I started teaching 25 years ago – and despite nearly three decades worth of experience, the incredible power of positive feedback for correcting or redirecting a child’s behaviour still utterly amazes me.
My 7-year-old daughter had her best friend around for tea recently. The two of them had been talking about it all week and were very excited. I knew it was always going to be utter mayhem, but my wife and I had prepared for this. We cleared away the breakables, warned the dog and had activities on hand. Poppy and her friend are both a little ‘lively’.
Things got out of hand a couple of times (they’re kids, they push boundaries) and for the sake of the lounge carpet (and the dog), they had to be reminded to settle down a bit.
There were countless times when I could have fallen into the trap of being a grumpy dad – telling the girls how they should behave; telling them what they were doing wrong and criticising them for it.
Instead, while still reinforcing the necessary boundaries and doing my best to protect the family pet, I focused on thanking and encouraging them whenever they did as they had been asked or behaved appropriately. Keen to please, their little faces lit up with every positive comment, and whenever one of them got a bit too silly, a bit of praise to the other quickly restored order.
It’s common sense, I know – and for most parents this will be their usual routine. But for a frazzled teacher facing 35+ children at a time, it’s easy to forget and easier still to do the complete opposite - focusing our attention on, and being on the lookout for, students behaving badly.
Hot tip: If you want the behaviour of your students to improve in the fastest possible time, make this simple switch...
Be vigilant for things going right. Put more effort into acknowledging the behaviour you want to see rather than being on the lookout for the behaviours you don’t.
(This is an excerpt from my book Classroom Management Success in 7 Days or Less. To read the full chapter and discover other ways of preventing and managing inappropriate classroom behaviour, search for it by title on Amazon or download a free copy from my website).