Referencing The Phoenix Cups® framework | Phoenix Support For Educators

Referencing The Phoenix Cups® framework

A comprehensive guide to referencing Phoenix Support for Educators and the Phoenix Cups, and understanding the evidence and underpinning theories behind the framework

Over the years, Phoenix Support for Educators has received numerous requests from enthusiastic students seeking to incorporate the Phoenix Cups® framework into their academic assignments at universities and colleges. Recognizing the importance of streamlining the process of accessing relevant information, we have taken the initiative to compile all these requests into a centralised location. Consequently, referencing our work will be effortless and efficient. Additionally, we endeavor to share the evidence base and theoretical underpinning of the framework throughout this post. 

Should you have any inquiries or additional requests that you would like to have included on this platform, we encourage you to reach out to us via email at [email protected].

We extend our sincerest wishes for success in your academic endeavors, and we take immense pride in being an integral part of your educational journey.

Sandi and Chris Phoenix

Who developed the Phoenix Cups® framework?

The Phoenix Cups® Framework was developed in 2012 by Sandi Phoenix, the founding director of Phoenix Support for Educators. It serves as an explanatory tool for humanistic psychology and the guidance approach, offering support for behavioral teaching and learning in educational and care settings. Sandi Phoenix and her husband Christopher Phoenix have conducted collaborative research and co-authored a book that delves into the theories, philosophies, and scientific principles underlying the framework.

How did the framework come about?

The concept of the Phoenix Cups® was serendipitously discovered in 2012 during one of Sandi's presentations to educators who were new to the understanding of basic human life needs. Through years of supporting children's behavioral learning, Sandi came to the realization that by focusing on comprehending and fulfilling these fundamental human needs, it became possible to address common behavioral challenges in typically developing children. Being someone who benefits from visualizing new concepts, she grabbed a water cup, filled it with liquid from a nearby jug, and conveyed to the audience, "Imagine each of the needs we've been discussing as cups, and our goal is to help children learn how to fill them." In that moment, everything clicked, and the rest is history. Since then, Sandi and her team have continuously developed and refined this concept.

What was the motivation behind The Phoenix Cups®  framework?

The motivation behind developing The Phoenix Cups® Framework stemmed from Sandi's experience as an educator and her simultaneous study of psychological science. She recognized a pressing need for making emerging psychological science accessible to busy educators who constantly engage with the intricacies of the brain and behavior. The aim was to enable educators to swiftly integrate contemporary evidence-based ideas into their daily practice, thus bridging the gap between research and application.

While the original labels of the Phoenix Cups® were initially influenced by Dr. William Glasser's Choice Theory, the framework has more recently drawn significant inspiration from the research and evidence from Self Determination Theory. Additionally, Dr Louise Porter, who works alongside Sandi, has had a pivotal role in recent updates and evolution of the framework. The development of The Phoenix Cups® involved synthesizing the work of various guidance practitioners, humanistic psychologists, positive psychology, emerging research, insights from esteemed colleagues at Phoenix Support for Educators, as well as Sandi's own extensive experience working with children over the past two decades. The resources and training associated with The Phoenix Cups® offer a comprehensive philosophy shaped by these diverse influences.

What was the research process and key findings for The Phoenix Cups Framework?

The research conducted by Sandi and Christopher Phoenix for The Phoenix Cups Framework primarily involved theoretical exploration by examining existing literature and studies. Their aim was to address the question of identifying the fundamental needs of all humans and understanding how the satisfaction of these needs impacts behavior and overall well-being. Over the course of the past decade, they meticulously collected, reviewed, synthesized, and developed their research, culminating in the creation of an analogy using Cups as a means to explain complex concepts from psychology and philosophy.

The key finding of their research is that all humans possess essential basic human life needs that must be met in order to experience a sense of fulfillment. Failure to fulfill these needs results in a feeling of disharmony and negative emotions. These needs can be effectively conveyed using the analogy of Cups. Every individual has five fundamental needs, represented by five Cups: The Safety Cup®, The Connection Cup®, The Freedom Cup®, The Mastery Cup®, and The Fun Cup®. We are inherently driven by a "Will to Fill™" these Cups, seeking to meet our needs. Throughout our lives, we develop the "Skill to Fill™" our Cups, learning effective ways to fulfill our needs that are considerate and cooperative, while also recognizing our reciprocal rights and responsibilities. When most of our Cups are filled or in the process of being filled (at least to a greater extent than being empty), we experience a strong sense of well-being and fulfillment.

The foundation of this theory draws upon diverse theoretical ideas and research from the field of psychology, as well as pre-existing philosophies predating psychology. Some of the theories integrated into The Phoenix Cups Framework include:

  • Self-Determination Theory (Ryan and Deci)
  • Humanistic Psychology, particularly Maslow's hierarchy of needs
  • Philosophy, notably continental philosophy such as the works of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche
  • Positive Psychology
  • The guidance approach to working with children's behavior, with specific reference to the writing and research of Dr. Louise Porter
  • Glasser's Choice Theory

The theoretical underpinning of The Educator Toolkit for Behaviour includes 

  • Self-Determination Theory (Chirkov & Ryan, 2001; Chirkov, Ryan, Kim, & Kaplan, 2003; Deci & Ryan, 1987; Ryan & Deci, 2000a, 200b), and; 
  • Guidance Theory (Gartrell, 2003, 2004; Grolnick, 2003; Grolnick, Gurland, DeCourcey, & Jacob, 2002; Hart & Hodson, 2004, 2006; Hoffman, 1960; Kohn, 1996, 1999a, 1999b, 2005; Porter, 1999, 2014, 2016a).
  • The content also draws on research findings that children are best prepared for school through a play-based program that fosters self-regulation of their emotions, behaviours and learning processes, and that these skills are more important than specific literacy and numeracy skills (Piotrkowski et al., 2000). Self-determination theory tells us that children are more intrinsically motivated and self-governing when adults grant them autonomy, rather than imposing controls on them. Starting with this premise, research dating back to as early as the 1930s has consistently shown that, compared with controlling discipline, guidance practices achieve more gains in terms of children’s behaviour, emotional wellbeing, relationships with peers and adults, language skills and intellectual skills. (See, for example: Aguilar et al. 2000; Alink et al. 2008; Battistich et al. 2004; Brody et al. 2001; Campbell & Ewing 1990; Campbell et al. 1996; Coldwell et al. 2006; Combs-Ronto et al. 2009; Côté et al. 2006; Crockenberg & Litman 1990; Denham et al. 2000; Donovan et al. 2000; Emmer & Aussiker 1990; Fergusson et al. 2005; Gaylord-Harden 2008; Gregory & Ripski 2008; Hoffman 1960; Lewin et al. 1939;  Loukas et al. 2005; McFadyen-Ketchum et al. 1996; Miller-Lewis et al. 2006; NICHD Early Child Care Research Network 2004; O’Leary et al. 1999; Prinzie et al. 2006; Rimm-Kaufman et al. 2007; Romano et al. 2005; Rubin et al. 2003; Ryan & Stiller 1991; Scaramella et al. 2008; Schultz & Khan 1982; Shaw et al. 2003; Spieker et al. 1999; Stormshak et al. 2000; Tremblay 2004; Tremblay et al. 2004; Underwood et al. 2009; Veenstra et al. 2006.) (For a full review, see Porter, 2014.)

Where to from here?

If you would like to learn more about The Phoenix Cups® Framework we suggest these places to start:

The Phoenix Cups - A Cup Filling Story.

This book is written by Sandi Phoenix and Christopher Phoenix and explains the many theories, philosophies, and science that underpins the framework.

ISBN: 9780648705819, 0648705811

Reference:  Phoenix, S., & Phoenix, C. (2019).  The Phoenix cups: A Cup Filling Story . Wellington Point: Phoenix Support Publishing. 

The Educator Toolkit for Behaviour 

A workbook to help you understand children's behaviour and implement a life changing framework to build relationships, and foster educational environments where everyone can thrive. This workbook also comes with an online course.

ISBN: 9798378790128

Reference:  Phoenix, S. (2022).  Educator Toolkit for Behaviour. Wellington Point: Phoenix Support Publishing. 

The Phoenix Cups 101 

A5 mini booklet (or ebook) with full colour pages which will give you a full overview of The Phoenix Cups® framework including what the Cups are, what does the Will to Fill and Skill to Fill mean, and what is a Phoenix Cups® profile, plus instructions and tips to fill out and develop a Cup filling plan for your wellbeing and fulfilment.

ISBN: 9780648705819, 0648705811

Reference: Phoenix, S. (2022).  The Phoenix Cups 101: A Brief Guide to The Phoenix Cups Framework . Wellington Point: Phoenix Support Publishing. 

Parents, this is the one thing you need to know. 

ISBN: 9781922419583, 1922419583

Chapter 4 - Connection Seeking by Sandi Phoenix. 

Chapter 21 - Parental burnout: You can't pour from an empty Cup - Christopher Phoenix 

Reference: Jockel, S., & Ryan, K.  (2021) Parents, this is the one thing you need to know. Melbourne: Affirm Press.

The Cupify This! Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify

The Cupify This! Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify:  Join Sandi and Chris Phoenix, as they dive into the world of psychology and philosophy, with a show aimed towards understanding your basic human needs, how they influence behaviours, and how their framework can help you live a fulfilling life with full Cups.


YouTube Explainer

Reference: Phoenix, C. (2022). The Phoenix Cups. Retrieved from


Sandi Phoenix  BPsychSc

Find out more about Sandi Phoenix 

View Sandi's Bio

Chris Phoenix

Find out more about Chris Phoenix.

View Chris' Bio

Images to use (with Credit)

Articles and Media


Conference presentation: Is Children's Behaviour ours to manage? How to plan for fulfilment instead of positive beahviour. This conference presentation was written and delivered by Sandi Phoenix at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) Conference on the Gold Coast in 2022

View the Poster HERE

Phoenix Support for Educators Articles:

Title: Practical strategies for meeting children's need for connection - Elise Waghorn

ECTA Journal

Reference:  Waghorn, E. (2022). Practical strategies for meeting children’s need for connection . Educating Young Children: Learning and Teaching in the Early Childhood Years, 28(1), 21–23.

Title: Discovering your pedagogy through your documentation - Tara Hill, Sand Phoenix, Angie Day

ECTA Journal

Reference:  Day, A,, Hill, T., & Phoenix, S. (2022). Discovering your pedagogy through your documentation . Educating Young Children: Learning and Teaching in the Early Childhood Years, 28(1), 32–34.


Title: From behaviour 'management' to fostering wellbeing - a way forward - Sandi Phoenix

ECTA Journal:

Reference:  Phoenix, S. (2021). From Behaviour 'Management' to Fostering Wellbeing - a Way Forward.  Educating Young Children , (Vol 27, 2).

A more "Cups" version of this article can be found in Early Edition here on Page 23 

Reference:  Phoenix, S. (2022). From Behaviour 'Management' to Fostering Wellbeing - a Way Forward.  Australian Childcare Alliance Queensland: Early Edition , (Spring - 2021), 23.


Title: Attention seeking: What is it really? - Sandi Phoenix

ECTA Journal

Reference:  Phoenix, S. (2020). “Attention seeking”: What is it really? Educating Young Children: Learning and Teaching in the Early Childhood Years, 26(2), 27–30.

Title: Work-life balance or life-needs balance - Christopher Phoenix

ECTA Journal

Reference:  Phoenix, C. (2020). Work-life balance or life-needs balance . Educating Young Children: Learning and Teaching in the Early Childhood Years, 26(2), 40–41.


Title: How to not hate Mondays - Christopher Phoenix 

ECTA Journal:

Reference:  Phoenix, C. (2019). How to not hate Mondays . Educating Young Children: Learning and Teaching in the Early Childhood Years, 25(2), 48–49.


Title: The day we met jet pack man: A story about 'Fun Cup' filling - Sandi Phoenix

ECTA Journal :

Reference:  Phoenix, S. (2018). The day we met jet pack man: A story about “fun cup” filling . Educating Young Children: Learning and Teaching in the Early Childhood Years, 24(3), 5–6.

Title: The advocate for childhood - Sandi Phoenix

ECTA Journal:

Reference:  Phoenix, S. (2018). The advocate for childhood. Educating Young Children : Learning and Teaching in the Early Childhood Years, 24(1), 10–11.

Surviving the staffing crisis
Six voices from the front line share their experiences