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Contact Community Services, Syracuse, NY
Contact Community Services

Good Behavior Starts with Fun: PAX-Good Behavior Game
Kids run around flapping their arms and making animal noises. The classroom seems out of control, but the teacher seems amused. After 20 seconds, she blows on a tiny harmonica and the kids calm down. It’s just a session of the PAX-Good Behavior Game (PAX-GBG).

Contact Community Services behavioral specialist Kate Krupski provides PAX-GBG coaching and support to the teachers and social workers. (She also provides lots of Tootles, but we’ll get to that later.) She says that GBG improves behavior, which decreases time spent on discipline and increases learning time. It may seem counterintuitive that children learn good behavior by doing what they are usually told not to do, but they are developing skills in collaboration self-regulation, self-control and self-management.

PAX-GBG is being implemented in the Syracuse City School District in several first and second grade classrooms at Dr. King, Webster and Roberts Schools and school-wide at Meachem School under a federal grant from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

Pax Student List
Students list what they would see, hear, feel and do more of to create a better classroom.

Here are the basics: In the beginning of the school year the class talks about acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Acceptable behaviors create more "PAX" in the classroom. PAX means peace, productivity, health and happiness. The unacceptable, or disruptive, inattentive or aggressive behaviors are called "spleems." Two to three times during the day, the teacher declares that the PAX game is on and spleems will be counted for a set period of time, and then she continues with regular activities. She can even choose a dependable student to act as scorekeeper. The class has been divided into three to five teams. Their challenge during the declared game time is to limit team spleems to three or fewer. All teams that meet that goal are rewarded with one of Granny’s Wacky Prizes, such as running around, lying on the floor and sizzling like bacon, or sitting under the desk for part of the next lesson. Reward time can be 10 to 40 seconds. Teams that didn't "win" cannot participate in the reward. But there’s always next time.

Granny Wacky Prizes During the year, the time of play increases and Granny’s Wacky Prizes may be awarded immediately after they win with no delay. Or they may wait until the end of the day or the end of the week. The teacher may even play a secret game, and the children won’t know until afterwards, when she reports the spleem count. This encourages children to be on good behavior because they never know when the game will be on.

Harmonica Transitions
The harmonica to end the reward time gets children’s attention, helps them transition and is neutral and calming, Kate says. The teacher doesn’t have to raise her voice or clap her hands, which is often associated with discipline or trauma.

The young students love the game, Kate says. Sometimes they remind the teacher that they haven’t played it yet. They remind their team-mates to limit spleems, telling them to shush or sit down. They also learn that they can control their own behavior and emotions even during the excitement of a reward. The class has the opportunity to move around, laugh, play and let off steam, in other words, to just be kids.

Teachers who embrace the game rediscover why they went into teaching, Kate observes. They spend more time teaching children who are attentive and excited to be learning. One teacher says GBG was her "saving grace" when she first began teaching this year.

There are plenty of other facets and fun. Parents, teachers and the students are encouraged to be generous with Tootles—the opposite of tattles. They are simply old-fashioned thank you notes to let another person know that you appreciate and value them or something they did. They reinforce positive behavior, and that encourages more positive behavior and feedback.

PAX-GBG is not just fun and games, says Susan Van Camp, Contact’s director of school services. Extensive research shows that GBG reduces disruptive behaviors, referrals and suspensions; reduces teachers’ stress levels; and increases teaching time and learning. Longitudinal studies show very exciting long term results too. Young adults who participated in PAX-GBG in elementary school had significantly lower rates of drug and alcohol disorders or smoking, and were at lower risk of suicide, violent behavior, or delinquency.

While we don’t have long-term results, our local classrooms have shown significant reductions in "spleems," Susan says. At the beginning of the year, the number of spleems were counted in each classroom. Two to six months later, spleems were secretly counted during regular classroom times. Spleems had been reduced 40 to 50 percent. Visitors even commented on the peaceful climate!

  Pax tootles
Tootles are the opposite of tattles. They let another person know that you appreciate and value them or something they did. Students and adults love to get them and give them.

Information on our website for implementing PAX in your school.

For videos of Pax-GBG go to:

PAX Good Behavior Game, from Paxis Institute, is officially included on the U.S. National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. For more information go to .

For more about the long-term benefits of PAX-GBG, go to The Good Behavior Game and the Future of Prevention and Treatment and improved mental health.

Phone: 315-251-1400  
Fax: 315-251-2218

6311 Court Street Road
East Syracuse, NY 13057

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