Assertive Discipline

GoodWhen we examine our internal reactions to the game of chess it is a lot like life itself.  In one way, it can lead you in the wrong direction and bring up pride and ego.  I may have played too many games in the past several months to know that.  But I really wanted to distill the essence of the game and see what it had to offer in the game of life as well.

Losing in chess can be hard to take especially when the other player arrogantly disobeys the principles of the game and is certainly not as smart as you are.  You later smile at how his pride mirrors your own.  It is a difficult game to master.  In a deeper way, it is a thorough analysis of fear.

“Fear has its use but cowardice has none.” – Mahatma Gandhi

You see, in chess there are empty threats and there are real threats.  Empty threats instill fear in a beginner which leads to an immediately retreat.  But, the advanced player knows that it takes exactly two moves before that piece would be captured.  You learn you have to respond positively rather than react negatively.  You learn to lead and take charge rather than being passive and being lead around by the nose.

Early fears:

In the same way, growing up can be rather difficult.  We may have had harsh and unreasonable parents punish us all the time.  We may have often heard preachers yelling ‘fire and brimstone’ creating unnecessary fear and guilt in us.  We may have had heard so much from the medical community using fear to gain our compliance.

We may even watch reality TV-shows and find them to be quite disturbing.  I recall a pregnant mom say, “Please don’t let my baby die.” many times over and over as she gave birth.  There was no reason to suspect anything was wrong.  It was an irrational fear.  Now, more than ever, we can see before our very eyes that small children are literally born into a world of fear.  It is more disturbing when you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that infants are adversely affected in a subconscious way by the fearful things they hear.

Officiating sports:

For over twenty years, I had officiated sports as a part time job.  My father got me involved with it near the end of my high-school year.  As he was in charge of our local area, he knew it would be a great way for me to make money starting each spring.  Unfortunately, I always seemed to get into conflicts with the worst and most aggressive people around.

Since it is inevitable that one team must lose, the resentment always seemed to be focused on the umpire.  I never wanted any trouble and it was always hard to keep everyone happy.  I wished to do a good job, as best I can, and be on my way.  I wanted to make the right call and take pride in hustling and knowing the game.  I wanted peace but the nature of competition brings out the worst in people.  Things would often go much differently than I had planned.  The reality was, I could never please or satisfy everyone.  I never knew if this job was my lot in life – a curse or not.

Fortunately, I made a breakthrough a few weeks ago that I wanted to share with all of you.  It was something that I wish I had discovered twenty-years ago and hope it may benefit someone.  In a world that appears to be getting worse and worse, the bullying more rampant and goodhearted kids committing suicide I thought to express this.  It certainly would have saved me a lot of effort and emotional stress if knew this from the start.

The major problem is, this sort of success is hard to come by.  It can be very complicated.  It cannot really be learned from a book but it is a start.  Each situation needs to be well-thought-out in a general and specific way in order to handle people successfully.  To treat people with respect and tact should always be the ideal to follow.  For best results, it needs to be worked out with a partner or coach for life-long changes to take place.

The classroom:

I remember, a long time ago, when I was a new teacher.  I had been assigned a small fifth-grade class that had major behavioral problems to such a degree that they were separated from the ordinary class.  I tried many techniques to reach them and nothing really worked.  Finally, I tried to display anger without any words by smacking a yardstick on the table.  It broke right in half.  All the kids laughed.  That wasn’t exactly the effect I wanted to get across.

I sort of gave up researching how to effectively manage behavior problems in the classroom.  I must have read hundreds of books but nothing clicked until now.  A few weeks ago, I came across an older white-haired gentleman during a softball tournament.  He was an umpire.  Yet, I had never seen him before and we immediately began talking about the game as he was a fist-year umpire and I was an old-veteran.

After giving him some advice of the different leagues in our area and how each of them behaves and which ones are easy-going and which ones were tougher – I related a problem I had.  I told him things seemed to be getting worse and worse in this degenerate age.  The adult players are getting more and more aggressive and even the young girls have been talking back.  He asked me what had happened.


I went on to tell him that I made a call at first base that (an adult male) player didn’t agree with.  This player had yelled and argued as he drifted down the right field line.  He yelled that the first-baseman’s foot was off the base.  After I took my position behind the catcher the same player came jogging in and went on to show me how much the player’s foot was off the base.  Then, he proceeded to bump his elbow against mine to make a solid point and continued off into the dugout.  Come to think of it, I was being bullied.

In my mind, the internal process that is felt first is shock.  It is a definite surprise.  I thought: How could anyone do such a thing?   Shock is a form of fear.  It stems from aggressive behavior.  It is a form of manipulation we call intimidation.  A real gentleman wouldn’t do this.  It is not respectful and often used by those who have no class.  I assured him that he was still out, but did nothing else.

So this fellow umpire says to me.  This is what you say whenever this happens:

“Coach, if any player EVER touches me again they will be ejected from this game and possibly suspended for life!”

I was surprised how I felt when he said this.  It was surprising because he was talking rather quietly.  He didn’t have to yell at all to get his point across.

I put myself into the offending player’s shoes as he delivered his warning.  I felt slightly fearful upon hearing what he had to say.  Later on, as I contemplated what had worked most effectively in his delivery, I discovered there was a key element underlying his whole line of reasoning.  What he said was completely TRUE.

It is true that you can’t touch an official.

It is true that I had the power to eject him.

And it was also true that if I reported him he could be suspended for the year if not for life.

So something clicked inside me.  This was something I had been looking for.  This was something that each adolescent needs to hear in their own way to create healthy boundaries in life.  So I let it settle down into my mind to see if I could work out the steps intellectual.  In order to pass it on, I first needed to have success in the “battlefield”.

Five Steps:

  1. Create the boundary
  2. Bring their negative behavior to light
  3. Issue a warning
  4. Threaten punishment
  5. Administer the consequence

When I got back on the field I immediately had a successful experience.  Tying in the words of the sagely-advice of this umpire and the patterns of chess it started to make sense.  But I needed even more proof.  So I tried it again the following game to see if it worked well and could be duplicated.  It did.  Here is what I discovered:

The first step is to create the boundary.  It can be easy as saying “Stop.” or “No you can’t do that.”  The key is to stay something you object about their behavior.  Start out being peaceful and calm.  There is no need to yell.  It should be effortless on your part.  Too often we get lazy and say nothing.  When we fail to speak up we usually will have more problems later on.  Better to nip it in the bud from the very beginning.

The second step is to bring their negative behavior to light.  This means you verbalize their wrong and offensive behavior.  If you are already a thoughtful and ethical person then you have the advantage as you know what is right and wrong and what is acceptable or not in society.  You might say, “No swearing, please.”

Too often we get overwhelmed because we know that people can react unexpectedly in an infinite variety of ways.  So make it easy on yourself by directly pointing out whatever it is that you find offensive.  When done right, there is a sense of joy that is felt.  It is very satisfying when you can remain in the moment, and not be disturbed.  When it comes about effortlessly then you know you are on the right track.

The third step is to issue a warning.  You just say something like “You can’t do this or we will get another pitcher.” or “You shouldn’t do this as it is dangerous.” or “You can’t do this, as it is against the rules.”  Most reasonable people will respond appropriately.  If they don’t understand you, now is your chance to explain the rules in detail.

The fourth step is to threaten punishment.  Most of the time we threaten to punish someone out of the blue.  A threat without prior warning is not right.  You have to look at this from both sides – your side and their own.  If you threaten punishment by ejection or detention and skip all the previous steps, then it doesn’t allow anyone to learn their role or what is expected of them.

Furthermore, when you skip the previous steps it doesn’t allow them to process their emotions or analyze if their behavior was in fact bad, wrong, disrespectful or dangerous.  I used to do this and start out at the fourth step.  It can come across as overbearing and irrational.   I would get angry or defensive stares and never knew why.  Now I know better.  From their point of view it is like you are being hysterical or unreasonable.

In the first few steps you should be calm and peaceful and now is the time to be a bit stern or wrathful.  You might say something like, “If you swear again, I am going to eject you.” or “If you put a fake tag on a player again, you will be ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct.”

Note:  If you go overboard and threaten someone’s life then that is not what we are talking about here.  It is always your responsibility to set safe boundaries and at the same time build up someone’s positive self-esteem.

The fifth step is to give a consequence.  When you give a consequence it is your chance to eject someone with the proper arm motions of your favorite professional umpire.  It is important to follow through on your previous threat to show others that you are serious and your word is good.

If you are in an authority position it is your duty to protect the group when one person jeopardizes the harmony or safety in the classroom or on the playing field.  So you might yell forcefully, “You’re ejected!” or “You’re outta here!”  Then when they kick and scream, you simply explain to the coach that this person has to get off the field in a timely manner or they will forfeit the game to the other team.

KEY POINT:  If you go slow and listen to their responses after you state your objection then you allow others to save face.  What this means is that they have the opportunity to come clean and apologize to avoid any further embarrassment.

After they apologize this is where saying, “Thank you.” or “I appreciate it.” comes in handy.  A proper role-model sets the example of good manners to educate people on how to be, talk, and act properly.

A useful insight:

The first argument occurred during the very next softball game.  An adult male displayed some very childish behavior because he believed he tagged a man out at second base and I missed the call.  This time something unusual happened:

When I told this grown man to stop jumping up and down like a child having a tantrum, it felt as if a rubber-band was being pushed back.

It was quite amazing to know that I was getting some positive feedback in an intuitive way on an etheric level.  It was not confined to a small area but it was all-pervasive to the size of the diamond.  Perhaps this was occurring on the subconscious level – the aware mind meeting the unconscious mind and his energy being pushed back.

Whatever the case may be, the main thing is he stopped his behavior immediately.  Just by my verbalizing and pointing out his negative action; he calmed down.

What usually occurs when one person abuses their power over another…the weaker and more sensitive person takes on so many emotions.  The majority of it is not even their own.  When we don’t understand these emotions and are unable to process them, it often leads to suffering and depression and possibly suicide in certain people.

IMPORTANT:  We do best when we follow the middle path.  If I had been too extreme and threatened to eject him at this point, it would have backfired.  He would have been angered and even justified in his confusion as to why he was being talked to in such a harsh manner.

Two types of people:

Basically, there are two types of people.  There are those that are PEACEFUL and gentle and there are those that are WRATHFUL and aggressive.  The gentle person is someone that has a conscience while the aggressive person does not.  Whenever you point out a person’s bad behavior they will react in one of two ways: either shame or fear.

Those who are peaceful and have a conscience will react first with shame.  More often than not, when you bring to light a conscientious person’s negative behavior a person will later apologize.  To keep your sanity, don’t expect it.  But do give them space and allow some time to go by.  They need to process their feelings.  When you do it properly, by allowing them to “save face,” a good person will usually come around and apologize.  If you are over handed and skip the above steps you won’t allow this to come about.  So be patient for their benefit and growth.

The aggressive person, who doesn’t have much of a conscience, will react first with fear.  He usually behaves badly out of pride or just to impress his friends.  If you expose his faulty behavior he can no longer be covert about it.  He thrives in pushing past all boundaries.  It is thrilling for him to do so.  He just needs to have you push back in the right way.  When you do this properly and with skill you are actually helping him develop a conscience.

Ultimately, we hope this fabricated conscience develops into true compassion and responsibility later on.  On the other hand, if you don’t say anything to either type of person, they lose respect for you and you lose the chance at developing self-respect.  If you do nothing, then you as a sensitive person will take on much suffering and depression later on.  Don’t let it get that far.

Final Point:

In the second day’s experiment, I had only utilized the first four steps during the game and I was delighted to get the right responses.  It took time for them to come around but each of them did.  I got three apologizes during that night and was satisfied with the way things went.

When this works out well, it is really beautiful to behold.  There is an art to the game of life and it is best lived effortlessly.  In addition, it is truly freeing when there is no further thought or anxiety about your past actions or theirs.  Meditation and other important activities can resume.  Rather than taking home all their baggage along with its depression there is peace and contentment.

hope that helps!


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Filed under Emotional Health, Mental Health

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