Sound Discipline

Sound Discipline

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Last Update: September 22, 2012

Sound Discipline teaches people to do the right thing even when no one is looking. Using a research based, experiential and culturally responsive approach, Sound Discipline teaches parents and educators to build respectful relationships and use solution focused problem solving—with children and each other. Sound Discipline helps families, schools and communities eliminate the race bias in discipline and fosters academic excellence, citizenship,equity and democracy.

Type: citizen sector

The Problem

Our schools and families are struggling. Too many students are disruptive, labeled, and kicked out for “bad behavior” because they “can’t learn” to behave. Schools readily reward and punish in a misguided attempt to shape student behavior, but rarely teach needed social – emotional skills with the time, care, and patience given to math or reading. The implication is that they know better; if one could only make students care, disruptive behavior would disappear. But significant skills and the ability to apply them are missing. Teaching skills and a systematic solution-focused approach to discipline is what will build strong future leaders.

The Solution

Sound Discipline works with school adults (staff and parents) to create a transformative cultural shift in adult–student and student-student relationships. By experientially practicing skills that enhance relationships (self regulation, empathy, mutual respect and problem solving) school staff, students and families build a powerful learning community that cultivates mutual respect, active participation, social-emotional development and ultimately academic excellence. Students practice their new skills by solving their own problems using structured class meetings. School administrations review site-based data to identify emerging patterns of behavior problems, develop timely and enduring responses, and develop a sustainable system for discipline in the school. The program also includes parent education to build parenting skills and reinforce student growth at home as well as in the classroom.


Two students come in from recess visibly upset. There was shoving going on in line. This classroom is in a Sound Discipline school. Instead of going to the teacher for help, Mahad and Alex know what to do and find the student with the “problem-solving helper” job. The three of them sit in the problem-solving corner. The helper makes sure each student is heard, then asks which tool from the “Wheel of Choice” they’d like to use. They choose “Bugs & Wishes.” Alex says, “Mahad, it *bugs* me when you cut in line, and I *wish* you wouldn’t do it.” Mahad says he won’t do it again. Alex isn’t convinced. The helper suggests putting it on the class meeting agenda so the class can help them brainstorm more solutions to choose from. Alex agrees. Mahad and the helper return to their seats to work. Alex, still upset, decides to first spend a few moments in the cool-down spot specially designed by the class at the beginning of the year to help students get re-centered when they’re struggling. Within a few minutes Alex is also back at his seat working and the teacher, uninterrupted, continues helping another student with his writing.

Budget: $50,000 - $100,000


Roots of Empathy, Responsive Classroom and Open Circle all focus solely on teaching social emotional skills. Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) uses a systems approach to discipline, without directly teaching social skills. Sound Discipline does both: combines an experiential curriculum to teach social- emotional skills and supports schools in developing a data-driven, Solution-Focused discipline program. As a result: 1) Students SEE adults modeling the social-emotional skills they are learning, 2) data is regularly reviewed and used for continuous improvement 3) the parenting community is involved. Other programs have a historical and funding advantage that gives them greater visibility.

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