Examples of Skill-Building in Positive Supports

Creating a Positive Climate

5 to 1 ratio is shown above a thumbs up. Next to it reads create visual reminders for recognizing positive social interactions.

The more positive interactions we have with another person, the more likely we will approach them in the future. Spending time reinforcing other people in all of our everyday interactions sets the stage for positive interactions in the future.

The Magic Ratio

Research on happy marriages report successful couples deliver five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. This approach can be used in other social situations as well. In fact, encouraging a 5 to 1 positive interaction pattern has been included in positive behavior support for many years. The visual on this page shows how an elementary school created visual prompts for teachers by putting posters on the wall reminding everyone about the Magic Ratio.

Positive reinforcement refers to rewarding a behavior to increase the likelihood it will happen in the future. What a person considers reinforcing is different for everyone and it is important to be aware of each person's preferences related to reinforcement. For example, we think we are reinforcing a child or adult because that is our intention. However, a person, event, or activity is only reinforcing if behavior increases upon its presentation.

There are important cultural differences in what each person considers reinforcing. A person's cultural values provide important clues about the types of positive reinforcement that will be most effective. An important part of developing rapport with another person involves understanding what is important to them and their unique preferences.

Behavior Specific Praise refers to the act of reinforcing someone immediately after the person engages in a valued behavior in a way that:

  • Helps build positive relationships with others
  • Includes a clear description of what the person has done that is appreciated
  • Occurs as close in time to the behavior as possible
  • Is delivered within an appropriate cultural context for the person

Example: “Antonio I really appreciate the way you helped me put the dishes away after dinner, you are very kind.”

It is important to use behavior specific praise in ways that demonstrate you understand a child or adult's culture, values, and preferences.

Example: "Antonio, you have made life easier for your mother by putting the dishes away and you are so important to our family."

reinforcement on blue paper with side interior view of brain inside a head on green background
  • Listening to another person and showing interest
  • Expressing appreciation
  • Showing people they matter
  • Finding opportunities for agreement
  • Being intentional about your appreciation for someone
  • Showing empathy and apologizing when a mistake is made
  • Accepting others opinions
  • Using humor
  • Offering to help another person complete a task together
Active listening written on wooden blocks against an orange background.

People who are approachable are good at sending signals that they can be trusted, are helpful to others, and interact in ways that meet the needs of others.

  • Delivering high levels of reinforcing statements and actions
  • Active listening and expressing empathy
  • Mirroring eye contact patterns that are preferred by others
  • Creating welcoming gestures
  • Focusing on the comfort of others during interactions
Behavior goes where reinforcement flows is written in colorful letters against a black background