PBIS, Prize Factory?

A healthy conversation ensued when a friend of mine expressed concerns about PBIS (positive behavior interventions and supports). The concerns were:

  • Constantly rewarding students to do the right thing.
  • Reliance on incentives and frivolous rewards.
  • A culture built on prizes.

And she’s right to be concerned.

When was the last time you held a door open because someone promised to give you a sticker? When was the last time you found a neighbor lending a helping hand because you promised to give a prize from your treasure chest? When was the last time you volunteered for your superintendent because she promised to give you extra recess?

I can’t remember either.

Instead, you and I do great things for others because it strengthens our bonds. The intrinsic motivation to do good and to do the right thing is in our human DNA. It’s what makes us a communal species. It’s what strengthens our relationships. It’s what affords a promise of a brighter future.

Community, not prizes, is what makes a school strong!

PS – PBIS actually is designed to build a school community around a shared vision for social and emotional learning and a variety of positive support systems. You can read more about my PBIS work in Dr. Ogonosky’s excellent resource RTI – Three Tiers of Behavior.