Positive Reinforcment 101

“I can live for two months on good compliment,” Mark Twain.

Mr. Twain’s quotes are often repeated in feel good reminders around the web. His positive attitude and thinking crosses cultures, generations, and situations. In the classroom, we are talking in “Twain” when we want to impress the importance of positivity, respect, and empathy. What’s the point of this in education today? We need to respect our students, build relationships, and hold them in esteem.

Being told what to do never feels good when you are on the receiving end…regardless of age, gender, or title. Besides the result is more keenly tied to the relationship with the person asking and the environment/situation; than the capacity to control another’s behavior. In the classroom, it leads to battles, misbehavior, loss of connection, and decreased student engagement. Learning, modeling, practicing, and reteaching positive reinforcement builds connections, student engagement, and desired behaviors. One key skill is how to rephrase a request into a positive framework.

Examples
Instead of “No hitting, not kicking!”  Try….

“Hitting/kicking hurts. I know you are upset, let’s find a coping skill together”

“Why are you doing that?”  Try….

“I need to hear only whisper volumes. That way we can all hear the story.” or “Let’s find something you and I can do together.” or “I need you to be safe. We can go sit and read or find a game to play, what would you choose?”

“Stop doing that!”  Try….

“Francis, remain in your seat and I will come and help you with that.” or “Francis, I need you to help us get ready so we can go outside. Can you help by putting your school papers away where they belong?”

“No yelling”  Try….

Speaking to another classmate that is on task “Thank you for remembering to be quiet during this activity. I like your inside voice, Francis.”

Avoid
“Why” and “Should”

The implications are the student is wrong, it is riddled with shame and judgment. Do you really want to hear the why, which is an excuse or misguided reason? This coming on top of being told their behaviors are incorrect as well.

“You” Use “I” or “We” statements.

The word “You” singles a person out for negative behaviors. Try to use their name in positive praise only, and keep it behavior specific when doing so.

Do

Say, “Please”

Use a pleasant tone, smile.

Recognize the desired behaviors.

Distract student during unwanted behaviors, unless necessary to address.

You cannot control a person’s behaviors. Distract, be positive, and specific. You can address behaviors later one on one when building a relationship or perhaps reteaching classroom expectations is required for all the kiddos. See the matching activity under Freebies for rephrasing the negative.  Teacher handout/posters: see link to Teacherspayteachers store to the right.

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