Five Positions of Control

There are five ways that people attempt to control each other: punisher, guilter, buddy, monitor and manager.


Position 1 – Punisher: The punisher uses anger, criticism, humiliation, or sarcasm. When we use this approach, we are often yelling or pointing. Punishers are recognized by their threats, implied or otherwise, which usually say a version of, “If you don’t do what I want I’ll hurt you.” Youth say, “I don’t care.”  about their work or about us because they take us out of their frame of reference, so we can’t hurt them.  Once we are out of their quality world they don’t try to get along with us and we have repeat offenders.

Position 2 – Guilter: The person in the guilter position uses silence, makes remarks that instill guilt or moralizes. They use words like, “I’m very disappointed in you,” and “What would your mother think if she knows this?” These kinds of statements make youth feel bad and often leads to a low self-esteem and they learn to say “sorry” a lot.

Position 3 – Buddy: The buddy position has a positive and negative aspect. The adult as a buddy will generally have a good relationship with the youth and this relationship often helps youth conform to the adults’ wishes. When an adult uses the buddy position, he is saying things like, “do it for me.” The adult reminds the youth of how much she does for him and will often be heard bribing the youth to comply to the adults’ wishes. The problem with this position is that the youth is still behaving for others rather than because of the person he wants to be intrinsically.

Position 4 – Monitor of Rules: The monitor position is about rules and consequences. This is a very tiring position but needs to be used with youth who do not know how to follow the rules. We must have safety in our society, therefore we have policemen. “The monitors spend a lot of time counting, tallying and charting using colored discipline slips, sad faces, and check marks.” The difficulty with consequences is that it teaches youth to do their time and then likely make the same mistake again since the consequence merely discomforted them and only taught them that adults will discomfort them if they break rules.  This does not teach independence and lessons on how to meet their needs effectively the next time.

Position 5 – Manager of Restitution: This person knows how to do everything the monitor does and will use that approach as a fall-back position. However, the helper who prefers to focus on restitution first is teaching youth to be self-managers. The recipient of this approach is asked to work to invent a solution. This person works with the student to figure out how to repair the mistake. It is a creative process. The manager says,

  • “How are you going to make things right?”
  • “What’s your plan to solve the problem?”
  • “What kind of person do you want to be?”
  • “How can you fix it? How will this plan get you stronger and help the group?”

The questions of the manager are, “What do we believe? Do you believe it? If you believe it do you want to fix it? If you fix it, what does it say about you?” and as managers, we help students examine their actions and make internal evaluations of what they can do to invent restitutions, repair their mistakes.

Source: Diane Gossen, Author of It’s All About We (pages 44-45)

Leave a Reply