Running head: CONSCIOUS DISCIPLINE

Conscious Discipline:
The Effects of a Classroom Management and Emotional Intelligence Program
Clarissa M. Darnell
Appalachian State University

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Conscious Discipline:

The Effects of a Classroom Management and Emotional Intelligence Program
For many years, early childhood and educational programs for young children have been
governed by practices of reward and punishment philosophies for means of discipline and
classroom management. The purpose of this paper is to present the “new ideology” behind a
program that has been established within the past ten years that reverses the concepts of
discipline to empowerment and problem-solving. The program name of such design is
Conscious Discipline, designed and established by Dr. Becky Bailey. To understand the
importance of this program, it is vital to explore the specifics of the program foundation and
constructions in conjunction with research that tests the principles and practices.
Program Design
Founder of Conscious Discipline
Becky Bailey has devoted the majority of her life to studies and experience focused on
the development and maturity of young children. Most of her work is specifically guided and
influenced by her involvement with children with challenging behavior or disadvantaged
children. Dr. Bailey dedicated her instructive studies to the field of education, with the emphasis
of her doctoral work being in Early Childhood Education and Development Psychology (Besher,
n.d.). As a result of Dr. Bailey’s educational career with over thirty years of experience working
with young children in early childhood settings, she has a vast understanding and knowledge
base to support her involvement with the Conscious Discipline program. Dr. Bailey became the
president of Loving Guidance, Inc. in 1996, the company in which the Conscious Discipline
resides (Besher, n.d.).

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Explanation of Program
To gain a better understanding of Conscious Discipline, it is imperative to closely
examine the structure of the program, beginning with defining and explaining the focus. The
Internet website dedicated to Conscious Discipline explains that the program is defined as an
evidence-based “comprehensive emotional intelligence and classroom management system that
integrates all domains of learning (social, emotional, physical, cultural and cognitive) into one
seamless curriculum” (Besher, n.d.). More closely examining classroom management, it can be
best understood as the efforts teachers make each day to ensure that students are successfully
learning (Hoffman, Hutchinson, & Reiss, 2005). The second principle mentioned in the
definition of the program is emotional intelligence. Hoffman, Hutchinson, and Reiss (2009)
provide the explanation of the term by saying it is the “ability to identify, assess, and manage
emotions to better communicate, solve problems, and build relationships”. To expand on this
component of the program, Dr. Becky Bailey (2001) clarifies that the Conscious Discipline
program is a change from a traditional compliance model of discipline to a relationship-based,
community model that “empowers both teachers and students” by focusing on the goal “to
provide systematic changes in schools by fostering the emotional intelligence of teachers first
and children second”. The empowerment of teachers comes by teaching them how to handle
particular situations effectively and at an appropriate time. Likewise, students are empowered by
becoming familiar with the process of Social and Emotional Learning, also referred to as SEL, as
it teaches children to recognize their own emotions and how to manage those emotions, while
developing empathy, making good decisions, establishing constructive friendships and handling
challenges successfully (Caldarella, Page, & Gunter, 2012).

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The Conscious Discipline Pyramid Model
Dr. Bailey (2001) explains that the structure and strategic focus of the Conscious
Discipline program is based on current brain research. The structure of the program is more
closely examined and explained on the Conscious Discipline website. The text on the site
elaborates on the illustration of a four-tier pyramid construction model, where each of four areas
builds on the previous component in order to make up the formation. The four tiers of the model
beginning with the bottom tier and working upward include: The Brain State Model, the Seven
Powers of a Conscious Adult, The School Family, and then the Seven Skills of Discipline
(Besher, n.d.).
The foundational tier, the bottom and largest tier of the model, is the Brain State Model
which is viewed as a framework to understand the states of the internal brain (Besher, n.d.). The
brain can enter three different internal states in which behavior and action is directly affected; the
survival state, the emotional state, and executive state. The Conscious Discipline program
empowers users to be conscious of the internal brain states within themselves and the children
served. It then offers practical skills needed to manage thoughts, feelings and actions. The
Conscious Discipline website refers to exhibiting the ability to self-regulate is only when adults
are then able to teach children to do the same (Besher, n.d.). Besher specifically states that “[b]y
doing this, we help children…become more integrated so they can learn and use problem-solving
skills”.
Moving up the pyramid model to the next tier, the Seven Powers for a Conscious Adult,
the Conscious Discipline program focuses here on the importance of a child’s sense of safety
which is dependent on a “conscious mindful adult” (Besher, n.d.). The program website
explains that adults must be aware of what is going on in the surroundings of the classroom and

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respond appropriately in order to “plan for the future, change old conditioned behavior patterns
and engage in meaningful connections with others” (Besher, n.d.). The Seven Powers for
Conscious Adults encourages self-regulation, which is the ability to control personal thoughts,
feelings, and actions. Specifically, the Seven Powers for Conscious Adults is listed as Power of
Perception, Power of Unity, Power of Attention, Power of Free Will, Power of Acceptance,
Power or Love, and Power or Intention (Besher, n.d.).
The School Family is the devoted focus of the third tier of the pyramid model. It is
within this tier that the importance of Connection between students and adults is emphasized
(Besher, n.d.). When positive connections are made, essential components for school success for
students emerge. One component for school success that emerges from positive connections and
a sense of belonging within the school family is that all children, including those categorized
with difficult behaviors, begins to portray a willingness to learn. Without willingness of learning
present, interactions could be governed a power struggle rather than a learning opportunity.
Another component that promotes a student school success is the ability to apply continual
attention when needed. The ability to attend to tasks is most likely to occur when stress is
minimal in the environment. A positive learning environment within the school family will
create an atmosphere of caring, encouragement, and meaningful contribution through meaningful
routines, rituals, and structures. The third component influenced by connection with others is
impulse control. Within the Conscious Discipline philosophies, impulse control is not taught
following the traditional methods of external reward/punishment systems. It has been proven
that such methods cannot improve a child’s ability to self-regulate because they are not designed
to teach new skills (Besher, n.d.). The Second Step curriculum supports this thought by saying
that the use of large rewards will only control a child’s behavior while around the adult and can

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cause children to become materialistic, focusing a child’s attention of the reward rather than on
the message (Beland, 2002). Instead of managing behavior by the use of external motivations,
the School Family practices uses connection to internally encourage impulse control and teach
self-regulation skills in context (Besher, n.d.). Dr. Bailey (2011) explains students’ motivation to
behave comes from the internal pleasure they have when they help others, feel cared for and
experience the joy of thriving in a culture that offers safety and positive regard. Huffman,
Hutchinson, and Reiss (2009) broaden the explanation of the school family practice within
Conscious Disciple by noting a positive school climate can be created by being the “internal
motivation system where students feel cared for in a safe environment of unconditional
acceptance and where they experience the pleasure of helping others”. Dr. Bailey (2011) further
explains the school family model by using the metaphor of a healthy family system as a
guideline to create a positive school climate where optimal development of all children is
promoted within a most favorable learning environment. When connections are made within
such classroom atmospheres, each child will develop an awareness and understanding that as an
individual he or she has value and worth (Bailey, 2011). Bailey (2011) goes on to state that “[a]
healthy School Family…empowers teachers, schools, parents and children to achieve their goals
and more”.
The top and final tier of the pyramid model focuses on the Seven Skills of Discipline
where the importance is placed on teaching problem-solving. The Seven Skills of Discipline are
Composure, Encouragement, Assertiveness, Choices, Empathy, Positive Intent and
Consequences (Besher, n.d.). These are the only skills that are needed to transform everyday
discipline issues into teachable moments. According to the program webpage, Conscious
Discipline recognizes these moments as an opportunity to” teach children the social-emotional

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and communication skills necessary to manage themselves, resolve conflict and develop prosocial behaviors” (Besher, n.d.).
Developmental Influence of Program
The detailed structure and focus of the Conscious Discipline program enhances and
promotes the developmental progression of young children through the use of supportive goals,
techniques, and strategies. According to Foundations: Early Learning Standards for North
Carolina Preschoolers (2005) the widely held developmental expectations for children three to
five years of age in the area of emotional and social development is that children will begin to
demonstrate increasing success in identifying, managing, and expressing emotions as well as
respond to the feelings of others, including empathy while recognizing that the classroom is a
caring community where members care for themselves, others, and their surroundings. Beland
(2002) expounds on the explanation of expected developmental progression in the Second Step
Curriculum Teacher’s Guide, by stating that “between kindergarten and sixth grade, children
develop an increased understanding of the typical causes of emotions, learn rules about
expressing emotions appropriately, and become increasingly aware that individuals can
experience more than one emotion at a time.
To continue to demonstrate how the Conscious Discipline supports and promotes
development in young children, Dr. Bailey (2011) specifically discusses that using the school
family model optimizes brain development. She explains that “connections on the outside
literally create connections on the inside” (Bailey, 2011). This is more thoroughly explained by
emphasizing how critical it is to understand that physical connections with others on the outside
creates neural connections inside the brain that later shapes the ability to react and respond to
situational experiences (Bailey, 2011).

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Research of Current Practices

Research is available that both supports and dismisses the success or effectiveness of
implementing Conscious Discipline within classroom settings that serve young children. Dr.
Bailey has accepted such studies and referenced several within her publications and on the
Conscious Discipline website. Beginning with referring back to Social and Emotional Learning
(SEL), as mentioned earlier, Dr. Bailey (2011) mentions research that was conducted to access
the impact of SEL programs on elementary and middle-school students. Over three hundred
studies involving approximately 324,300 children were included in the mentioned research. The
results of the studies reflect that the SEL programs “improved students’ social-emotional skills,
attitudes about self and others, connections to school, positive social behavior and academic
performance”. It was also noted that the programs reduced students’ behavior problems and
emotional distress, indicating that such programs offer students a “practical educational benefit”
(Bailey, 2011).
Targeting a much younger population within their study, authors Hoffman, Hutchinson,
and Reiss (2005) discuss the results of the study conducted in order “examine the impact of
training elementary school teachers in a classroom management program titled Conscious
Discipline”. With the focus of the study being on gathering information from elementary school
teachers, the majority of the students included in the survey were between the age of five and
eight years. In the study, fifteen student-teacher pairs were formed and each teacher completed
the BASC-TRS, Teacher Rating Scale portion of the Behavior Assessment System for Children,
prior to completing Conscious Discipline training, and a second rating scale was completed
approximately six months later, following the training session. Teacher responses were gathered
using this assessment tool to determine the behavior scores of the “disruptive students”

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identified. The results were “checked for reliability and bias and then aggregated into scales and
sub-scales (Hoffman, Hutchinson, & Reiss, 2005). Hoffman, Hutchinson, and Reiss (2005)
explain in the article that changes in student scores on the assessment tool can reflect “a true
change in the student or a perceived change by the teacher”. The results reflected that teachers
that reported using Conscious Discipline principles displayed dramatic student behavior
improvements with four students reducing their scores by more than fifteen points. The
hypothesis of the authors was supported by the results of the study in that significant
improvements were present, especially in the areas of hyperactivity and aggression, when
teachers changed and improved classroom management skills.
In a later research study conducted by Hoffman, Hutchinson, and Reiss (2009), they
discuss the findings from a study group of the more than two hundred pre-kindergarten through
sixth grade teachers surveyed, assessing the comprehension and implementation of Conscious
Discipline in the classroom settings. Within the study, three groups were created to best explain
the teachers’ understanding and implementation of Conscious Discipline philosophies within
their classrooms. Questioned in a survey presented to each teacher, the respondents were to
provide their opinion within a series of fifteen classroom environment-based questions and thirty
items specifically related to Conscious Discipline items. Three group types were created
according to use of Conscious Discipline practices; Group 0 represented the pre-training group
with no exposure to the program, Group 1 represented the teachers that responded on the postsurvey that they used less than 50% of the Conscious Discipline practices, and Group 3
represented the group that responded that they used at least 50% of the Conscious Discipline
program on the post-survey. After gathering all results, the authors shared that Discriminant
analyses were conducted in order to determine significant linear discriminant functions and to

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identify variables that most dramatically contributed to the discriminating function. In the final
results discussion, it was explained that the three groups displayed a varying degree of
understanding and implementation of Conscious Discipline tents, ranging from not being at all
familiar with the tenets of Conscious Discipline to understanding and implementing a great deal
of Conscious Discipline in order to address behavior issues as learning experiences (Hoffman,
Hutchinson, and Reiss, 2009).
Research conducted by Caldarella, Page, and Gunter (2012) offered this reason for the
need for this study by saying, “[t]he purpose of this study was to evaluate early childhood
educators’ perceptions of the social validity of Conscious Discipline.” The population sampled
was a convenience sampling that included 17 educators serving 357 students ages three to five.
The results shared explained that based on the correlated statistics, participants with more years
of teaching experience and those with more experience using Conscious Disciple tended to rate
the program more positively than those with less experience. The quantitative results, overall,
also reflect perceptions that the program was viewed as socially valid by the early childhood
educators that participated in this study. The authors concluded from responses provided to the
survey items and the open-ended questions that participants believed the Conscious Discipline
program to be socially valid, meaning that it met three components: (1) the significance of
program goals, (2) the appropriateness of the procedures, and (3) the importance of the effects.
Open-ended responses were specifically quoted by stating, “[i]t helps me stay calm so I can
model good problem solving and help the children when they are having a hard time at school”
and that “[i]t is a [consistent] way of thinking and being…that helps the children to increase their
self-esteem and self-confidence while teaching lifelong skills” (Caldarella, Page, & Gunter,
2012). Although a great deal of positives about the program were shared within this article, the

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authors also acknowledge that some participants felt that implementing the principles of
Conscious Discipline were difficult to manage within large class sizes and that it takes a great
deal of practice to see effective results (Caldarella, Page, & Gunter, 2012).
While the other research studies publicized positive and favorable results, a qualitative
study by Thomas and Ostrosk (2011) gathered different results. In their study, Thomas and
Ostrosk (2011) conducted observations in one Head Start classroom in order to examine and
evaluate the interactions between students and teachers in relation to the newly adopted programwide use of Conscious Discipline. This program served 16 low income children in the age range
of birth through age five. A series of observations were conducted over a ten week period. The
observational notes combined with interview responses gathered from several Head Start team
members, including the classroom teachers, were compiled into the final report. Although, as the
authors describe, the population studied was very limited, the results were honest and relevant
based on the experiences of the teachers. The difficulties of implementing the program were
more prevalent to the teachers than the benefits that were seen with the children. The teachers
shared that they felt that several factors limited the success of implementing Conscious
Discipline in the classroom. The factors specifically included the demands of fitting the approach
to every child and to various classroom situations, questions or doubts from some parents, the
apparent lack of response and incomplete communication from program administrators,
discrepancies between the administrations’ and teachers’ views of the implementation and
efficacy of Conscious Discipline, and the conflicting demands of addressing both academic and
social-emotional outcomes (Thomas & Ostrosk, 2011).

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Recommended Practices

With the focus of physical connection being such a strong aspect of the Conscious
Discipline program, it is appropriate to incorporate Dr. Bailey’s publication entitled I Love You
Rituals as a recommended practice. Dr. Bailey (2000) states that using I Love You Rituals as a
way to interact and communicate with young children will send a message of love and
unconditional acceptance. This book includes a plethora of scripted finger plays and interactive
poems suggestions to be shared among adults and children as an opportunity to connect and
relate. Not only is it important to set aside occasions to interact, it is just as significant to create
an environment that promotes a feeling of security and acceptance. Dr. Bailey’s book, Creating
the School Family, offers suggestions for creating such an environment. Throughout the book,
Dr. Bailey addresses specific activities to be created or established within a classroom
environment in order to promote unity and connection among all students. Specific examples
include creating a “We Care” center. Hoffman, Hutchinson, and Reiss (2005) explain that this
area within the classroom is designed to allow children to create cards and notes to children that
may be absent or ill, “thus teaching students a proper revelation of social connectedness”.
Another example explained within the book, Creating a School Family, is an area in a classroom
referred to as a “Safe Place”. The children are taught to use this area as a safe area to which they
can retreat when feeling strong emotions and need an opportunity to calm, teaching the children
about anger management. Hoffman, Hutchinson, and Reiss (2005) continue to explain other
recommended practices within the Conscious Discipline program by discussing how the family
climate is created through “routines, rituals, safety and classroom centers supporting socialemotional learning and building relationships”.

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Conclusion

Conscious Discipline presents a challenge to make a governing switch within the classroom from
the past focus on coercion, fear, and external rewards to intrinsic motivation, helpfulness,
problem-solving and connection (Besher). With the Conscious Discipline program being
relatively new, the efforts to implement the strategies and techniques as suggested are
continuously being made instated by classroom teachers, parents, and on a much more board
scale, by program administrators and facilitators. With the efforts to implement being ongoing,
consequently, the research studies performed about the effectiveness of the program is ongoing
and forthcoming. Due to the growing nature of the program, it will be interesting to see how the
idea of Conscious Discipline develops in the future.

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References
Bailey, B. (2011). Creating the school family. Oviedo, FL: Loving Guidance, Inc.
Bailey, B.A. (2000). I love you rituals. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
Bailey, B.A. (2001). Conscious discipline: 7 basic skills for brain smart classroom management.
Oviedo, FL: Loving Guidance.
Beland, K. (2002). Second step: A violence prevention curriculum. (3rd ed.). Washington, DC:
Gallaudet University Press.
Besher, B. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 29, 2012, from Conscious Discipline:
www.consciousdiscipline.com
Caldarella P., Page N.W., & Gunter L. (2012). Early childhood educators’ perceptions of
conscious discipline. Education, 132(3), 589-599.
Hoffman, L.L., Hutchinson, C. J., & Reiss, E. (2005). Training teachers in classroom
management: Evidence of positive effects on the behavior of difficult children. The
Journal of the Southeastern Regional Association of Teacher Educators, 14(1), 36-43.
Hoffman, L. L., Hutchinson, C. J., & Reiss, E. (2009). On improving school climate: Reducing
reliance on rewards and punishment. International Journal of Whole Schooling, 5(1), 1324.
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (2005). Foundation: Early learning standards
for north carolina preschoolers and strategies for guiding their success. Raleigh, NC:
Author.
Thomas, D. V., & Ostrosky, M. M. (2011). Implementing a new social-emotional philosophy:
Struggle in one head start classroom. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 13(1),
Retrieved from http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v13n1.