Promoting Positive Behavior: Positive Behavior Supports in Schools, & Strategies for Educators & Families
Do your children talk about PBS celebrations at school? Maybe they shared how they were recognized for being respectful in class? Maybe they expressed excitement about a school-wide pep rally or a PBS celebration? Or maybe you have heard your school talk about growth mindset or teaching students the power of the word “yet”? Chances are your school is engaged in Positive Behavior Support.
As a School Psychologist specializing in Delaware Positive Behavior Support (DE-PBS), I hope to share information and resources related to Delaware’s initiative that promotes the teaching of students’ social emotional skills, positive decision making skills, reinforcing of positive behavior and building school climate. Positive school climate is important to providing a safe environment where all students can identify a connection to one adult in the school building.
Schools around the State of Delaware, and the country, are engaging in positive behavior support practices and initiatives. Let’s learn about the framework for organizing these positive behavior supports for children and adolescents. This framework is called a Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) and has three levels or tiers.
TIER 1: Provides universal supports to ALL students in the building. For example, there are school-wide lessons to teach social and emotional skills to all students and schools may have schoolwide PBS celebrations of behavior, daily reinforcers such as tickets, coupons, etc. to recognize students for using these skills. Additionally, schoolwide policies such as correction of students, problem solving processes for students to prevent behavior, and the referral process, are all created to support student positive decision making. Schools also focus on teaching students’ positive self-discipline, where students are taught to be accountable for their behavior while building social problem solving skills to prevent re-occurrence of future behaviors.
TIER 2: Supports are provided to some students that may require additional social skills or anger management groups or check in and check out staff members to support their social and emotional development. These students may be identified by difficulties with attendance, discipline referrals, or through an intervention team.
TIER 3: These supports are provided to (a) few students that require more intensive support. These students may require a functional behavior assessment, behavior support plan, individual counseling or specialized plans to support their social and emotional development.
It is important that schools develop ALL three levels of supports to ensure that students and teachers feel that all needs are met. It is also important that all staff speak the same positive language and handle discipline in a fair and consistent manner.
What Educators and Families can do to support positive discipline:
- Support POSITIVE behaviors – Energy goes where Attention goes, so make it Positive! Keep track one night of how many positive comments you say to your child compared to negative. It should be a 4:1 ratio of positive to negative.
- When you are giving your child a reinforcer, it does not have to be tangible, expensive or complicated. Below is a list of my favorite reinforcement ideas created by Laura Riffel from behaviordoctor.org
Strategies & Inexpensive or Free Reward Ideas for Families:
Help Create Positive Experiences & Environments for Young Children by Encouraging them to:
- Assist their family with a household chore.
- Decorate paper placemats for the dining room table for dinner.
- Be the first person to share 3 stars and a wish at the dinner table (3 good things that happened that day and one thing they wish had gone better).
- Create a family night activity- roller skating, hiking in the park, picnic dinner on the living room floor or under the dining room table with blankets over the top.
- Choose the game the family plays together that night.
- Choose the story the family reads out loud together (try reading classics).
- Go with a parent to volunteer at a retirement home (the children will get tons of attention).
- Bury treasures in a sandbox for the child to find. Put letters in plastic Easter eggs and they have to put the letters together that spell a small reward the child will receive. (Ideas: a walk with grandma, bike riding at the park, etc.)
- Surprise your child with a scavenger hunt around the house. If they read, give them written clues hinting as to where the next card is hiding. At the end have them find a note that tells them their prize. (If your child can’t read, you can use pictures.)
- Let your child take the digital camera out in the back yard and then come back in and turn those pictures into a story on the computer. Help them print off their book for a distant family member.
- Go outside and collect cool leaves and flowers. Come inside and put those leaves and flowers between two sheets of wax paper. The parent will iron these two sheets together and create placemats for everyone in the family for the evening.
- Start a family story at the dinner table and each person in the family has to tell a part of the story. The child being rewarded gets to start and end the story.
- Let your child earn 5 minutes of either staying up later or sleeping in in the morning. Use that time to read together if they stay up later.
- Change the screen saver on your computer to say “My child is the greatest.” …or something that would make them feel good about themselves. Do this at your office and then take a picture of it or take your child to your office on the weekend and let them see it.
- Have the bedroom fairy come while they are at school and choose the bedroom that is the neatest. Hang a fairy from the doorway of the room that is the neatest and that person gets to sit in “Dad’s chair” to read that night. (or something that would be appropriate at your house).
- Mystery grab bag. Take an old pillow case and put slips of paper inside listing some of the prizes on this page and let the child draw out the prize they are going to get for their behavior reward.
- Give your child a special piece of jewelry that belongs to you to keep and wear for the day. (Nothing that costs a lot of money- but something that looks like it is special to you.) The child will feel special all day long.
- Play hide and go seek in your house in the dark. Turn out all the lights and have everyone hide. One person is “it” and they have to go around the house and find the people who are hiding. It’s really a great way to help your children not be afraid of the dark. You can limit it to one or two rooms if your children are young.
- Have a talent night for the family. Have everyone keep it a secret what they are doing and then perform for each other.
Help Create Positive Experiences & Environments for Tweens & Teens:
- Let your teenager play his/her music during dinner and talk to you about s/he like each song that plays.
- Scan your teenager’s papers or art work and have them bound in a book (www.lulu.com has inexpensive binding available). Present the book to your teenager at a special dinner.
- One of the greatest gifts you can give to a teenager is to teach them charity. Sign up to work in a soup kitchen, nursing home, or other similar area and work with him/her once a month.
- Organize a neighborhood football or basketball game “oldies” vs “newbies” or “men” vs “women” and then have a block barbecue afterwards.
- Surprise your teenager with his/her favorite dessert for no special reason.
- Write a story about the 20 things you love about him/her. Include fun pictures.
- Choose a family member of the month and make a poster of him/her. Ask him/her to choose Friday night dinners for the month.
- Teach your children how to play a game like Spoons, Canasta, Poker, etc. and have a family game night.
- Hire your child to be an interior decorator and using only items available in the house, redo a room in the house.
- Do your own Trading Spaces. Parents redecorate the teen’s bedroom and s/he redecorates the parent’s bedroom.
- Use plastic Easter eggs and put dollar amounts in the eggs on slips of paper and number the eggs with a permanent marker. Play Deal or No Deal with one of the parents playing the banker.
- Hide positive messages all over your teenager’s room, in books they use at home (you don’t want them to feel embarrassed at school), on his/her bathroom mirror, etc.
- Watch Jeopardy and give each family member a pad of post it notes or index cards. Have everyone write down what they think the answer is and keep points. The person who wins gets to pick what the family does as an activity that weekend.
- Take your teen to a museum, on a nature walk, to a sporting event, whatever would float their boat. It’s the time you spend with them that is important and there are many free events you can attend.
- Have a contest to see who can find something that no one in the family can guess what it is. For example, a shirt stay, or the inside spring to a toy, things that might not be recognizable away from their use.
- Have everyone come to the table with a quote and then a contest to see who can guess who made the quote famous.
- Surprise your teen with a scavenger hunt all over the house when s/he gets home from school. Make the clues hard to figure out. Add a little prize at the end like baseball cards, candy, etc.
- Help your teen become a big brother or sister to a child who needs a mentor. There is no greater gift you can give yourself than that of service to someone in need.
- When your child does have a behavior in the home, provide a clear, fair consequence. After the incident has settled, talk to your child about their decision making process, what they could do differently next time and the steps they can take to prevent future occurrences of the behavior. Also, ask them what supports they might need to be successful at home or school? Students are insightful and often know what they need before we do!
- Ross Greene, the author of “The Explosive Child” points out that no child wants to misbehave. All children want to succeed; they just have lagging skills that we need to teach. When you approach children with this frame of mind, it can completely change the outcome. So, take a deep breath, and think about what you can do to make that child feel successful.
- Lastly, ensure that ALL students have at least one adult that they can identify they connect with! One connection can make all the difference for a struggling student.
Dr. Eileen Baker, is a school psychologist that has spent 10 years working with the Delaware Positive Behavior Support Project as a coach providing technical assistance around the state. She is also a licensed counselor, wife and mom of two. She loves coaching her all-girls baseball team for Lewes Little League and leading her Brownie Girl Scout troop!