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December 17, 2023

How to Create a Positive Behaviour Culture in Your Setting

Opportunities to formulate, review, and share our core values, involving staff and the individuals we support.

A positive behaviour culture is something every school and health and social care provider aspires to create. But what exactly is it, and how is it achieved? It’s easy to assume that it’s an intangible ‘feeling’ or ‘atmosphere’ in a setting. However, there are clearly defined steps that we can all take, as leaders and practitioners, to foster a behaviour culture across our organisations.

What is a positive behaviour culture?

Settings that successfully nurture a positive behaviour culture are those in which we would feel safe and confident to entrust a loved one. We would expect them to be treated fairly, respectfully, and compassionately; we would want them to feel listened to, spoken to with kindness, valued, and cared for; and we would feel reassured that those in charge of their care prioritise building strong relationships, and always act in their best interests.

When a setting promotes this type of culture, individuals are able to thrive and fulfil their potential, no matter what their background or context, because they feel safe, secure, and supported by those around them.

It all starts with core values

Collective core values are the bedrock of a positive culture in any setting. Defining a set of shared values – the overarching message of which, is ‘This is how we do things here’ –encourages a common understanding between staff, and individuals around behaviour expectations. With this comes a deep sense of connection, collaboration and belonging, making sure everyone is pulling in the same direction.

When core values are embedded in a setting, they become habitual; they underpin every decision, every action, and every judgement. That’s why it’s essential that all stakeholders are involved in their creation and implementation.

Agreeing on shared values

In our busy day-to-day lives, it’s easy to overlook opportunities to formulate, review, or share our core values, in a way that involves individuals, colleagues, families and carers. By carving out time to discuss what we mean by ‘core values’, and reflect on how they influence every aspect of our practice, we can ensure that they become deeply embedded across all parts of our organisations.

For staff, training sessions and discussion forums can provide a great platform to collaborate and generate ideas, reflecting on what is working well, and identifying what could be done further to create a positive behaviour culture. Of course, this can only be effective in environments where staff feel safe to be open and honest about their feelings, and where leaders are receptive to feedback.

As for the children, young people, and adults in our care, it’s important to create opportunities to discuss what our values mean in practice, in order to establish clear expectations and boundaries based on mutual respect and trust.

Download our Brick Wall Vs Rubber Band Thinking poster

Depending on the needs of the individuals and the nature of our settings, we can use augmentative and alternative communication tools, and strategies such as role-play, visual cues, and social stories to consolidate understanding of values. It’s also a good idea to communicate with and alongside parents and carers, to make sure everyone is on the same page, and understands what we do, and why we do it.

Facilitating values-driven responses

A well-developed and deeply embedded positive behaviour culture, based on an agreed set of core values, helps us to respond to challenging situations in the best interests of the child, young person, or adult in our care.

Seeing an individual in crisis can cause adrenaline to surge through our bodies, sometimes making it difficult to make rational decisions or assessments. However, when we respond to a situation with our core values at the front of our minds, we are more able to make values-driven decisions, and can feel confident that our response is reasonable, proportionate, and necessary. We can ask ourselves questions such as,

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