Criticism Trap

Posted by Stephanie Lawless on 2/23/2018 7:00:00 AM

hair pull

 

 

 

I don’t know if I have ever mentioned this before, but my boys are really into racing.  Like, probably an unhealthy amount.  They talk about racing, watch racing, dream about racing… we actually have a rule that there are no race cars allowed at the dinner table, and another that there is no racing on the kitchen counter… it is EVERYWHERE, I live in a sea of HotWheels.  Typically I am able to manage the constant racing in my house, but there are times, usually when I am hungry or tired, that I am less thrilled about hearing motor sounds 100% of the time.  At these times I remind myself to stay calm because it would be very easy to snap and just send them both to their room for the rest of their lives.   But the fact remains, when we are continually presented with something that irritates us, it becomes harder and harder to stay rational.  Periodically, when this happens, we end up only focusing on the things that bother us and neglect all of the good things around us. One way this manifests itself in the classroom environment is a phenomenon called “The Criticism Trap.”

Dr. Wes Becker conducted research on teachers who continually addressed misbehaviors and did not praise desired behaviors.  He determined that students increased the frequency of their misbehavior when they were given more consistent and immediate reprimands by the teacher.  This becomes a destructive pattern in which all parties involved get what they want in the short run. The student gets attention, the teacher get momentary compliance, but in the end no one gets what they really want.  Over time, students become less responsible, and the teacher gets more frustrated.  (Sprick, R., (2009). Safe & Civil Schools: CHAMPS A Proactive & Positive Approach to Classroom Management (2nd ed).  Eugene, Oregon: Pacific Northwest Publishing, INC., Pg 299-300)

To stop the criticism trap you can do a few simple things:

  • Each time you have a negative (corrective) interaction with a student, tell yourself you owe that student three positive interactions;
  • Choose specific times each day to provide positive feedback;
  • Schedule special times to reinforce students;
  • Periodically scan the room and look for good behavior;
  • Pick events that will trigger you to look for reinforceable behavior;
  • Reduce the amount of time you spend addressing misbehavior and more time on desired behavior;
  • Engage in frequent noncontingent positive interactions with the students; and
  • Devote 15 seconds at the end of each day to identify one or two students who had a rough day- plan to focus on positive attention for that student the next day.

(Sprick, R., (2009). Safe & Civil Schools: CHAMPS A Proactive & Positive Approach to Classroom Management (2nd ed).  Eugene, Oregon: Pacific Northwest Publishing, INC., Pg 300)

It is easier to stay fresh and optimistic if you follow these steps:

  1. Maintain a positive but realistic vision of students behaving successfully;
  2. Evaluate your behavior management plan;
  3. Don’t take it personally;
  4. Make an effort to interact positively with every student;
  5. Consult with colleagues; and
  6. Make a conscious effort to communicate high expectations.

(Sprick, R., (2009). Safe & Civil Schools: CHAMPS A Proactive & Positive Approach to Classroom Management (2nd ed).  Eugene, Oregon: Pacific Northwest Publishing, INC., Pg 42-43)

When working with both students and adults it is important to actively try to maintain more positive interactions. One way we do this is to track our ratio of interactions.   We often think of corrections and positive interactions in regard to students, but research has shown that it impacts all relationships in our lives, including those with partners, co-workers, and basically anyone with whom we interact.  The single most important thing that we can do to improve the overall behaviors of others and connect with others is to increase the number of positive interactions we have with each other.

If a person is engaged in a behavior that meets your expectations, the interaction is POSITIVE. If a person is engaged in a behavior that does NOT meet your expectations and you respond, the interaction is NEGATIVE or CORRECTIVE. As a general rule we want to strive for a 3:1 ratio of interaction.  Meaning each time you have a negative (corrective) interaction with a person, tell yourself you owe that person three positive interactions.  (CHAMPS, Chapter 7, Task 4)  

Recently there has been research that suggests higher ratios of interaction lead to even better results. White & Wills (2008) conducted research and found that with a 1:3 ratio of approval to reprimands the classes were about 56% on-task throughout the day. They made just one change in the teacher’s behavior: They had the teacher increase the ratio of interactions to 12:1 and the class on task behavior increased to 85% for EVERY STUDENT. One more time: They had the teacher increase the ratio of interactions to 12:1 and the class on task behavior increased to 85% for EVERY STUDENT.  85% on-task behavior for every student is pretty significant, and it’s free!  Unfortunately, Beaman & Wheldall (2000) showed that even though there is ample evidence that positive praise is extremely effective, teachers do not use a systematic approach to consistently provide verbal praise.

If that is not enough to make you think twice check out this four minute clip, Every Opportunity.  It shows just how powerful this kind of  interaction can be.  Remember, “Each time you interact with a student and show an interest in him  or her as a person, you make a deposit. When you have invested enough, the student is more likely to want to follow your rules.  If you make enough deposits, there will be reserve capital for those times when you may have to make a withdrawal because of a student’s behavior.  The more you have invest in the student, the more likely he/she is to understand that you are trying to help.  (Sprick, R., (2009). Safe & Civil Schools: CHAMPS A Proactive & Positive Approach to Classroom Management (2nd ed).  Eugene, Oregon: Pacific Northwest Publishing, INC., Pg 280)  

So grab a snack, take a deep breath, smile and go find something to be happy about. There are LOTS of good things in our world.  If you need some help finding something wonderful check out the Good News Network  They specialize in smiles.

Stephanie Lawless  Stephanie Lawless, Assistant Director