

See Beautiful  has a great product line; all profits raised are used to support many world enhancing causes.

See Beautiful has just released a new See Beautiful Vegan Handmade Soap which is superb. Now we can See Beautiful and Smell More Beautiful too!  You can check out the Soap and the great product line HERE.

Dr. Jean Clinton

We are excited to announce that Dr. Jean Clinton and I (Stephen de Groot) have formalized our partnership. We have initiated the work on a number of exciting projects.

Our first project is to offer inspiring, informative and practical training for people who work with and/or live with children and youth who are involved in helping systems.

Jean and Steve will be presenting their first in a series of workshops in Winnipeg Manitoba on November 15, 2013 entitled Engaging Kids Involved in Systems: The Brain, The Environment and the Whole Child.  Please see the MYRIAD Events Page HERE for more information.

Dr. Michael Ungar

Friend and colleague Dr. Michael Ungar continues to work at making the lives of children, youth, families and communities BETTER. Check out one of his latest works from the Nurturing Resilience Blog at Psychology Today. Michael shares the lessons we may be able to learn from Olympic Gold Medalists about Resilience and raising our children.  You can read the article HERE.

We are honored to have an interview with Michael as the feature on Resilience in an upcoming G2B Newsletter in the fall. You will not want to miss it!


MYRIAD Update – Amazing Training Opportunities for Leaders and Frontline Social Service Workers

SAVE these DATES!!!

October 18, 2013 – Calgary Alberta

Responsive Leadership: Relational and Strengths Based Strategies for Supervisors and Managers

For more information and registration details please CLICK HERE.

November 14, 2013 -Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada,

Engaging Kids Involved in Systems: The Brain, The Environment, The Whole Child with Dr. Jean Clinton and Stephen de Groot

For more information and registration details please CLICK HERE.

November 2013 – Winnipeg Manitoba TBA Soon!

Responsive Leadership: Relational and Strengths Based Strategies for Supervisors and Managers

For more information and registration details please CLICK HERE.