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The Teacher’s TCIT Toolkit

Children yearn to feel understood but it’s challenging for teachers to build relationships with students who talk back, distract other kids, and refuse to comply with instructions. But what if there was a way to change the dynamic between teachers and disruptive kids? What if there was a method to get these students engaged in lessons, behaving calmly, and complying with commands? Though this may sound like a fairy tale, a behavioral intervention called Teacher Child Interaction Training (TCIT) may be able to make this dream a reality in your classroom.

So what can you do to apply TCIT with your students?   

1. Know the need

10 to 22% of students struggle with behavioral issues or psychological disorders, and teachers often feel ill-equipped to support these students’ needs. With the expectation of meeting every students’ unique needs, it’s only natural for teachers to feel frustrated with kids who act out. This begins a vicious cycle of a child acting disruptively, a teacher responding with negative attention, and a classroom missing out on opportunities to learn. With TCIT however, teachers can increase desirable behaviors and create a positive classroom environment.

2. Discover the benefits

  • Research on TCIT has shown it as an effective way to:

  • Increase job satisfaction in educators

  • Reduce disruptive behaviors in students

  • Improve interactions between children and teachers

  • Improve students’ emotional intelligence and academic performance

  • Increase students’ compliance and self-regulation

  • Decrease teachers’ need to issue commands

TCIT benefits children with a variety of conditions that can be challenging for teachers to support including:

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Conduct Disorder

  • Child Maltreatment & Trauma

  • Bipolar Disorder

  • Anxiety & Depressive Disorders

3. Apply the principles

Families around the world have discovered the benefits of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), an intervention that teaches parents how to increase positive experiences with their children. The principles of PCIT improve a child’s compliance by:

  • Providing clear and consistent expectations for their behavior

  • Increasing positive attention toward children

  • Using selective attention by ignoring minor unwanted behaviors

  • Reducing criticisms and questions

TCIT embraces these principles while adapting techniques to the classroom setting.

4. Educate with PRIDE

TCIT identifies 5 core skills that teachers can use to improve teacher-student relationships. By giving students opportunities to lead activities and incorporating these skills while observing them, teachers can reinforce positive behaviors in students:

PRAISE – Label the behaviors you appreciate in your students, praising them for acting appropriately.

Younger Child Example: “I love how Marta is using her pencil.”

Older Child Example: “Thank you for being in your seat before the bell.”

REFLECTION – Reflect back on things your students say to show that you are listening and appreciate their thoughts.

Younger Child Example: Student: “I wrote a story about a superhero who gets his powers from lima beans.” Teacher: “You wrote a superhero story!”

Older Child Example: Student: “I coded this entire webpage!”
Teacher: “Coding is your thing!”

IMITATION – Boost your student’s confidence by copying their creations or ideas. Imitation shows children that you enjoy interacting with them and think their ideas are valuable and interesting.

Younger Child Example: “I’m going to paint an animal picture just like Lola.”

Older Child Example: “I like how you explained that formula, I am going to explain it that way to the other students.”

DESCRIPTION – Support your students’ language development and communication skills by describing what you see them doing.

Younger Child Example: “I see you’re carefully gluing each piece of your project together.”

Older Child Example: “I see you’re writing everything in your planner.”

ENJOYMENT – Express enthusiasm and enjoyment as you interact with your class. The more fun you are having, the more engaged your students will be.

Younger Child Example: “I’m having so much fun practicing for our spring recital!”

Older Child Example: “I really enjoy going to competitions with our team!”

Click to download our free PRIDE Skills for Teachers Form

5. Point out the positive

A key element of TCIT is giving more attention to the positive than the negative. When teachers react to negative attention-seeking behaviors, students will continue to seek attention by acting out. When behaviors are only mildly disruptive, ignore them and look for the next opportunity to point out something positive the student does. Of course, there are times when behaviors can’t be ignored, which brings us to our next tips:

6. Set rules strategically

Establishing clear rules is essential for students to understand your expectations. Be strategic in setting rules that are:

  • Simple – Rules should be easily understandable for your students’ age

  • Specific – Gray areas leave room for students to argue or negotiate

  • Visible – Display rules in a noticeable area

  • Enforceable – “Respect yourself,” is a great goal to encourage students to have, but it’s too vague to enforce as a rule with consequences

7. Connect your consequences

Let’s say a child pushes a classmate during reading and you don’t allow them to participate in a trivia game two hours later. Your consequence might not make sense to them because they’ve moved on with their day and missing an academic game isn’t clearly connected to pushing. When a child doesn’t understand how a consequence relates to their behavior, they are more likely to break that rule again. A more effective consequence would be to have them sit away from other students until they can keep their hands to themselves. By immediately enforcing clear consequences, your students will be less likely to repeat the same mistakes moving forward.

8. Be a calm commander

The TCIT method calls for giving commands that are simple, calm, and direct. To ensure your instructions are TCIT approved, give commands that are:

  • Given one at a time

  • Explained in a calm, neutral tone  

  • Stated after a reason (Reason: “We are going outside for recess.” Command: “When I call your table, please line up at the door.”)

  • Respectful and polite (Starting with, “please,” models good manners)

  • Specific (“Please stay in your seat.” “Please talk with your group quietly,” rather than, “please behave during group work.”)

  • Positively stated (“Please keep your feet on the ground” instead of, “stop putting your feet on your desk”)

9. Is managing student behavior stressing you out?

Are you a teacher feeling stressed out with the demands of managing a classroom while meeting academic standards? Do you represent a district or private school and want to learn more about how to implement TCIT in your school? Reach out to us for a consultation and learn about our school-based coaching service to empower teachers with the TCIT model.

Dr. Marta M. Shinn, Ph.D., is an expert in child and educational psychology and a U.C. Davis TCIT & PCIT trainer. Dr. Shinn is experienced in empowering teachers and mental health professionals in understanding the TCIT method and incorporating its principles into their school’s culture.

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How to Cite This Blog Article:

Shinn. M.M. (2019). The Teacher’s TCIT Toolkit Psychologically Speaking. [Variations Psychology blog post]. Retrieved from: https://www.variationspsychology.com/blogs/the-teachers-tcit-toolkit