Changing behaviour for the better in schools.

I know of many schools that have problems with individual children whose behaviour does not meet the expected standard of the school.  Having spent a lot of time thinking, reading and researching about this subject, and implementing strategies myself, I am feeling a little braver at sharing some suggestions in how to manage ‘unwanted’ behaviours and turn it into positive behaviour.  What I will say as you embark on this journey of change, is that we do not always get it right.  We do not succeed in everything every day, but if we do strive to change for the better, then change will happen!

Now this does take time, you are not going to get a quick fix and it has to be tackled at three levels.  It involves commitment and determination from teachers and other school staff, the senior management team and from parents.  Note, the children are not involved in this process! It uses strategies that arise from thinking ‘out of the box’ so to speak and not the traditional behaviour management of using positive rewards and negative sanctions which require children to consciously change their behaviour.

So how do we achieve the elixir of great behaviour in schools?

Firstly, I would like you to think metaphorically and picture your favourite flower.

Now think about why such a beautiful and perfect flower might fail to thrive and die?  Did it have enough water? Was it over-watered?  Was it planted in the correct type of soil?  Did it get enough sunshine?  Was it attacked by garden pests?  Did it get a fungus or a virus?  When a favourite flower fails to thrive as it should, we change the environment around the flower so it blooms.

The same can be said for children in schools.  We should look at changing the environment and not the child.  Now many schools are involved in creating better environments surrounding children, and this is especially pertinent to children with autism and other additional support for learning requirements.  But once we have changed the physicalities, we often find that children still struggle. They still fail to thrive…so what can we do?

The answer is that we must remember, ‘people who can behave, will…The key word is can. It is about ability, not free will…This way of thinking means that if someone has challenging behaviour, the demands are probably set too high.  The person doesn’t have the prerequisites to live up to the demands.’

Bo Hejlskov Elven, No Fighting, No Biting No Screaming. JKP, London 2010.

In order for there to be a change in these negative behaviours, we must take responsibility to change the environment surrounding the child, including our own behaviours and ‘scripts’.  As these positive changes occur, we will find those around us change for the better.

And how to make this sustainable change?  I have created a workshop on this topic and I will share some of the strategies I have learned over the next few posts.


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