Courtney Dealy - Boys Town National Training
Having a variety of predetermined positive/negative consequences at our disposal helps increase our confidence in being able to address student behavior in the moment. Not having adequate negative consequences might lead to an increase in our frustration level and a reliance on more punitive and less constructive methods. Lacking a bank of positive consequences may lead students to feel that no matter what they do they are always “getting in trouble”.
The purpose of consequences is to shape and improve behavior. I recently heard the phrase “Do we want to punish behavior or do we want to change it?” We reward positive behavior with desirable outcomes so that the student will choose to demonstrate that positive behavior in the future. We deliver negative consequences to students who engage in undesirable behavior so that the student will choose a different, more socially-appropriate, behavior in the future.
Consequences are most effective when we use a variety and begin with the smallest consequence necessary to maintain or change the behavior.
*Remember: we want to be fair and build trust. It’s important that any consequence (positive or negative) is delivered only after the child actually exhibits the behavior.*
What About Recess? It is a common practice to take away a student recess or lunch with friends as a “go-to” consequence for a variety of negative behaviors. There are inherent downsides with this practice. Therefore, we caution against the frequent use of this negative consequence.
First, many students who frequently engage in undesired behavior are the very students who need to move. These are students who might have difficulty focusing, channeling their abundant energy in the classroom, controlling impulsive thoughts and actions, regulating themselves, receiving the sensory input they need, and appropriately interacting with peers. Denying recess exacerbates these very real needs, rather than addressing the issue.
Secondly, often, recess has no connection to the negative behavior thus it might be difficult for students to see the connection between the behavior and the negative consequence, diminishing its effectiveness to reduce the negative behavior.
Some struggling students are actually intimidated by recess because of their difficulty with peer interactions. Instead, the possibility of individual access to an adult is often preferable and more reinforcing than recess.
Removing a Student from the Classroom. Frequently removing a student from the classroom, whether it be to a special education classroom, a buddy room, or to the office, presents similar problems. Even more, student removal undermines a teacher’s authority. It communicates that the teacher cannot “handle” the student and that the student does not have to listen to the teacher because, ultimately, someone outside of the classroom holds the actual power. For obvious reasons, we don’t want a child to get this impression.
• Use consequences, both positive and negative.
• Consequences alone do not have a long-term effect on behavioral change. Remember to teach students why they are receiving this outcome. Consequences are meant to help the student learn from their positive/negative behavior.
• Choose from a variety of consequences. Have a bank ahead of time and post them. (click here)
• Issue individual consequences privately as to not embarrass students. Embarrassed students do not respond in desired ways. Some have found using color charts on elementary students’ desks increase the private nature of praise and correction.
• Deliver more positive than negative consequences so students see you as fair and no “out to get them”.
• Issue all consequences- both positive and negative- in a caring way with the intention to help the student learn from the behavior. Children learn more from adults they trust.
• Click here for a bank of possible positive consequences/rewards and negative consequences.
Consequences. While the word ‘consequences’ may conjure up memories of recesses spent isolated indoors, or of copying lines from a book, in all actuality, ‘consequence’ merely means the outcome of a prior event.
So…what does that mean and how does it apply to the classroom?
Consequences are both positive and negative- they are outcomes.
We use positive and negative consequences to help students learn that all choices have an outcome. Their behavior determines whether the result will be more or less desirable.
It’s important to have a bank of both positive and negative consequences. (See possible consequences here). Having pre-determined consequences helps to provide a safe and predictable environment. Students will know what to expect in response to their positive and negative behavioral choices. It provides consistency, enhances predictability, builds trust, and creates a positive student/teacher relationship.