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    Positive Versus Negative Behaviour in the Classroom: Which ones should we focus on?

    by Jonathon Denholm March 01, 2022 4 min read

    Often, negative behaviours in the classroom are at the forefront of a teacher’s mind; why are the children acting this way? Am I doing something wrong that’s causing them to act out? More often than not, teachers (and parents) focus more on negative behaviours; it’s natural to put more emphasis on negative behaviours, as we view those difficult moments as teaching opportunities to “right the wrong”. However, more attention on positive behaviours (such as remarking on when a child shares with another or commenting on how a child is playing well independently) can go a long way. This article will explore positive and negative behaviours in the classroom and discuss which series of behaviours should be focused on.


    Negative Behaviours in the Classroom

    Negative behaviours in the classroom receive a lot of attention-and for good reason. Teachers tend to focus more on negative behaviours because of the immediate implication or consequence of these particular behaviours. For example, if a child is bullying other classmates, notaddressing this situation isn’t the answer. There are some cases of negative behaviour that can be, for lack of a better term, ignored, and feedback framed through a positive light (to be used in select situations when a child isn’t hurting or bullying another child). An example of this could look like a group of children who are sitting together colouring, sharing art supplies. If one child grabs a crayon from another, a teacher could comment on how nicely the other children are sharing, in hopes that the praise and recognition of the positive behaviour (sharing) will help guide the child who is grabbing the crayon into the appropriate way to act.


    Some examples of negative behaviours in the classroom include:

    • Screaming or yelling
    • Bullying
    • Grabbing from another child
    • Pushing or hitting another child
    • Disruptive behaviour towards the teacher or other children


    It’s important to note that not all negative behaviours exhibited in the classroom are a result of a child who is “bad”; there are a host of reasons why a child may act out, including family/home troubles, a diagnosed or undiagnosed learning disability, or bullying. This is also not to say that children who don’t have a particular reason behind their poor behaviour are “bad”, they could simply be having an ‘off’ day. Getting to the root cause of persistent bad behaviour can be helpful to teachers, as you can properly assess the situation and try to help the child. Placing Classroom Guideline posters around a classroom can serve as a reminder to children on how to behave in a positive manner.


    Positive Behaviours in the Classroom

    Positive behaviours can often be overlooked by teachers (certainly not on purpose!). What usually happens is the attention being put on negative actions because they typically require an immediate remedy (for example, if one child hits another). There are a host of positive behaviours in the classroom, including:

    • Sharing
    • Helping another student (whether they’ve fallen down or helping with work)
    • Speaking kindly of others
    • Showing respect, kindness, and empathy towards other students and teachers
    • Respecting the space and property of other students
    • Following teacher directions and instructions


    Recognising positive group and individual behaviours in the classroom will help children recognise good actions and the praise and recognition that goes along with them. It also gives all children in the class a baseline of positive behaviours to demonstrate. With the Desk Positive Behaviour Tracker, teachers can use the rewards chart to promote, recognize, and reward good behaviours (either as a group or as individually).


    Which Series of Behaviours Should Teachers Focus on?

    So, which behaviours should teachers focus on? Unfortunately, it’s not a definitive either-or answer. Teachers do need to address negative behaviours, especially if the negative actions are affecting other children in the class. However, more of a focus should be put on positive behaviours in the classroom, for a few reasons. Addressing positive behaviour will not only help individual students feel recognised and seen, but it also gives other children a baseline of good behaviour to engage in in the classroom. For more helpful information on reinforcing positive behaviours in the classroom, positive behaviour management, and classroom management strategies, check out these blog posts:



    With an increased focus and attention given to positive behaviours in the classroom, students will able to observe appropriate behaviours and subsequently, demonstrate positive behaviours. Recognition and praise of positive behaviours can also lead to improvement in attitude and morale in the classroom. Praise and recognition also serve to motivate students to behave positively and engages them in an encouraging manner. Negative behaviours that are harmful to another child (for example, any form of bullying, physical violence, etc.) do need to be addressed immediately for the safety of all children. However, it’s important for teachers to increase and maintain a focus on positive behaviours demonstrated in the classroom; recognising and praising good behaviours will positively affect allchildren in the class.