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Positive Behaviour Support

The PBS (positive behaviour support) approach used at St. John’s does not use ‘punishment’.

Apart from anything else, it is proven not to be effective in helping people to learn new ways of managing situations.

When our support staff request or feel that a consequence needs to be put in place for a learner, we will always consider who the consequence is for and whose need does it meet? Read more here.

What are punishments?

A punishment is retribution (or vengeance) for a wrongful act. Punishment says to a person: ’You’d better think like me, or else. If you don’t, I will make you pay (or suffer) until you make the choice that I want you to make.’ A punishment doesn’t respect the person’s right to make a decision, even if that decision is a poor one.

Punishments arise out of anger and fear and often look like a withdrawal of love/affection or care, to get the person to do what you want them to do. This approach doesn’t help people develop new ways of taking responsibility for their behaviour. It can also be destructive to the relationship.

Why punishment doesn’t work

  • It backfires. Punishment is almost always delivered with anger. Using anger as a tool isn’t effective – especially in people who have a high tolerance for negativity, conflict and chaos. Negativity fuels their defiance and strengthens their sense of power. If you are not in control, then they are. To them, being in control is much more important than any punishment you can impose.
  • It is temporary. Punishment teaches people to respond out of fear, rather than out of a desire to please, or to do the right thing. There is no long-lasting development of an inner compass. This does not lead to self-control or self-discipline.
  • It reinforces the person’s negative view of self. People can see themselves as bad and undeserving of love and often believe they deserve to be punished. This creates self-fulfilling prophecy: If you believe you are bad and deserve punishment, you will act badly. When you act badly, you become angrier, feel worse about yourself and escalate oppositional behaviour. This is a vicious cycle provoking additional punishment. Each punitive experience reinforces the person’s negative self-esteem and creates an expectation by the person and others of additional negative behaviour.
  • It provokes revenge. Consequences teach people that when they make a choice, they set into motion a set of circumstances for which they are responsible and accountable. With punishment, people are too busy being mad at you to think about what they did wrong. Punishment makes the people feel angry and resentful. When defiant people get angry, they get even.
  • It maintains emotional distance. Punishment can create wounds that make people fearful of trusting and loving others. People can sometimes believe they must maintain emotional distance to protect themselves from the possibility of future injury. Punishment feeds into their defences against being close and reinforces a ‘me against you’ mentality