Conscious Discipline

Categories: Education and Training

One of the main goals of YWCA Spokane’s ECEAP (Early Childhood Education & Assistance Program) is kindergarten readiness. A big part of becoming ready for kindergarten is developing social-emotional skills. To support this growth, we use a social-emotional curriculum called Conscious Discipline. Conscious Discipline (or CD) is a trauma-informed and evidence-based curriculum, developed by Dr. Becky Bailey.

Adult First | Components of Connection | Brain States | School Family | Deep Breathing | I Love You Rituals

Adult First

The Conscious Discipline journey is an adult-first model. This means that adults must first self-calm in order to coach children to calm. As Dr. Bailey states in her book Building Resilient Classrooms, “To successfully teach a life skill, we must model and demonstrate it in daily life.” Instead of just reacting to something in your environment, CD teaches us to pause and then respond. 

The 3 Core Components Of Conscious Discipline:
  • Safety
    • Safety enhances a person’s ability to recognize and manage big emotions.
  • Connection
    • Connection motivates people to participate in healthy relationships and change perceptions about conflict.
  • Problem-solving 
    • Problem-solving boosts people’s ability to adapt and be resilient.
The 7 Skills of Conscious Discipline

These identified skills can help transform discipline issues into teaching moments. “The seven skills teach you to respond to conflict in a way that helps children move from the resistant, lower centers of their brain to the more cooperative, higher centers” (

  • Composure
  • Choices
  • Assertiveness
  • Positive Intent
  • Encouragement
  • Empathy
  • Consequences

Explore the 7 Skills

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View/Print Handout

Components of Connection

According to Dr. Bailey, all learning begins with connection. These connections with other people help create and strengthen neural connections in the brain. Creating connections with students helps them learn to trust the teaching staff and feel safe in their school environment. Students who feel safe are able to learn!

The first step of the ECEAP journey is fostering connections with students. Once that connection is established, we can work on classroom expectations, I Love You Rituals, and academic concepts. 

Four Components of Connection

  • Eye Contact
  • Presence
  • Touch
  • A Playful Setting

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Brain States

Learn More About the Brain States Model

Using the Conscious Discipline Brain State Model, we can gain more understanding of the brain’s complex, hierarchical needs: safety, connection, and problem solving. This indicates that re-establishing safety and connection first can lead to more successful problem solving afterwards.

“The child’s brain must be able to answer both, ‘Am I safe?’ and ‘Am I loved?’ in the affirmative in order to achieve an optimal brain state” (

  • Survival State
    • Developmental Need: Safety
    • “Children who are withdrawing, having big physical meltdowns, exhibiting regressive behaviors (bed wetting, sleeping and eating disturbances), etc., are signaling that they’re spending a lot of time experiencing a Survival State. They’re asking us to build more safety into their daily routines and procedures” (
  • Emotional State
    • Developmental Need: Connection
    • Children who exhibit behaviors including being unusually controlling, short-tempered, argumentative, sassy, etc., are revealing that they’re experiencing an Emotional State. They’re asking us to connect with them in meaningful ways” (
  • Executive State
    • Developmental Need: Problem-solving opportunities
    • Children who exhibit helpful behaviors are experiencing an Executive State. These children offer assistance to others, have regulated sleeping and eating patterns, and behave in ways we generally describe as ‘positive.'” (

Explore the Brain State Model Basics

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School Family

The School Family concept creates a shift in education and classroom management. “The School Family is created through routines, rituals and structures” (

A successful school family needs:

  • Willingness to Learn
  • Impulse Control
  • Attention

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Deep Breathing

Breathing Choices
View / Print Deep Breathing Resource

“The first step in any discipline encounter is to take a deep, calming breath. Three deep breaths shut off the fight or flight response in the body” (

Effective deep breathing strategy:

  • Breathe in through your nose
  • Hold your breath for a few seconds
  • Exhale through your mouth slowly (should take longer than your inhale)
  • Repeat three times for optimal calming

Deep breathing helps with:

  • Self-regulation
  • Active calming
  • Deep breathing
  • Fussing and fits
  • Self-control
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Social-emotional learning

The most commonly used Conscious Discipline breaths in YWCA Spokane ECEAP are:

  • S.T.A.R. (Smile, Take a deep breath, And, Relax)
  • Balloon
  • Drain
  • Pretzel

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I Love You Rituals

Connection is essential in our relationships. I Love You Rituals were designed by Dr. Bailey to help increase connection. “Each ritual includes eye contact, touch, presence and a playful situation,” which are the critical elements of connection (

“A strong sense of connection also increases children’s cooperation and attention spans while decreasing power struggles and attention-seeking behaviors” ( There are lots of examples of I Love You Rituals and other resources on the Conscious Discipline YouTube channel.

Here’s one example of a short I Love You Ritual:

Explore I Love You Rituals

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Adult First | Components of Connection | Brain States | School Family | Deep Breathing | I Love You Rituals

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About Lauren Lepinski

I am an ECEAP lead teacher with a passion for literacy and the arts. I also focus on social-emotional skills to help Washington's children be ready for kindergarten!