How Positive Behavior Support Can Work In A School Setting
How Can Educators and Families Support PBS?
Educators and families play an equal role in supporting PBS to advance their shared commitment to promote children’s appropriate behavior and quality of life. With that shared commitment in mind, there are certain approaches educators and families can use. These approaches emphasize using open communication, engaging in shared decision-making, and coordinating efforts across home and school. First, educators can communicate with families proactively and use methods that allow all families to share information. Through communicating back-and-forth, educators improve their understanding of children’s needs, which helps develop schoolwide expectations. Second, educators include family members on school teams and in decision-making. By including family members in schoolwide PBS and individualized interventions, the school community begins to reflect family culture, values, and expectations. Third, educators can support families as they use PBS at home. Educators can collaborate with families as they extend key features of PBS to home (e.g., reinforcing positive behavior at home).
Like educators, family members can also support PBS across settings. A primary strategy is communication. Family members can let educators know their communication preferences so that educators can be responsive. Educators often do not know extensive information about a child’s experience outside of school. Family members can share how their child learns best so that PBS can be responsive to their needs. In addition, family members can participate on school teams. Some family members may not have a background in education, and thus serving on a school team may not seem familiar. Family members can talk with educators about roles, expectations, and common terms before attending meetings so they feel prepared to engage as a co-equal partner on the team. Finally, family members can use PBS at home. Educators and families can work together to develop strategies that work with their children and fit PBS within a family’s culture.
How Do We Collaborate Effectively?
To create the conditions that support family-educator collaboration in PBS, a foundation of trusting, positive, and respectful relationships is important. Educators and family members may find it useful to explore their beliefs and expectations about schooling and collaboration. This exploration can help educators design school approaches to support collaboration such as creating a positive atmosphere and clarifying expectations for family members, helping family members feel safe and supported in their work with educators. Similarly, family members can share their expectations and preferences with educators. This authentic two-way exchange of beliefs and expectations builds a foundation for trust and reciprocity. If concerns or conflicts arise in the future, educators and family members have an established working relationship, knowledge of each other’s preferences, and common goals for student success.
In their day-to-day interactions, it can be helpful to remember the focus is on children’s behavioral and academic success and quality of life. That shared focus, along with a grounding in each other’s values, beliefs, and expectations, can promote co-creation of school-wide approaches, establishing specific interventions, and building individualized strategies across home and school. In addition, a foundation in a trusting relationship builds a sense that educators and family members understand each other’s perspective and can count on them in times of need.
Meme Hieneman, has a Ph.D. in Special Education and is nationally certified as a behavior analyst. She has published a variety of articles, chapters, and books including “Parenting with Positive Behavior Support: A Practical Guide to Resolving Your Child’s Difficult Behavior.” In her professional career, Meme has worked with children with severe behavior problems for more than 20 years.