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Stop bad behaviour by refusing to reward it

If primary schools want to put a nip negative behaviour in the bud, then they have to stop rewarding students who behave badly.

This is the view of Essex primary school teacher Stephen Findlay. Writing in the 6 March issue of TES, he argues that it's time to stop the unruliest children getting the richest rewards: playing iPad games, helping a teacher with a “special job” or having a “praise-riddled chat about feelings”.

“No one wants to see a child upset or angry,” he writes. “In a building full of professionals who care deeply about children’s emotional well-being, there is no shortage of adults ready to do whatever it takes to get a smile back on a pupil’s face. Unfortunately, ‘whatever it takes’ often means the deleterious behaviour of these children is rewarded and reinforced.”

He admits that such tactics are useful in the short term – they allow you to deliver the lesson without little David punching his formerly best friend Simon – but in the long term you are creating more problems, not just for yourself but for the student's future.

“We need to ask ourselves if we are simply kicking the can down the road until it reaches secondary school, where the response from staff will be very different,” writes Findlay. “It is our duty to make disruptive and self-destructive behaviour less desirable than following the school rules. That means firm boundaries and sanctions, not relaxed rules and treats.”

You can manage this, he says, with established, proven practices.

“The usual course of action is to draw up a behaviour support plan to help the child take control of their emotions and actions; to give them strategies for strengthening their inner stop switch. Psychologists call this ‘self-regulation’,” he writes.

Findlay admits it won’t be easy, but says the long-term benefit and welfare of the child has to be teachers' top priority.

“We must make it abundantly clear that such behaviour is unacceptable, and that because we care for the child, we won’t let them damage their own education – or that of others,” he concludes.

Read the full article in 6 March edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

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