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Caught Being Good?

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“Grandma, look! I was caught being good!”  my youngest grandson announced with a broad smile showing off an award ribbon years ago when he was in elementary school.

“What was that?” I responded, thinking I had misunderstood him.

But I hadn’t.  He received the ribbon from a teacher on the playground who noticed he picked up trash and put it in a nearby can.

His school had begun a program, Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (See PBIS.org), where they taught behaviorial expectations like they would any other core curriculum. There are many facets involved to make such a program successful, but the underlying tenet is respecting yourself and others. Students who met these positive expectations in and out of the classroom were rewarded with badges.

Before you begin to construct your argument against such a program, let’s just agree that shame-based approaches don’t feel good nor have appeared to work well for humans or animals. There is research to back this up, but simply put, when we reward a person for a desired behavior they tend to repeat it.

I wish my elementary teachers (and mother) had known about and used this technique. Thankfully, I managed to grow up to be a positive person in spite of occasional spankings, being sent to the corner, being shamed, and other painful experiences that reinforced my undesirable behavior. Negative reinforcement did not bring about positive results for some of my friends and relatives.

I suspect it would be a better world if we looked for and rewarded desirable, loving, and kind behavior. Focusing on the positive would be the end of news as the media currently presents it, but what would that world be like. 

A number of people have wondered the same thing, and decided to focus on the desirable, the beautiful, and successful in the world. 

Mariette Pan celebrates the good in heart shapes she discovers

Learn more from Mariette’s book, Gratitude Rocks: Manifesting Passion, Purpose, & Prosperity… One Heart at a Time

Louie Schwartzberg celebrates the good in fungi

The fungal-fantastical. Emerging from their axial homes, fungi are beginning to be understood as nutrients to the human consciousness and ecological sustainability. Paul explores mycology and compels support for your own good nature and our fungal allies. This is the first in a collaboration of Louie Schwartzberg of Blacklight films ( http://bit.ly/FantasticFungi ) and Paul Stamets of Fungi Perfecti ( http://fungi.net ).


Starbucks celebrates the good that ordinary people do to improve their communities

Upstanders is an original collection of short stories, films and podcasts sharing the experiences of Upstanders – ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities. Produced by Howard Schultz and Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Upstanders series helps inspire us to be better citizens.


Rick Charlie celebrates the good he found in his life story

He tells it in this interview by Jonathan Fields.  


How do you celebrate the good in your life and the world?
Tell us below in Speak Your Mind




  1. I love this program. In most family and work cultures the focus is on what is not working. It seems to be human nature to focus on the negative so it can be improved on. I have witnessed children and work teams feeling beat down by all of the reprimands and deeply craving just one time where a good job was recognized.

    When they are acknowledged the whole culture can shift into something more positive and empowering. Thanks for sharing your grandson’s story, Flora.

    • Hi Linda,

      It was a pleasure. Stories like this pop up in my memory frequently, and sometimes make their way into a blog post.
      There is so much power in acknowledging the positive.

  2. Flora,

    As always you have timely useful messages. This post is special. Thank you.

    • Thank you Roz. I’m glad you enjoyed this message. It has something for all of us, doesn’t it.

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