Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the creation of a school-based mental health program in Georgia. At the time, I worked for Georgia HOPE, an incredible community-based provider serving kids and adults across Northwest Georgia. Georgia HOPE was one of the first recipients of GA’s APEX program to expand access to mental health care in schools.
One of the acronyms I learned during my time in school-based mental health was PBIS. Have you heard of it?
It stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and it’s an evidence-based framework for supporting students and schools.
One of the main tenants of PBIS encourages teachers and caregivers to highlight the positive behaviors of children. The research shows that publically acknowledging positive behaviors in children helps reduce the unwanted behaviors (and precipitating reprimands) that create an unhelpful, punitive environment. If you are curious, you can read more about this approach here.
I was reminded of this concept recently when I was listening to this Armchair Expert podcast episode with Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, a leading child psychiatrist and the founder of the Child Mind Institute.
While not using the term PBIS, Dr. Koplewicz describes the same concept. He states that he regularly encourages the caregiver(s) of his patients to spend two weeks actively trying to “catch the child being good” while ignoring undesired behavior. He said, often, the results are remarkable, as children begin responding to the praise with more positive behavior and less unwanted behavior.
Anytime I learn new insight about how to love kids better, I think of the kiddos in my world – my seven nieces and nephews.
My 10-year-old niece, Ava, is a wee-bit hyperactive. She’s the oldest of her two siblings and she has a tendency to dominate my time when I come in town for a visit.
This picture is a good example of her level of excitability, taken when I visited her third-grade class a couple of years ago.