Praise – not telling off – keeps children motivated! Researchers in the USA spent 3 years observing 2,536 pupils between 5 – 12. They found that if teachers praised more and told off children less the children were more likely to listen and to focus on their work. Yet I am in schools every day, walking through halls and corridors and zig zagging through playgrounds, and it just isn’t the case. So I often I hear ‘stop that now’…..’you’re not listening to me’…..’how many times have I warned you’……’DON’T SHOUT’.

 It is what we have always learnt from our childhood and we are wired to repeat the negativity. My training programmes since 1984 have always encouraged all adults in education and parents to focus on positive language. I constantly  teach people ‘the ignore and distract strategy’. i.e. If  a child’s behaviour is irritating you, don’t look at them, find a child modelling the right behaviour as close to that child as possible and give them very specific praise for it “good choice – I love the way you are waiting patiently with your hand up”. If quite a few children are engaged in the wrong behaviour then change the activity to a fun one so you have the power and not them. These are simple ideas. I ask schools for the most challenging classes so I can model it for all the observers. Nevertheless it is very hard to change our speech patterns and I believe we should have staff meetings where we honestly ask for help to change the way we talk to certain children. If we felt we were in a circle of kind colleagues who didn’t judge us but wanted to help us – we would be calm enough to practice new ways of speaking. It is a big issue. I have written about it in different ways throughout at least 20 books….. Peer praise is wonderful too and helps children feel relaxed and part of a team when, in circle time, children are encouraged to nominate children for A Good Tale (they cannot nominate a best friend).

This reminds me of a video clip from a wonderful conference – we call the clip “Catch Them Being Good” and I hope it gives you a giggle!

Website Manager’s Notes

Jenny mentions that she has written about the importance of positive language and positive teacher behaviour in several books. We’ll mention just a couple here, but there are loads more here in our webshop:

Driving me mad


“They’re Driving Me Mad” – not the most PC title but full of absolute gems and ideas about how to run small circles of support for any children who are struggling to access the main class circle times.




Golden TimeFor schools who work with the Golden Rules coupled with Golden Time the importance of a safe and supportive system of guidelines with the positive language and respectful relationships goes hand in hand with “Better Behaviour Through Golden Time” by Jenny Mosley and Helen Sonnet.