Positive Behavior Management in the Classroom

CB050353Difficult classroom behavior is often difficult to manage.  “Behavior” as it is used here includes not only over-activity and impulsiveness, but also distractibility and day-dreaming. For example, embarrassing a day-dreaming child in front of his peers is not positive behavior management.  Consider these alternatives.


  • Instead of confronting students continually on behaviors that are inappropriate, point out the alternative choices that are available.  This will make expectations clearer to the student and avoid negativity inherent in what the student would perceive as criticism.
  • Consequences and reinforcement should be as immediate as possible.  Consider natural and logical consequences in previous posts.
  • Keeping a behavioral plan simple and flexible is the key to success.  Students with attention problems benefit from an individualized behavioral plan in which target behaviors are specifically identified and rewards/consequences are immediate. Feedback that is delayed or variable is problematic in that the student has difficulty in delaying gratification.
  • One suggested behavioral management tool is a “point system.” Students earn points for a variety of accomplishments including achieving prearranged goals that have been discussed and agreed to by the student.  Point values are assigned to various tasks and behaviors.  Points are cashed in on a reward menu.
  • “Response-cost” systems can be successfully combined with a point system.  Response-cost means the student loses points they have accumulated as a consequence for certain behaviors.
  • It is important to pair rewards with verbal praise.  This will facilitate “weaning” from a concrete reward structure to an internalized system.


  • Ask the student what rewards he or she would like to earn.  Students are often the best source of identifying the reward.  Rewards should be changed frequently to maintain their novelty.
  • Encouraging students to monitor their own behavior has many benefits.  It can provide an opportunity for discussion when you and the student agree or disagree on the ratings.  It also prompts improvement in the student’s self-awareness.
  • Some students respond to a prearranged cueing system with the teacher.  In this system, the teacher gives a visual signal (touching the ear or mouth) or verbal phrase (“Remember, I’m looking for good listeners.”) when a targeted inappropriate behavior occurs.  This cue can remind the child to correct behavior without direct confrontation or loss of self-esteem.  It can involve the classroom teacher or any support personnel available to the student.

What positive behavior management tools have you successfully used in the past?


Need help identifying your child/teen’s needs?  Call 817.421.8780 to learn about our assessments and educational consultations.

(c) 2009- 2012, Monte W. Davenport, Ph.D.

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