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SWPBS Corner

This space is meant to begin a dialogue on new paradigms in discipline. The resources provided are formative tools to create a more holistic perspective on teacher-student interactions, ensuring best intentions and practices.

Shifting our Focus: Using compliments to improve classroom behavior


“Whatever we focus on expands.” We have all heard some variation of this quote and we can recognize the validity of it, as one of the fundamental principles of the Law of Attraction. We encounter numerous instances of this throughout our day. You’re rushed and hurried in the morning, frustrated with traffic and it seems like every light you hit is red.  You listen to the news about the state of the world and you become fearful drawing more things into your life to increase your anxiety. Conversely, if we notice that things are flowing for us and we focus on enjoying that flow, opportunities appear abundant.


We can apply this same concept to our classrooms. When we focus on negative behaviors, students recognize that they will receive attention for those behaviors. Inevitably, the students, seeking attention, act out even more. However, if we promote the positive behaviors that students are doing those will expand as well. Ideally, we want to wrap our students in positivity before providing them with instructions to improve their behavior.


So, what’s the perfect balance of praise to criticism? Studies say that there should be at least 4 complements to 1 criticism. However, a recent study in the Harvard Business Review puts that number at 5 to 1. Regardless, focusing on what students do well will expand their ability to exceed our expectations, while making the teaching experience more enjoyable.