Positive reinforcement system: the vehicle for powerful words.

Title Text: The vehicle for positive reinforcement, Dr. Tim Grivois. Background is parked cars facing the reader.

By Dr. Tim Grivois, Executive Director

Schools implementing Positive Behavior Interventions and Support have a positive reinforcement system. Whether the system involves tickets, marbles in a jar, or digital certificates, each school’s positive reinforcement system is a vehicle for powerful words that support students in building healthy habits. Effective positive reinforcement systems have three key attributes: immediate, genuine & generous, and take three seconds or less.


The best time to let students know they’re doing something good is as soon as you see them do it. Effective recognition systems equip school adults to reinforce positive behavior in the moment.

Genuine and generous

The words we use for positive reinforcement must be genuine and generousGenuine positive support is values-centered, meaning the words we use connect to established school values. For example, a teacher might say, “When you came to school on time and ready to learn, you demonstrated respect for your learning and your classmate’s learning.”

We also want positive feedback to be generous. Ideally, aim for a ratio of four to five positive interactions to every corrective interaction. And, a quick-to-use recognition system makes generous positive reinforcement ‘ classroom possible.’

Take three seconds or less.

Finally, positive reinforcement is most effective when we are brief. “Thank you for being safe by walking!” is all we need. Whether your school uses a ticket, marbles in a jar, or digital points, remember that these tools are simply vehicles for the words. We can keep our words brief when the system is easy to use. Brief words are easy to understand and effortless to say. Pair those words with a protocol that takes three seconds or less to build a durable, sustainable positive reinforcement system for your school.

Join us on 9 November 2022 from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm (Arizona Time) for a free webinar on recognition systems and PBIS. You can register by clicking here:

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