In the latest Bam Radio interview titled, “The hidden side effects of classroom management systems,” It was mentioned that displaying behavior charts on the wall of your classroom “is risky business.”  There are many reasons why this is risky business and I’m going to give you a few that comes from the interview as well as alternative approaches to behavior management that you might consider instead…

Stop Light Systems are Risky Business

Why is it risky business?

  • In the Bam Radio interview, Judith tells us that displaying any kind of behavior management system publicly is actually illegal. WHAT? Yep, you got it. Illegal.  This is because records of student progress whether it be academic or not are considered private information that isn’t to be shared with the public or displayed in public view.
  • A behavior management chart is essentially a progress report detailing a child’s progress on behavior. It should be a record that is only shared between teacher and child or teacher and parent. Let’s face it, at the end of the day, every child in the classroom knows who landed on the red light that day and its very possible that every parent, teacher, and administrator knows too.
  • A behavior management system, such as the stop light system or a sticker chart truly has one purpose – to control behavior. But along with a chart that everyone can see also comes public humiliation, labeling, bribing, and pressure on a child to perform.
  • “But Deborah, my students like the stop light system!” I tend to think that perhaps students get used to it and learn to roll with the punches but the reality is no one “likes” having their failures displayed for others to see. Sally elaborates in the Bam Radio interview by saying that if you were to walk into the teacher’s lounge and see a chart displaying your failure to perform on the wall, you would not be too happy about that one bit. You would have a choice to stay, leave, complain but kids are not given that choice.
  • Publicly displaying a child’s negative behavior ultimately destroys self-esteem and self-respect. It is degrading and doesn’t reflect true child development which needs to recognize all the small successes and failures that are a natural part of growing up. Growth and Development isn’t black and white or green, yellow, and red. Charts like the stop light system essentially indicates to everyone in the room that someone has failed today and there is no room for failure in this classroom or that someone has had a successful day and to be successful, you must be like everyone else.

The list really does go on and on as to why behavior management systems such as the stop light system or any other system that monitors behavior by publicly displaying progress is risky business. Be sure to listen to the Bam Radio Show for more details.

Stop Light Systems are Risky Business

Why I don’t use a behavior management system

Even with all the very good reasons shared above as to why visual behavior management systems should not be used in the classroom, I can tell you that my reason for not using one is not any of those reasons. I don’t use them because…

  • I would be terrible at it; behavior isn’t a right-or-wrong, red-yellow-green proposition. It is a learning process.
  • It doesn’t keep our classroom emotionally safe; the classroom must always be a place where children can work through issues, make mistakes, test limits and yet trust, without question, that they will be loved, supported, guided, redirected, respected, protected.
  • It doesn’t promote healthy and competent self-regulation skills; meaningful self-control and behavior management must come from somewhere deep within the child.
  • It targets the obvious but may miss the not so obvious; the problem isn’t the action being stopped with a red light that ultimately matters. It is instead  an attitude or developmental understanding that needs to be addressed in some thoughtful way so that life long habits of constructive and positive behavior can be promoted.
Building Community builds Success in Preschool!

Building Community builds Success in Preschool!

What are alternatives for behavior management?

  • For me personally, it is building a sense of community and promoting self-regulation from day one. Understanding that my role is to connect with children, to help them connect with me and each other, and through that connection we will build a safe place to play and learn together.  I will be sharing a workshop on Building Community in December (if not sooner) so be sure to check back!
  • Sally Haughey mentions on the Bam Radio interview her Safe Pockets behavior management system as an alternative approach. I haven’t read through the material but perhaps you would like to check it out. You can view an Overview of Safe Pockets here.