Positive Feedback: Making Deposits in Everyone's "Bank"

by Kathy Keith, TLC Occupational Therapist

Pyramid Plus is a positive behavior development program and a philosophy we embrace at TLC.  Pyramid Plus promotes social-emotional literacy and development in children through teachings and tools that help caregivers recognize and identify a child's feelings, and help children recognize and assess their own feelings. Pyramid Plus also helps caregivers identify challenges during interactions with a child, and then identify solutions for these challenges that the child helps facilitate and implement. Oftentimes at TLC, I watch kids ages 3, 4, and 5 identifying challenges and implementing solutions in a way some adults I come into contact with can not. One former preschooler, Alistair, told his preschool teacher, "I have a solution kit in my mind!" These are the kinds of tools Pyramid Plus gives children to be compassionate problem solvers.

My training in this program has provided me with many “A-ha” moments, and has benefited me both within my therapy practice and at home with my own kids. One thing that has impacted me significantly seems so simple now: the idea of “deposits” and “withdrawals.”  According to Pyramid Plus (and common sense, if I think about it), children need 5 "deposits," or positive comments/interactions with adults, for every "withdrawal." So every time we tell kiddos “don’t,” “stop,” ask questions that require a specific answer (example: “what color is that?”), use a loud voice, make demands, or tell them “no," we are taking withdrawals from their “bank.”  

When a withdrawal is made, we need to deposit 5 positive things (compliments, words of appreciation, non-verbal and verbal praise, active listening) in order to balance the child's "bank."  It is important that these deposits are very specific. “Good job” is positive, but too general.  A general phrase like "good job" could be replaced with:

•    “I like the way you…”
•    “You must be proud of yourself for…”
•    “Tell me what you like best about your creation”
•    “WOW! What a fabulous job you have done of…”
•    “Excellent idea for…”
•    “Give me an EXTRA HUGE high five for…”

Staff here at TLC are working on putting into practice what we preach.  We have a “Positive Piggy” board hanging in the hallway where we can write and display the words of thanks and appreciation that we have for our co-workers and friends.  It has been a fun opportunity to honor the staff for all the work they do everyday.  When you think about it, we could ALL probably use a few more positive deposits, and it's so easy to fill someone's "bank," whether they are a child or a grown-up.