Positive vs. Negative Behavior Intervention Strategies

Instructor: Frank Clint

Frank has been an educator for over 10 years. He has a doctorate degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

Behavior interventions are not a one-size-fits all approach. Some approaches help to change behavior, while other interventions only stop misbehavior temporarily. In this lesson we'll explore positive and negative behavior intervention strategies.

Intervention Strategies

Stacy, a school principal, is walking the halls of her building. She's looking for examples of positive behavior intervention strategies, which help to promote good behavior choices among her students. At the same time, she's looking for negative behavior intervention strategies, which may stop problem behavior temporarily, but do so in a way that is more punitive in nature and less likely to change student behavior. Let's see if Stacy finds any examples of these strategies in action.

Non-Verbal Cues & Proximity

Stacy can spot holes in classroom management a mile away. Although a rare occurrence, she has had to coach a teacher or two because they depended only on negative behavior intervention strategies, such as:

  • Handing out detention slips
  • Sending students to the principal's office with a referral slip and
  • Temporarily withdrawing a school-related privilege

When Stacy walks into Mr. Johnson's class she sees examples of clear routines and procedures related to activities and tasks students do every day. Behavioral expectations are posted, and Mr. Johnson combines positive rewards for appropriate behavioral choices with consequences for misbehavior. These routines and procedures are positive behavior intervention strategies because they help head off incidents of misbehavior by preventing them in the first place. Mr. Johnson also uses a series of hand signals or nonverbal cues to let a student know that he or she is not behaving and follows up with proximity when the cues are unsuccessful by standing near the misbehaving student.


For students who have a pattern of misbehavior, some other interventions may be needed. Negative interventions might include:

  • Parent-teacher conferences
  • Repeated referrals to the principal and
  • Suspension from school

As Stacy walks into Mrs. Anaya's classroom, she notices a student in an independent work center. After asking the student a few questions, she discovers that he's filling out a chart used in a more positive strategy called self-monitoring. This strategy puts students in the driver's seat and encourages them to analyze their own actions and behaviors. In this approach, students rate their success with a behavior goal during different times of the day.

To implement a self-monitoring strategy with a student:

  • Identify the desired target behavior or goal.
  • Decide how often a student will self-check his or her behavior.
  • Create a behavior chart for the student and a prompt or cue reminding him or her to check it.
  • Come up with a reward system for achieving the goal.
  • Start the intervention and check the chart for accountability and honesty.

After using the intervention for a designated period of time, determine if it is effective, or if a different one is needed.

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