Everyday Positive Behavior Reinforcement: A Primer

3 min read
Apr 1, 2022 10:56:45 AM

In honor of (or perhaps in reaction to) April Fool’s Day, here’s a primer on positive behavior reinforcement for students.

Every school is different, and school leaders are similarly varied in their approach to student behavior management. As a school leader, there are many reasons you may not have a formal positive behavior program:

  • You’re a disciplinarian.
  • You lack the budget to fund a big program.
  • Your school or district has other plans and priorities.

Whatever the reason, we know from talking to school leaders across the country that sometimes a big, resource-intensive positive behavior or PBIS program just isn’t in the cards.

But that doesn’t have to mean you can’t reap the benefits of positive reinforcement strategies to affect student behavior and school culture.

It’s About Recognition

While there are many factors that make a formal program powerful, the key impact factor of PBIS is that it gives adults in school a structured opportunity to recognize students when they do something right — to mentor them, reinforce that behavior, and build positive relationships between students and staff.

In addition, well-designed positive recognition can address a segment of your school population that often goes unnoticed: the middle-of-the-road performers.

These students tend to go unrecognized for their academics and mostly stay out of trouble, so they may be overlooked when it’s time for recognition.

Positive behavior reinforcement is a way to show these students they can participate in the reward culture — that they can be good kids, too. For kids like these, achievable moments of recognition can be transformative.a group of students and their teacher looking at schoolwork

Everyday Positive Behavior in Action

A student behavior management platform like SchoolMint Hero is extremely customizable, which gives you the ability to support a broad variety of positive programs. Because of this, we’ve helped schools set up programs ranging from the simple to the extremely complex.

Oftentimes, schools use positive behavior recognition or PBIS to address negative behaviors. For example, if you want to address period tardiness, you can reward students for getting to class on time.

Choosing the behaviors you want to reinforce will depend entirely on your school and on your goals. Maybe it’s following the dress code. Or maybe it’s getting to class on time.

If you want to encourage students to do things that are above and beyond, consider recognizing students for random acts of kindness or campus beautification. Again, what you recognize will depend entirely on your goals and your administrative style.

Once you’ve chosen what you want to recognize, consider the rewards. And remember, positive behavior rewards don’t have to be complicated. There are plenty of rewards — like dress-down days, lunch line fast passes, and others — that have zero budget impact.

When planning positive behavior rewards, don’t overlook the potential of community partners. Local restaurants, office supply stores, and others are often willing to partner with your school. 

As with many things in life, you’ll never know if you don’t ask.

Who Will Do the Recognizing

Many types of recognition work great in the classroom. Getting to class on time, participation, and random acts of kindness are great examples of behaviors that teachers can recognize on a regular basis.

a teacher in a green shirt giving a happy thumbs up

Some schools recognize key school-wide behaviors (like dress code adherence) in homeroom or in first period. With the right tools, your staff can record these reinforcements in almost no time.

There are a lot of reasons, however, that you may not want to involve your teaching staff, especially at the beginning.

Maybe you expect too much resistance, or maybe you feel you need to protect their instruction time.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to know that you can get started with everyday positive behavior reinforcement anyway.

If this sounds like you, remember there are various things your administrative team can recognize every day in the halls at your school. Things like campus beautification, lunch tray pick-up, random acts of kindness — really anything you want to reinforce.

A Reason to Be Positive

No matter what your goals are for approaching positive reinforcement, one thing is clear: recognizing students in a positive way has far-reaching effects. 

When students receive positive recognition, you:

  • Show students you’re paying attention to the good things they do.
  • Encourage them to repeat those behaviors.
  • Give more students the opportunity to shine.
  • Build relationships between students and staff.

If you take nothing else away from this article, let it be this: Sure, positive behavior reinforcement can be complicated. But it doesn’t have to be.

With just a few simple strategies, you could get started today.

Interested in how Hero makes it easy to roll out rewards and recognition? Click the banner!

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