Responsible Thinking Process (RTP) ®

Teaching Respect Using RTP ® 
By Ed Ford and George Venetis

When using RTP, you are teaching respect to the child.

First, you are teaching respect by listening to what he says, without in any way being critical of what he is saying or trying to control his answers.

Second, when he is ready and willing, you are teaching respect by helping the child focus on how he is disturbing others which is reflected in the rules. As he compares what he is doing to the rules, in reality he is comparing what he is doing as it impinges on the rights of others, which the rules describe.

Thirdly, you are teaching respect by accepting what he says and asking him questions that will help him resolve the problem when he is ready, as well as struggle through having to deal with the consequences of his actions without in any way showing anger or upset toward him. By keeping him focused on the problem, you are teaching him how to resolve the conflict.

When you get angry at the child, it comes through as an attempt to control, that you the adult don't agree with his ideas and you think his ideas ought to change. Rather, when using RTP, you are showing that you believe he can succeed in resolving his problem, that you believe he is capable of dealing with his conflicts. The very act of believing in him teaches him that someone cares, and someone believes he can make it. The very fact that you allow the child to live with the consequences shows you respect his decision even though you might disagree.

PCT teaches that each person is designed to control her own experiences, her own perception of the world. Consequently, this means that when controlling for our own experiences, we must respect other people in their attempt to control their experiences. We can't act as disturbances to their systems. In using RTP, she is being taught not only to respect the rules, but more importantly to respect those with whom she is involved by following the rules. What this is all about is teaching respect for people, respecting the way we are designed.

They're learning what respect looks like, feels like, sounds like. The key to this whole process is learning how to respect others. When the teacher uses the process, she is modeling respect. When administrators use the process, they are modeling respect. The child is being taught respect through the experiences that RTP provides.

This is highly aligned with PCT in that when you use RTP, you are more likely to be perceived by the student as part of his feedback function rather than as a disturbance. The child perceives you as part of his support system, someone who helps him think through how he can achieve his goals and get what he wants without violating the rights of others. By trying to control the student, through whatever means, you could then be perceived as a disturbance. PCT shows that we oppose disturbances. This would lead to less respect and more disruption.

The purpose of the process is not to control behavior. It is not to change students. It is not to have an orderly class. It is not to keep students in line. Rather, it is to create an atmosphere of respect.

Thus, everyone - administrator, the entire staff, students - has to be part of this respectful climate. When this happens, discipline problems will be reduced, and there will be an increase in learning time.

When a person resolves her problem in such a way that it doesn't disturb others, she is showing respect. RTP teaches students how to resolve their problems without disturbing others, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Thus, there will be an ongoing need to use the process to help students experience and apply what they learn from these experiences. Our goal is to create a school community where everyone must show respect for the rights of others, thus allowing others to satisfy their goals. RTP helps build that community.

RTP reduces the incidence of school discipline problems, ranging from minor disruptions to violence. When there are disruptions -- and there always will be, at least occasionally -- RTP provides students with an effective means for resolving their issues in a calm and respectful atmosphere. Because this process doesn't attempt to control or manipulate students, there is a reduction in their anger and frustration.

RTP is a continuous process

All those who deal with students constantly teach them how to think for themselves and how to deal effectively with their problems through creative and effective plan-making. This is accomplished not by lecturing or threatening them, but by asking specific key questions. Most discipline programs place the burden on teachers for dealing with student disruptions, by asking teachers to "do" something to the students or to satisfy students' "needs".

RTP instead gives students the choice of either staying in class and following school rules or going to a Responsible Thinking Classroom (RTC), where they stay until they decide that they want to return to wherever they were disrupting and follow the rules there. This preserves the integrity of the classroom.

The process is applied from the time students disrupt, through their stay in the RTC, where they are taught effective plan-making (once they have committed to following the rules in the classroom), to their return to the classroom and negotiations with the person for whom they were disrupting.

Remember this

When you tell students what they are doing or warn them, who is doing the thinking? When you ask them, who is doing the thinking? The key to teaching students to take responsibility for their actions is to ask questions that will teach them to think.

A Word Of Caution When Comparing RTP To Other Programs

Often, I have been told that other programs sound the same as RTP, using words like "choices" and "consequences," "responsibility" and "mutual respect," and even "non-punitive." As one teacher wrote me recently, when trying to show me how another program is similar to RTP, "While the web page doesn't give enough information it certainly sounds very similar." I would like to suggest several ways of judging whether a discipline program is similar to RTP.

First, if you hear the word "behavior" as something that is dealt with, then that should raise a red flag. RTP does not deal with behavior, although it sounds as though it does. "What are you doing?" is the first RTP question, but it is always asked in concert with the second RTP question, "What are the rules?"

Together, these questions prompt comparison between what the student sees himself doing and the standards or rules that he maintains or that are maintained within the community in which he lives. "What are you doing?" isn't just asking the student to pay attention to his actions; it goes further, prompting him to think about whether what he is doing is disturbing others, as defined by the rules of the community in which he finds himself. What is the purpose of rules, wherever we are?

Rules act as guidelines to help us determine whether our course of action is going to interfere with others around us who are attempting to satisfy their own goals. If all of us follow established rules or standards, we can deal with ourselves and others while respecting the rights of others.

The fundamental rule of every school should be "You cannot violate the rights of others." Rules outlining specific actions are less effective because they deal with specific actions, rather than with the way students think. When a student is asked the first two RTP questions, she looks at her system of values, of standards, of how she thinks she and others ought to be treated, and the standards for that treatment.

She is asked to search within herself and reflect on what she stands for, her goals, her beliefs, and how others should be treated. This is really the heart of the process. People begin to change their lives when they assess their own values and standards, when they set their priorities, when they begin to examine their belief systems.

Educators often remark that when students are asked the RTP questions in a calm, respectful, curious tone, quiet introspection often seems to occur. It is as if each student looks into her own self and evaluates herself as she is and as she wants to be, especially around others. In no other program of which I'm aware do students do this. And this is where real, permanent change in human beings takes place.

This is what Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) points to... RTP allows it to happen.

There is another way of judging the effectiveness of a program. Look at the ways in which students are actually dealt with. Notice what the teacher mentioned above said when quoting what he found on a discipline program's web page:

"While the web page didn't give enough information ..." The information given merely quotes results that educators would like to achieve when working with students. The terms used do not provide specific, measurable results or show exactly how students are taught to deal with their conflicts, but, in general, are vague.

When judging a discipline program, look at how specific results are achieved. When Eddie disrupts in class, first by talking out, then by taking something belonging to Emily, how does the teacher deal with Eddie? If Eddie does settle down for a while and then begins to disrupt again, what is the teacher instructed to do? And how does the program deal with "difficult" children, such as special education students?

Here, the issue of respecting the rights of others needs to be dealt with specifically
See RTP & Special Ed Students on the web page;
also, chapters 19, 20, 21, & 22 in Discipline for Home and School, Book One

Take the program into a juvenile prison (see Chapter 23 in Book One). Or take it onto the school bus (Chapter 26, Book One). The list could go on and on. The point is that you shouldn't settle for a classroom-only program. Look for a process that can be easily applied anywhere there are children.

That means a very practical, down-to-earth approach, with specific techniques defined for various situations. And you shouldn't settle for only short-term achievements. Look for teaching the ability to look within one's self, as mentioned above.

RTP believes that all children, regardless of their situation and condition, are capable of thinking and dealing responsibly, wherever they may be. RTP is not a program that teaches educators how to manipulate students in a particular setting. Rather, it is a process by which children learn to think on their own.

Also, you should look for some basis, some reason for doing what a program suggests that you should do. Upon what theory of behavior is whatever is being taught based? RTP is based on perceptual control theory, a model of how the mind works that has been demonstrated both mathematically and in computer modeling.

PCT doesn't deal with the actions of a person

Rather it views actions as how we control our own perceptions. What drives us to deal with perceptions? When we have something we want and we compare that goal (called a reference signal) to our present perception of the status of that goal, it is the difference between what we want and how we currently perceive things that drives our actions. For example, I feel thirsty and would like some relief. I get up, go to the refrigerator, get some water, pour it in a glass, and drink the water. I've behaved to control my perception of thirst to relief from thirst.

PCT is why we do what we do in RTP. It is the standard by which we judge whether how we apply RTP in other areas is appropriate or not. In Discipline for Home and School, Book Two, Jake Jacobs applies RTP in a correctional setting. Jake is a probation officer, and he explains how he works with his probationers. In some schools using RTP, teachers add their own ways of dealing with students.

For example, in one such school, a teacher began giving students detention over recess when they were tardy to class. A good understanding of PCT would have rejected this as not being a part of the process.

Thus, even though things might look the same at first, they can be quite different. Ultimately, the best questions to ask those who see similarities between RTP and certain discipline programs are: "What do you see as the same?" "What are some specific differences?" "How are students being taught to think through their problems on their own?" "Where do you see the students creating their own plans? Are they responsible for negotiating their return to where they were disrupting?"

When comparing RTP to a any specific program, you should ask:

1. In the program to which you are comparing RTP, who or what is responsible for causing the child's "behavior" or what the child "does"?

2. In the program, what is supposed to change when a teacher uses the procedures in any program your are considering, and why is the change supposed to happen?

3. Does the theoretical explanation for the program under consideration recognize -- overtly, directly, in clear words, no mistake about it, implications aren't good enough -- the twin facts (a) that all people act to control their own perceptions and (b) that any attempt by one person to control another will always guarantee an opportunity for "the one who is being controlled" to counter-control "the one who is attempting to do the controlling"?

4. How do you know when the program is working?

Perceptual Control Theory

RTP is based on perceptual control theory (PCT). Explanations of PCT can be found in:

Discipline for Home and School, Book One, Chapters 2 and 31


Discipline for Home and School, Book Two, Chapters 7 and 19

Freedom from Stress, a good introductory book, especially for those who counsel others

In Making Sense of Behavior, a primer on PCT by its creator, William Powers

These books are available from

Also on this web site, you'll find the following helpful

RTP Compared to Reality Therapy and RTP Compared to Reinforcement Theory.



WARNING: Some are teaching RTP but are neither accredited or qualified.

Both in the U.S. and in other countries, there are some educators teaching RTP
and some schools claiming to use RTP, that are not accredited by RTP, Inc.

Also, if a person were to give a presentation on RTP without permission,
they would be in violation of the Lanham Act.


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