I am a trainer for The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. During that workshop, a concept is taught called the emotional bank account. The emotional bank account is a metaphor for the relationships we establish with one another. We make deposits (positive interactions) and withdrawals (negative interactions) in other people’s emotional bank accounts. However, just as in the case of financial accounts, if you make larger or more frequent withdrawals than you make deposits, you are soon overdrawn or even bankrupt with that person.
Let’s apply this concept to the classroom. Many teachers have overdrawn or bankrupt relationships with their students because they spend the majority of their time trying to think of all the consequences or punishments (withdrawals) that can be administered to stop unacceptable behavior. This puts the teacher and student on the negative side of their emotional bank accounts. Now, change the paradigm. Let’s find more ways to positively affirm the good things that students do (deposits) so that, when we have to make a withdrawal, we have at least built up a positive account with the student. In fact, solid relationships are built when, for every withdrawal, there are 8 to 10 deposits. In other words, every time in class I have to reprimand a student or give a consequence for misbehavior, there should be many more times that I have complimented the same student for good or improved behavior and acceptable class work. If you look for the good in students, you can find it!
What the Research Says
Positive discipline rewards desired behaviors and attempts to be nonpunitive by ignoring, rather than punishing, misbehavior (Pinto, 2013).
Praise can be powerfully motivating if given when a student accomplishes specific performance goals (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001).
Effective teachers strive to catch students being good and make certain that their parents know about it as well (Orange, 2005).
Make It Happen
- Be certain that your classroom exudes a positive learning environment ─ one that is both physically and psychologically safe. A positive environment includes smiles, friendly greetings, student support for one another, celebrations ─ and the absence of sarcasm or threats, which shut the brain down to learning or higher-level thinking. Your room may be the one bright spot in a student’s otherwise dismal day.
- Use rewards such as stickers, stars, and coupons sparingly. Whenever they are used, be certain that they are tied to a student’s specific performance or effort and not to the student’s intellect or ability.
- Because the brain loves celebration, celebrate even minor, but deserved, successes in the classroom. Let students know that you appreciate their improved efforts.
For more examples of how to accentuate the positive to improve classroom behavior, consult the 2nd edition of my best-selling book, Shouting Won’t Grow Dendrites.