Potty Training and PBIS


PBIS or Positive Behavior Interventions and Support, is a concept that is showing up in schools across Texas.   According to Dr. Rob Horner of the University of Oregon Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (www.uoecs.org), The purpose of PBIS is to “make schools more effective learning environments for students”.

It is not a curriculum, but an adjustment in the social culture of the campus or district that leads to a positive learning environment.

Ok so that may sound complicated, but in fact the concept is simple and can be explained by using a potty training analogy.  (Yes that says potty training.  I spent part of my summer potty training a two-year old, which led me to recognize the similarities.)

As a new parent I wasn’t sure where to start with the big potty training challenge.  So I did some research.  Everything said to start by talking it up, then offer a reward and stick to it.  So I spent time talking up how great it is to be a “big boy”.  We went and bought a special potty and cool underwear.  I demonstrated the process over and over again.  Then the big day came and with great anticipation I put my child in training underwear and we starting POTTY TRAINING.  Then, my not-quite-two year old,  proceeded to pee all over my house for the next two days.  I just knew I had started to soon and this wasn’t going to stick.  But being a hard-headed person (and not wanting to admit I was a potty training failure) I continue working on the training, rewarding anything that resembled success and staying calm during the set backs. (Well, I stayed calm around my kid.  Secretly I was on the phone with my mom constantly discussing why he wouldn’t pee in the potty).  Just when I started to feel like I could not take another puddle in my floor, he started to get the hang of it.  Now that doesn’t mean he’s perfect.  He still has accidents, but overall his learned the concept.

This isn’t a parenting blog; so let me tie this to PBIS.  This is my comparison based on how I understand PBIS and it’s watered down version.  Basically I want to cover the overall concept, not specifics.  Just like to prep and teach the skill of toileting, you have to prep and teach the skills that go with good behavior.  You don’t just put on underwear and tell a kid to use the toilet, right?

Set up universal rules throughout the campus or district and teach them to the kids.  What does respect look like in the class, in the lunchroom and in the hall.  Demonstrate what you want them to do and let them practice.  Just like with potty training it takes some time for students to learn the rules and expectations. (These need to be universal throughout the school)  Different web site claim you need to teach rules through direct teaching and practice for anywhere from a week to three weeks at the beginning of the school year.  It may take longer the first year you start this and with younger students.   The time line may vary, but the hard fact is you MUST DIRECTLY teach what you want the kid to do.  Don’t be ambiguous, show them how to raise their hand, walk down the hall and line up to go to recess.  The key with PBIS is that the same rules and language are used school wide!

With potty training I found that an incentive, like M&M’s, was successful.  Students need the same thing in school.  After all teachers receive an incentive, a paycheck.  So set up a universal reward system for good behavior.  The idea, like with potty training, is that you want to get them to do the right thing before you have to clean up a “mess”.  Think of an office referral as being the equivalent of your toddler pooping in the middle of your living room.  Both are messes that take up your time.   With both if you don’t address the problem you will end up with a bigger mess in the end.  It case that was hard to follow, if you try to ignore bad behavior your classroom will stink as bad as the living room with poop in it.

So, in both cases you would rather reward the good then have to clean up the bad.  The idea according to Horner is that in most schools about 80% of student will follow the rules without an incentive, 15% are on the fence and 5% will spend considerable time in the office.  (The saying for administrator goes “5% of the population will take up 95% of your time”) With PBIS in place that middle 15% will be more likely to join the 80% who follow the rules.

Now PBIS as a whole is an environment change made though the teaching of rules and offering incentives to follow the rules.  But it is designed as a three-tiered model. Tier 1 being the teaching of school wide rules and positive behavior reward. There may also be a school wide program like CHAMPS used.   Tier 2 may include interventions like check in/check out, peer groups and social skills training.  This would only be for students who did not make progress after Tier 1 was implemented.  The 15% who still didn’t follow the rules. Tier 3 may include things like one-on-one counseling and community based wrap around services.  This would be some within that top 5%.  But these are ideas that will be discussed in other posts.

PBIS is an environment change that is universal and includes teaching and modeling rules, providing incentives for good behavior and support for students who don’t catch on right a way.  Good behavior is a skill, just like using the toilet.  It isn’t always fun to teach, and there are usually some messes, but once students catch on it will affect their lives forever.

NOTE: ok I can see how this analogy may make more sense to me because I’ve recently been potty training.  But I hope it got you to start thinking about PBIS and behavior supports.  Look for future post on incentive and Tiers 2&3.


About karicalcote

I'm married to the love of my life and we have one son. I've worked in education as a teacher, behavior coach and diagnostician. I started this blog so I would have a place to share what I'm learning. Education is changing and we all have to work together and share information if we want to keep up.

2 responses »

  1. instagram online shop
    Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance
    from an established blog. Is it hard to set up your own blog?
    I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast.
    I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not sure where to begin.
    Do you have any tips or suggestions? Many thanks

    • When I started this blog someone told me to pick one idea, or theme, and write about that. So I chose education. All my posts link back to what I’ve learned or my beliefs in education. That really helped me. Good Luck!

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