Prevention Strategy #8: Reinforce Appropriate Behavior, With Words and Gestures

Give positive attention for good behavior rather than negative attention for inappropriate behavior. Focus on specific behavior, rather than on the student. Tell students what they’re doing right. Acknowledge through words and/or gestures.

Focus on character traits, such as: responsibility, perseverance, civility, courage, respect, initiative, compassion, honesty, loyalty and others. “Positive reinforcement helps children build self-confidence and encourages students to repeat desired behaviors.”1

Incorrect and Correct Responses

  • Rather than saying, “You’re my best helper.”
  • Say, “When you sweep the floor, it makes our house cleaner. That shows responsibility.”
  • Rather than saying, “Good job.”
  • Say, “I like that you asked Samantha to join you in four-square. You’re showing compassion.”
  • Rather than saying, “Way to go.”
  • Say, “I appreciate your telling me the truth even though it was hard. You demonstrated honesty.

How do you reinforce appropriate behaviors with your children?



  1. Guiding Children’s Behavior, BC Health Planning, 2003.
  2. Image: behavior highway sign []

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