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- How Positive Action Works for Violence Prevention
- How Positive Action Works for Bullying Prevention

How Positive Action Works for Violence Prevention

The entire approach and philosophy of Positive Action supports the reduction of school violence, including handgun violence, gang violence, teen dating violence, bullying, threats, fights, assault, harassment, and discipline problems. All the lessons and climate materials strive to create a safe and productive climate by increasing positive behaviors and decreasing negative behaviors. While no program can address every issue that adolescents might face, the Positive Action K-12 curriculum and climate and family programs cover a broad range of issues and equip students with a system for handling any given situation. They learn these methods through the six focus units; each one has important implications toward reducing violent behaviors in schools.

  • –Unit 1: Self-Concept: What It Is, How It’s Formed, and Why It’s Important (Philosophy and Circle)
  • –Unit 2: Physical and Intellectual Positive Actions
  • –Unit 3: Social/Emotional Positive Actions for Managing Yourself Responsibly
  • –Unit 4: Social/Emotional Positive Actions for Getting Along with Others—Treating Them the Way You Like to Be Treated (Social Skills & Character)
  • –Unit 5: Social/Emotional Positive Actions—Being Honest with Yourself and Others (Mental Health)
  • –Unit 6: Social/Emotional Positive Actions for Improving Yourself Continually (Setting Goals)

From the first lesson in Unit 1, Positive Action teaches that actions have consequences. Instead of taking a negative approach, however, Positive Action teaches that you feel good about yourself when you do positive actions, and there is always a positive way to do everything. This intrinsically motivating approach to cause-and-effect reasoning inspires preteens and teenagers with a reason for doing positive actions (pro-social behavior) and avoiding negative actions (anti-social behavior). Students learn that positive thoughts lead to positive actions, which lead to positive feelings about yourself, which then lead back to positive thoughts. They also learn that negative thoughts, actions, and feelings follow the same cycle to make them feel bad about themselves. This Thoughts-Actions-Feelings Circle is the basis upon which students learn positive behaviors for the physical, intellectual, social, and emotional domains.

Unit 2 teaches physical and intellectual positive actions, encouraging students to respect and care for their own minds and bodies, and also the minds and bodies of others. Clearly, violence and bullying do not fit into this approach to a healthy lifestyle. Lessons on body image teach them that they are all individual and there is not one perfect body type; lessons on drug use teach them to stay away from substances that can alter their minds, often causing violent behaviors; and lessons on nutrition and exercise encourage them to stay fit and well so they can positively control challenges. Lessons on decision-making and problem solving encourage positive solutions to all situations. Lessons about intellectual curiosity and studying teach the value of learning and education so that students know multiple options and reasons for handling challenges in intelligent ways without needing to resort to violence.

Unit 3 teaches students to become effective self-managers. By learning to manage their time, energy, talent, money, possessions, and thoughts, actions, and feelings, they become more in control of their lives and their actions. Lessons on managing feelings such as anger, loneliness, fear, jealousy, and worry teach students to manage strong emotions positively instead of acting out in violent behaviors. Many students who find themselves unable to escape a bad situation feel a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Positive Action teaches them that, while you can’t always control the situation, you can always control your reaction to that situation. Teenagers with bleak lives learn to deal with the present positively and realistically, while setting goals for the future and learning to manage themselves in a way that helps them get there. Giving people hope reduces the number of times they resort to an outlet of violence.

Unit 4 is one of the most direct applications for violence prevention. It teaches students the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. The students learn to get along with others by developing and practicing a personal Code of Conduct based on this universal principle. Students also agree on classroom and school-wide Codes of Conduct, uniting the entire school in practicing positive actions in their interactions with others. When each student and teacher has agreed on this standard for behavior, everyone in the school is held accountable by the same code that they themselves created. Instances of violence, bullying, threats, and harassment decrease dramatically under this self-imposed standard.

The Conflict Resolution (CR) Kit lessons add to and enhance Unit 4. Many, but not all, schools include the CR lessons. The CR lessons teach students CR skills and provide them with the Conflict Resolution Plan, a systematic approach to resolving conflicts. The Conflict Resolution Plan teaches students (and teachers and parents) how to take direct steps to resolve conflicts with positive, rather than negative, solutions. It walks both parties involved in a conflict through steps that address love, empathy, respect, cooperation, kindness, fairness, and positive communication. The last step asks how the conflict was positively resolved. Several copies of the plan and instructions on how to implement it are included in every Teacher’s Kit.

Being honest with yourself, taught in Unit 5, is a key prevention strategy for violence, because when most people are honest with themselves they can admit that they don’t feel good about themselves when they take the negative action of violent behavior. This unit also teaches taking responsibility for your actions and not blaming others. Again, this promotes a personal accountability for every action, positive or negative. When students aren’t allowed to make excuses, they often realize there is no excuse for their bullying, threats, or violence.

Unit 6 encourages continually striving to be a better version of yourself. Students set short-term and long-term goals and take specific actions to meet those goals. They are encouraged to broaden their horizons, have the courage to try new things, and learn from their mistakes. When focused on positive goals, hopes, and dreams for the future, youth are less likely to lapse into negative behaviors in the present. They are less likely to resort to violent behaviors, knowing that those behaviors could jeopardize their future and the future of others.

These six focus units are not only used in the classroom curriculum, but the concepts also extend to the other program components, including the climate, conflict resolution, counselor’s, and family components. Each of these plays a vital part in reducing violent behaviors throughout the school.

The Elementary Climate Kit creates a school-wide environment that is peaceful and positive by uniting all teachers, staff, and students with Positive Action assemblies, ICU Doing Something Positive boxes, songs, stickers, balloons, certificates, Words of the Week, and other activities. The Secondary Climate Kit promotes positive actions with a variety of activities that all lead to a more positive and peaceful school-wide environment. The following activities are some examples that are especially active in encouraging peace throughout the school. Whenever the school experiences a day of complete peace and cooperation—no violence, no arguments, no bullying, and no harassment—the Positive Action Peace Flag is raised and flies above or within the school. This becomes something the students strive for. A PA Buddy System pairs stronger students with at-risk students to encourage friendship, tutoring, listening, and problem solving between students. Often, this support system eliminates negative situations where violence may occur by replacing them with positive situations built on friendship and trust. Both kits employ the aforementioned school-wide Code of Conduct to set a standard for behavior; when that standard is broken, the Resolution Solution puts the Conflict Resolution Plan into place to mediate the situation and find a positive solution to the conflict.

The Counselor’s Kit allows counselors to help individual troubled youths or target specific violent behaviors school-wide. Counselors often encounter the most anti-social behaviors and have a large role in reducing these behaviors; this kit equips them with a manual that uses the same six focus units as the other components. They can further reinforce concepts that reduce violent behaviors in their daily encounters with students or use it in specific cases of violence prevention or intervention.

The Family Kit brings positive actions to the home, which is an essential element in preventing violent behaviors in youth. If the same concepts are being reinforced at home, in the classroom, and school-wide, it becomes easier for students to practice the positive behaviors everywhere they go.

Please see the PDF links at the top of the page to download examples of lessons that address violence and positive alternative behaviors in the Teacher’s Kits for Grades 6, 7, and 8, the Climate Kit, the Conflict Resolution Plan, the Counselor’s Kit, and the Family Kit.

These many components combine in the effective and comprehensive Positive Action approach to developing pro-social behaviors and eliminating anti-social and violent behaviors. It’s an approach that really works! President and Developer of Positive Action, Dr. Carol Allred, shares an experience she had while visiting a school that had a majority of high-risk students. She and several teachers and administrators watched amazed as Marcos, a troubled young boy and one of the biggest discipline challenges in the school, transformed into a promoter of positive actions. When a young girl was pushed and shoved at the drinking fountain, she responded by pushing and shoving back. Marcos asked her if there was a more positive way she could have handled the situation and, after some coaxing and suggestions, he convinced her she could have just walked away. This all happened as the adults looked on, astounded by the perceptions of an 11-year-old boy. Marcos told Dr. Allred that he used to be a leader for bad in the school, but now he wanted to be a leader for good. This is the power of Positive Action. Dr. Allred sees this as testament to the pervasiveness of the program’s concepts. There is not a lesson on what to do when you get splashed at a drinking fountain, but the intuitive nature of the concepts allows them to be internalized. Students can take these lessons with them for the rest of their lives and they will be prepared to positively approach any situation they encounter. This is the edge Positive Action has over programs that narrowly target violent behaviors: the focus on systematically and systemically moving schools and lives toward positive behavior is long lasting and effective.

How Positive Action Works for Bullying Prevention

In a recent Positive Action role-playing exercise, the smallest, most timid student, a little girl, was playing the bully. To her great astonishment, she liked it. The students were shocked.

And then came the teachable moment: the students were able to discuss bullying from many points of view: the bully, the victim, what the payoffs were and what the dangers were. It was possible because no one was being accused of bullying at the moment, and everyone could look at it dispassionately. And further, the students could suggest better ways of behaving for both the victim and the bully.

That’s Positive Action’s great genius. The lessons and experiences provide students with real life scenarios, an opportunity to look at their own behaviors. The lessons also provide the motivation to act in a different way and a safe, non-threatening language that takes behavior out of the unconscious realm and brings it into awareness.

That’s the arena where young people begin to have real choices about what they do.

Positive Action programs have a three-pronged approach to teaching young people vital social and emotional skills. First, there are daily or weekly lessons that directly talk about positive thoughts, actions, and feelings and how they create a life worth having.

Second, the school climate program creates a safe environment for learning based on the practice and reinforcement of positive actions.

And third, involvement of parents and community provides students with positive role models, opportunities for physical, intellectual, social and emotional growth, and safety and supervision. In every instance, there are opportunities for those depth conversations, children, parents, and teachers live for.

Positive Action is a systemic, comprehensive program which directly addresses bullying by using a multidisciplinary approach:

  1. Teaching and reinforcing positive social and emotional behaviors, such as respect, empathy, kindness, fairness, along with accepting responsibility for actions, recognizing personal strengths and weaknesses in everyone, and using humor to diffuse a potentially serious situation.
  2. Providing language and opportunity for talk about about redirecting social and emotional behaviors for victims and bullies both.
  3. Providing counseling and support strategies for redirecting negative bullying behaviors.
  4. Investing in meeting universal physical, intellectual, social, emotional needs of children such as health and safety, self- directed learning, self-management, social skills, truth- telling, decision-making, problem-solving, and conflict- resolution skills, and setting goals.
  5. Creating a positive self-identity which can more effectively resist being bullied or the urge to bully another.

Bullying is dangerous. Not addressing it, more dangerous still. Arming children with positive thoughts, actions, and feelings helps them avoid situations where bullying can occur and to channel bullying behaviors into positive and productive activities.

Positive Action programs creates a lively, inclusive environment focusing on healthy social and emotional behaviors which allow every child to thrive.

From poignant personal experience to solid statistical results, Positive Action has proven that it is effective in reducing violent behaviors in schools. PA is recognized by diverse programs as a model, exemplary, or promising violence prevention program:

  • U.S. Department of Education, January 2001. Promising Program for Safe Disciplined and Drug Free Schools Program for drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, violence and disruptive behavior prevention.

  • Title V Model Programs Guide and Database. Exemplary Program for delinquency prevention.

  • Brigham Young University Women’s Research Institute, 2001. Antiviolence Program . Preventing violence and teaching peace: A review of promising and effective antiviolence, conflict-resolution, and peace programs for elementary school children.

  • Illinois Center for Violence Prevention,September 2001. Listed in “Peacing it Together,” as a Significant Violence Prevention Program.

  • Nassau Community College. Listed in “Hate Crime Resource Guide," as an anti-bias resource for schools and youth.

  • Channing Bete Company, 2004. Communities That Care Prevention Strategies: A Research Guide to What Works. A resource that identifies tested effective policies, programs, and actions that address risk and protective factors identified through research.

  • National Crime Prevention Center, 2004. Listed in “Topics in Crime Prevention: McGruff Strategies Program”.

These listings, among many others, clearly support the use of the Positive Action program as an effective school-based violence prevention program.

PDF Download: Bullying Prevention Lessons