No More Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light Behavior Management Plan!

The Safe Keeper System

I have tried the famous Red Light Classroom Management plan that is used in classrooms across America.   (Every child begins each day on a green light.  Certain behaviors and choices will change their light to yellow or red.  Usually, yellow and red lights had consequences attached to them like loss of recess and so forth.)  As a behavior management tool, it simply did not work in helping children learn to make better choices.  It did succeed in providing consequences for misbehaving children – an important fact!  But those same children kept “misbehaving.”   It was not teaching them new skills.

More over, it seemed to dampen the hearts of those who could not seem to control themselves.  For example, once a boy in my class slugged another child right when he got to school and was immediately put on a red light with a note going home.  He looked at me and said, “Who cares?!  It doesn’t matter how I act now – I am already on red.”  How true!  He had 6 hours left in school and it really did not matter what he did – he was going home with a red light!  It was an aha moment that this little fellow had no chance to save face and make better choices.  He had no opportunity to redeem himself!

I took the Red Light system down that day.  As I reflected on what was the most important thing I wanted in my classroom I realized it was for the children to be safe physically, emotionally, and mentally.  The Red Light system could not address a child’s needs on all these levels.   I created what I call the Safe Keeper System with the help of my friend, Mary Myers.  It is based on the children learning and practicing five basic life skills:

The Five Life Skills

Each day, I looked for the children to demonstrate these five life skills – being helpful, being careful, being respectful, being responsible and being patient.  I used my kangaroo puppet (Kinderoo) that had a baby kangaroo in its pouch.  We talked about how the job of the mother was to keep her child safe in the “safe pocket.”  I told the children that their parents counted on me keeping them safe – that was my number one job!  I gave every child a library pocket to decorate as a safe pocket for their own kangaroo on a stick.  Then I decorated one as the Teacher’s Safe Pocket.

Examples of Child made safe pockets.
The Teacher Safe Pocket

How it works:
When a child makes an inappropriate choice – such as running in the classroom – I would say, “Bobby, you are not being careful.”  I might discuss safe behavior in the classroom.  But I would use the five life skills as the foundation of my conversation.  If a child cannot make good choices, then their kangaroo will leave their safe pocket and go into mine.  It stays there until I see that child making the right choices.  When that happens, I acknowledge the right choice and put the kangaroo back in their pocket.  “Bobby!  Look at you!  I see you walking with such care!  I see you being safe.  Your kangaroo can go back in your safe pocket.”   This gives every child an opportunity to redeem themselves!  It really works!  If, let’s say, a child’s kangaroo keeps going into my safe pocket (or ends the day in my pocket )- then consequences are given that address the specific behavior.

Child’s kangaroo in my safe pocket.

The Red Light method focuses on controlling children by giving punishments and consequences.  There is no capacity for a child to correct their behavior and return to a green light until the next day.   The Red Light system is based on the idea that children need to be controlled and trained.

The Safe Pocket is based on teaching children new life skills and gives new chances in every moment to self-correct.   Young children live in the now.  They need a system that lives there with them!  The Safe Pocket system is based on the idea that children are learning and want to do the right thing.  They just don’t have enough experience or support in making new choices.

Safe Pocket System for Classroom Management:  coming soon

This packet contains everything you need to implement the Safe Pocket System.  Included are posters, lessons for presenting the system to your class, home-connection pages, and more!  There is another choice besides the Red Light, Green Light

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  1. kandiapple says:

    What a wonderful idea! Your explanation sounds so peaceful & kind. I think kids & parents would love this. I’m going to find a way to implement it!!

  2. herbwifemama says:

    I wonder how I can adapt this to use at home with my daughter. I’ve framed it in those terms before, but I think something like this would be a good visual. My only qualm is that it’s rather “classroomy”. (Lol, new word!)

  3. sending this to my child’s teacher this instant…..


    • Anonymous says:

      I’m thinking I need to do the same thing. My child started Kindergarten 3 days ago and the teacher utilized the Red Light Green Light system first day! Inevitably he came home not liking school cause he didn’t feel like he did good enough cause he had a green light. : (

    • Anonymous says:

      I teach preschool, and I use the traffic light. I have always given my students a chance to go back to green when they make better choices. My students begin to understand that mistakes can be corrected, and they start makeing better choices to get back to green. Not all of them get it at first, but I love the light. There are so many methods that work with behavior. A positive attitude is important for any plan. I let my little ones know what they did that was not a good choice, and then I let them get it together. I praise them when they make better choices. This usually works with the bulk of my students. Some kids will be themselves at all times, however.

      • Ally says:

        I do the same thing! No one wants to be on red. The children who are on red usually try to go out of their way to be nice helpful etc to go back to green! I have to watch carefully and call it out and let the child move themselves back to green. I also employ a reward system also if we are all greenat the end of the day.

        • PEGGY LEBEAU says:

          this system is wrong., My grandson was a happy caring, polite eager student when he started school. He constantly got off green for trying to help others. The other kids are very quick to point out what color he was on when I picked him up. He went from loving school to hating it. He loved to learn new things now we have to fight him to go to school. He is humiliated daily when he gets off green by the other kids and the teacher, who constantly reminds him is has to be better.
          This system doesn’t give teachers the right to cruelly humiliate the children day after day. What are you teaching them? That if you doing you do something wrong you aren’t worthy of recess? you don’t deserve to get to do the art project? My grandsons teacher even went farther and denied him the right to have his valentines on valentines day this year. He wasn’t allowed to take the balloon one of his friends had brought for the entire class or his valentines because he got yellow. Yellow for throwing an apple slice. REALLY THIS IS THE SYSTEM YOU AS A TEACHER ARE ENDORSING. what happened to positive reinforcement, My grandson will do anything I ask of him. I make a point of thanking him when he is well behaved for any thing. He beams, his eyes shine and his little chest pushes out. I also let him know when things are not acceptable and why. He can then tell what choices are good and bad,.

          • Toni says:

            I teach kindergarten and some things just don’t work for some people. I use a seven color clip chart that allows kids to clip up for good behavior as well as down. I believe kids live in a fairy tale world where they are rewarded for everything and they MUST have consequences. Unlike home, where children are the only one and parents frequently give their children whatever they want to avoid conflict, the classroom teacher doesn’t have that luxury. Not only do they have to make sure kids master content, but that ALL kids have the opportunity to learn. I tell kids up front about consequences, there is no guess work and everything is consistent. They are young and they must learn. Positive reinforcement is a must as well. Now, I do think all kids should have the opportunity to be successful and may need an alternate behavior plan to focus on individual needs though. Teacher simply must be prevention minded.

          • Sally says:

            I just love the thought that the students can “clip up”! Love those positive ideas!

          • Katie says:

            This article is a ‘pet-peeve’ of mine and I agree 110% with getting rid of the Signal light or any other form of negative identification. I am a Child Development Professor and we do NOT teach this approach for children who are seeking attention. What we have also seen is the parents arriving at school and immediately they look at the RED-YELLOW and GREEN chart and in front of everyone they will tell the child some ‘threat’ similar to ….. “just wait until you get home” …..! Is that what you are teaching? You have already punished that child ‘all day’ in the classroom – embarrassed that child in front of peers and visitors – and now the child is going home to more punishment. Young children are “learning” every day. Positive guidance and “redirection” will help. If ‘Johnny’ is a “physical” child – be sure you provide more physical activities where he will run and jump and play instead of hit people. I could go on but this whole concept breaks my heart because too many of our teachers are relying on the Red-Yellow-Green approach or “stickers”. Everyone knows “Johnny” is the bad kid because on Friday he only has 2 stickers and the others in class have a zillion stickers. It is the same. More disappointment and rejection. I agree with the child when he says – “why should I behave now – I already have a red tag and I am already in trouble at school and home – so why bother”. Take down those charts today and YOU need to “LEARN” to be a better teacher. Read up on “positive guidance” and “redirection” techniques. In my opinion – the teachers who use this approach should get a “RED tag” every time the child does, because they have ‘failed” to teach that child the many many many ways to make “positive choices” !!!!!! Sorry to rant but this hit a nerve with me!

  4. I think this could translate to a home setting. Sometimes children need visuals – the key to me would be letting your daughter create the kangaroo and safe pocket OR even brainstorm together what animal or symbol to use. Instead of posting a star – just use your fingers to name the five life skills. Simplify it. Let me know if you do try it at home. I’d love to know how it goes.

    • I am trying this today and I think we are going to use teddy bears. my son is 4 and has a little attitude and talks back a lot. wish me luck

  5. Fawn W says:

    I would LOVE to use this in my kindergarten classroom. Probably not this school year, but next year for sure.

    IF they end the day in your Safe pocket, do you have a form that you fill out or how do you let the parent/guardian know about that child’s day?

  6. I use a weekly parent communication log. I would write it on the log. I think a form would be a great method as well.

  7. Boy am I happy I found your blog! You have so many wonderful ideas! Thank you for taking the time to share them. Would you mind if as I use them I post them on my blog linked to yours?
    Kerry @

  8. Absolutely! Please share! Thank you for your kind comments!

  9. Karen says:

    This is a wonderful idea! I also loathe the red light, green light system. In my PreK class we have a saying I encourage the children to use with each other. We call it, “Halt.” It is a way of having the children check their own behavior. Maybe you’d like to read my posting about it. Here’s the link:

  10. Pia Klan?ar says:

    Sally hi! I JUST LOVE YOU BLOG! I came to you from the Yahoo group and can not believe I never before came to you blog. This is great. It reminds me on my days in the class, when we tried similar tecnique, and it didn’t work either. In the moments like this I so wish I would be still in school, to try this out with the children. I am sure it would be a great success. Thank you for sharing!


  11. Anonymous says:

    What is the green card with the star that is in the student’s safe pocket?

  12. Thank you for asking! What a great question! When we discussed how we used the five points of the star, I had an inspiration to put a star in their pocket. I thought it might make the life skills of the star more personal with each kangaroo having its own golden star. It could be put on a stick as well.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hi Sally! Great system. I am also using this in my class. Have you read Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey? This is what she uses! Great book!

  14. Yes! Dr. Bailey is definitely one of my inspirations for the system! I love, love, love her work!! I would love to take one of her workshops some day!

  15. Mama Ruck says:

    I am in love with your system! I currently work in a school district preschool that uses a reward system that allows the reward to be taken back if deemed necessary by the teacher. It is a frustrating day for the children and staff dealing with that system. Thank you for sharing.

  16. This is an apsolutely brilliant idea. I will use this with my pre schoolers.

  17. I’m so lad you found something that works for your class. As a Montessori teacher and mom the traffic light systems makes my eye twitch! And we can’t have that 🙂

    Your method seems much more child-led and child-centered.

  18. This is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Trying to figure out how I can implement it at our home school with my 7 & 9 year old, specifically with regard to the care and keeping of each other and our home environment.

  19. Neat idea! I am a pre-k teacher and I use a variation of the “Red Light” system. The basics are much like the original concept (everyone starts on green, consequences for yellow and red) but I’ve added more. My students *do* get the opportunity to move back up to green (and most often do!) and as a matter of fact, they get to go *further* and earn BLUE! Blue is awarded for making kind, respectful behavior choices and random acts of kindness. My students love that they can fix their mistakes and be recognized for correcting their behaviors, and the parents have been very happy with the results. As an added dimension, I have a clip (we use clothespins on a chart instead of pockets)also, and the students decide at the end of the session what color *my* clip gets moved to. I think of it as instant feedback! The kids like getting to decide what color I get for the day and by this they know that I am holding myself just as accountable for my own behavior as I am holding them to theirs.

  20. Liz says:

    I think it’s excellent in a standard school setting where there isn’t as much time for individualization. I think that at home there are better strategies for teaching discipline.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Great idea. could you share some of the lesson ideas you would share with the students to show them how to act? also do you give a star before or after you taught them the skill or for what reason? Thanks!

  22. @ Liz – so true! There isn’t a lot of time and I always try to focus on it the first 8 weeks. It makes all the difference for the rest of the year.
    @ Anonymous – I love that idea to share some of my lesson ideas! I going to do that! Soon. I will talk about the stars as well! Great idea – thank you!
    @Staci – I have been thinking about how to adapt this to home life. I will post those thoughts as well. Such good questions.

  23. Ms. Flores says:

    Sally, LOVE your blog! Ü
    Question…When you wrote, “If, let’s say, a child’s kangaroo keeps going into my safe pocket (or ends the day in my pocket )- then consequences are given that address the specific behavior.” What type of concequences would you use, and how do you document this to communicate daily with parents?
    I am moving from K-5 life skills to half day Prek3 and half day Preschool program for children with disabilities. I would absolutley love to begin the year with this amazing system. I am thinking of incorporating a turtle & it’s shell somehow…

  24. I love the idea of the turtle – the shell is such an image of safety. I keep meaning to expand my writing on this topic – I am going to put a post-it note on my mirror to remind me! There is so much to write about!

  25. Julianne says:

    What a great concept for little learners! For home you could use a baby stuffed animal, something that they could develop affection for and really worry about! I teach fifth grade and I don’t use the red light green light system either.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Our school uses the red light/green light model but I believe they allow the child to get back to green light by demonstrating more ‘desirable’ behaviour before the day ends. I’m glad I read this because I will definately pay more attention this year and talk to the teacher about it. What a great idea for me to try at home as the kids are really getting on each other’s nerves this summer!

  27. Michele says:

    Love your blog!!! I am so interested in more about your Safe Keeper System. I currently use an extended version of the green, yellow, red system and I….HATE IT!!!! I am interested to see how you communicate with parents and the consequences. Please, please, please post more!!!

  28. I will post more! Promise! This week! It is such a topic isn’t it? I have expanded my viewpoint and will share more.

  29. mwalton says:

    I have always hated the color changing system but couldn’t come up with something in its place…you have helped inspire me with finally getting rid of the color changing system and start something similar to the Safe Keeper System…THANK YOU for sharing your wonderful idea!!!!

  30. When I was teaching 1st and 2nd, I did use the light system, but with a caveat. {unless it was a severe infraction like punching or cheating} They had the opportunity to redeem themselves and change their cards back to green if good behaviors occured for the rest of the day. It really worked for my kids in Chicago Public schools. Also, if kids were on green all week, their cards turned to gold. Kids on gold receieved an extra recess, lunch with me, etc. It was the coveted card, and it worked for us.

    I miss the classroom as I am a SAHM now. {found your blog via Running with Glitter and LOVE it}

    I’m curious to see what the Waldorf take is on autism and special needs. I think you are doing a wonderful service for teachers and parents alike by sharing your classroom and thoughts with us.

    • Anonymous says:

      I use the red, yellow and green light too. Works like a charm and many of my parents use it at home too. Once a student moves to yellow, they hardly ever move to red. And yes they always have the opportunity to move back to green if they change their behavior.

    • I think that is the key in doing the RYG Light system – is that the children always have the ability to save face and move back to green with that change in behavior. Otherwise – it is such a downward spiral.

      The other thing that I think is critical to be careful of is having the visual model that will really take the trouble makers and have them as a focus point – completely from the system itself. It seems to me that the same children end up on red and that begins to builds negative labeling.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes! This is what happens in my son’s classroom. He is a sweet little guy, but talks out of turn, wiggles, and goofs off a lot, so he is often in yellow and red, and then in turn is walking laps at recess. It breaks my heart that he gets singled out in that way, and that it embarrasses him. I don’t feel like embarrassment should be a form of punishment, it doesn’t actually teach the desired behavior!

      I would love to hear your ideas on consequences that you have used.
      Also, have you used positive reinforcement systems in your class, and if so how do you set them up?

      I just love your perspective and all of your creative ideas!! What a great resource for teachers!

  31. pcklucas says:

    Thank you for this idea. I have never used the light system, hate it! I also hate moving things around but I am teaching a Pre-k and K class this year and they need something visual. I found some frogs and planned to have a happy, uh-oh and sad frog with the idea that they can jump around during the day. But after reading this I will add the star and a safe lily pad and maybe only the happy frog. I want to build right behavior because it is internal not external rewards. I am using frogs because of Kelso’s Choices about how to solve problems and Kelso is a frog. I think together they will work great.

  32. Lisa says:

    Like this very much! I do have a system similar to the red light/green light although a bit different, BUT my kids can earn back their cards. They start with no card and can move up to blue, then green, then yellow, then orange, then red with certain levels in the class associated with these colors, restricting privileges as they go… but each time they change their card I keep track of the time and after a certain amount of time (40 min in my class) they can earn a card BACK for making good choices and having no more card changes. It has worked WOnDERS for my class.

  33. michelle says:

    I like this, but I may modify it some. I am thinking maybe 5 kangaroos per child that stay in their self made pouch. I will have 5 “teacher” pouches…one for each infraction. If an infraction occurs, the child will put his kangaroo in the pouch that goes with the infraction. I’m thinking this will help me keep better track of what the children still need help with. What do you think?

  34. Anonymous says:

    I am soooo happy to see this thoughtful reflection on positive behavior management strategies. I’m an education researcher and we use positive behavior management strategies at home, but our son’s teacher uses the stoplight approach. We want to address the fact that we don’t really like the system with her, but don’t know how to do so without offending her. Any thoughts on how one might advocate for more approaches like this with his/her child’s teacher?

  35. Anonymous says:

    what a beautiful idea!!! I am going to start using this for my very first class next week! I really wanted to foster those positive values in every child and focus on their great qualities and potentials. Your story and idea have inspired me to think beyond the old behavious management system I’d seen for so long. Thank you.

  36. Michelle says:

    I wanted to say that I really like this behavior management system idea! I am preparing to implement it with my group this year. I have a very challenging group this year (pre k) and I am often teaching alone. It has been very stressful… Lately, my director has suggested that I try a red/yellow/green system, which I have never used and don’t really feel positive about. As I was looking for ideas, your idea came up first and I love it. I will try to post again after I have implemented for awhile to let you know how it has worked.

  37. Julia says:

    I am not a fan of the light system but they do use it at both my son’s preschool and my daughters Elementary school. She is in Kindergarten. But she has been on yellow twice in two years, both times for talking while the teacher was talking. My son is our challenge. I believe my son CAN get back on green if he behaves for the rest of the day. He is on yellow often though and only sometimes on red, for things like not keeping his hands to himself, not listening to directions, sometimes he even gets so upset that the thrashes around and kicks or hits the teachers (unacceptable!!!!). We work with him tirelessly at home and at school to improve his behavior. Not only does he have the light system for the entire day, but he gets smiley face stickers for good behavior during each part of the day (morning/naptime/afternoon). THEN, if he stays on green and gets three smiley faces for the day, he gets to do or have something special at the end of the day. We’ve done a trip to the snowball stand, getting to ride in the back seat booster of the car, extra story at night, riding his bike to school the next morning, making brownies when we get home, sometimes even a special prize from a prize bag which I made with little $1-$5 toys/activities in it. This has been going on since October and here we are in April still struggling daily with behavior. I will admit it’s better than it was, but he still ends up on yellow or has some unhappy faces 2-3 times a week. My son doesn’t like the consequences and certainly knows that he is doing something wrong but can’t seem to control himself. When he does finally calm down he will tell me over and over “Mommy, I will behave, I will be good, I promise.” And then minutes later, refuses to listen to me and the cycle begins again. We try our best to use positive discipline and tell him frequently how well he is behaving. He has one more year of Pre-K before Kindergarten and I’m hoping we can get his behavior more under control before he starts elementary school. If anyone has suggestions for another way to handle his behavior I’m open to trying anything!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      speaking as a kindergarten teacher, most kids will behave when there is a certain behavior system going on but there are some kids who this will not work and will get progressively worst as he moves up to higher grades. My son had a similar issue and although it was hard to accept I came to realize that he had a different issue than most kids. He was very impulsive and quick to act, easily distracted, and got angry easily. We finally took him to get doctor, and asked the school to test him. He is now in 5th grade and is doing great. He is taking medication (that was another battle of trying to figure out which one was right for him) but I am glad that we did.

  38. Karin says:

    I think I want to use this this year! But in terms of specific consequences… I’m a little stuck. Can you give some examples? Especially for consequences to not listening…

  39. Anonymous says:

    I am going to be teaching grade 3 for the very first time ever!

    Is this system too juvenile for third grade or do you think it would work?

  40. Anonymous says:

    Neat idea – but as a 5th grade teacher, I am unsure how to adapt it. We still need a structured system in place, however they are “wise” to the fact that they can test the waters and move back and forth. I find the ones who follow these systems best are the ones who do not need them. The few consistent offenders are seldom motivated by the prospect of consequences and/or positive reinforcements. Any suggestions would be appreciated!!

  41. Anonymous says:

    I’m not suprised to hear the Red Light/Green Light system (as you described it) not working. The goal of the system is not to be punitive as, sadly, I find many teachers misinterpreting the purpose. The purpose of the system is to provide children with opportunities to think about their choices and the effects they may have on others. However, the system fails, again, when teachers use it to punish children instead. It’s supposed to give teachers opportunities to teach children skills to turn their behavior around. And, furthermore, sending a note home for every misbehavior doesn’t do anything. Like the child says, “who cares?”. Let’s start sending notes home for good behavior instead. And….the problem lies in the school system in that they expect children to automatically know how to behave. I’m sorry, it’s not the old days where children learned to respect elders from birth. Children need to be taught from the ground up how handle conflicts, disappointments, frustrations, etc… If they are not taught the appropriate ways to handle these, none of these systems will work. I strongly urge all parents and teachers to point their browser over to particularly paying attention to the solution cue cards in the teacher section.

  42. Anonymous says:

    I use the Red Light/Green Light system with many modifications. First of all we discuss at the start of the school year “Agreements” so that we can be safe, responsible, and respectful at school. Each time a child is not safe, responsible, or respectful they are given a warning, then they flip their green card “happy face”. This allows them to think about what they have done. Reminding them that they have the choice with their behaviors of turning their card over back to a happy face. If they are still not behaving then I ask them to give me their happy face. I also ask them what better choice they can make, etc., ( what could you do instead, what could you say instead of hitting your friend when he takes your pencil, etc.,). At the end of the day they get to take their happy face home. This way the parents know how their day was. Also when they collect 10 happy faces, they get to go to the treasure chest. We are continuously talking about what better choices we can make. How to tell their friends how they feel, etc., Without that, nothing will work.

  43. Anonymous says:

    It’s exactly the same – just dressed in a different way.
    You are not using traffic lights correctly if you don’t give ch a change to demonstrate correct behavior and therefore be moved back onto a green.
    Also you would always reset ch to green at the end of a lesson – start a fresh.
    I like to star as a talking point though about which skill they haven’t and therefore need to demonstrate rather than just referring to good v bad.

    • I love that you reset your behavior lights. Not all teachers do. You sound like a very thoughtful teacher. I wonder if the biggest difference is the context of safety and building of life skills? And I do agree- if you use the red light/ green light in that way – it is the same. But that has not been my experience. It is refreshing to hear from you. You give me hope!

  44. I love this blog and just bought the Safe Pocket lesson. I teach K-8 Art. I am not sure how to use it with middle school kids but I think it gives a great starting point. Maybe they won’t mind it if I present it like it’s super cool! I will have one chart and use student numbers instead and each of their names on it who have a particular student number in their class(that will be a total of 9 names on each pocket). I can’t wait to try this out! I love how the lesson plans in here too. I had a similar idea on something along these lines at the start of the school year but nothing clicked. This thing seems to tie all my thoughts together in a fun way. Thank you for sharing it 🙂

  45. Janice says:

    At my children’s elementary school, they’ve modified the red light, green light system to a rainbow system. All the children start off in the middle of the rainbow on green. When they do something particularly good, they get to move up the rainbow to blue, purple, pink and there are better and better rewards with each one: increased number of earned tickets, a special sticker on the clothespins they use, the teacher wearing their clothespin on her shirt, etc… If they make bad decisions (the school emphasizes that everything they do is their own choice- it’s a bad decision the child made, not a “bad child”), then they clip down, yellow, orange, red. The kids can move up and down on the rainbow all day so even if they made bad choices in the morning, they can spend the day making better choices and move back up the rainbow. This is the first year they’re using this method, previously they did the red light/green light method and they didn’t like how it was a punitive only system, it didn’t let the kids stand out for their positive choices.

    • I think the most important part of the change is the ability to move up or down – taking the punitive. This is wonderful.

  46. Maria says:

    Hi! I really love this idea. I am trying to adjust it to fit in my room. I was wondering if you could explain what happens when a student needs help with more than one skill? For example, David was not being safe or disrespectful…where does his kangaroo go? Thanks so much for helping!

  47. Katie says:

    I think its just craziness of getting ready for a new school year I’ve gotten a crazy idea. Same idea but with bees and hives…and all the rules are BEE a good listener BEE respectful….oh man I need a break LOL

  48. patty says:

    this sounds wonderful
    do u have another system for good behavior ? such as the move clips up 1-10 when you get to ten you ho to prize box?

  49. Cate says:

    Hi Sally!

    I am about to embark on my first year of teaching (PreK!) and I have been looking all over for an alternative to the Traffic Light system. This sounds like a WONDERFUL idea! I have also seen ideas around that utilize a “Take A Break” space to teach strategies to change behavior. Do you think that your Safe Keeper System in conjunction with a Take A Break space would be effective? I only ask since I haven’t actually seen either system in work.

    Thank you so much!

  50. Kimmy says:

    My 1st grader teacher begins my baby on red everyday and I feel this is wrong. I goes against what I teach my children at home and what they have learned before that could talk. He received a sad face but to her (teacher) that meant he had a good day….Huh? What are you thoughts?

  51. Dan says:

    I am not a big fan of publicly displaying a child’s behavior, however, my daughter’s 5th grade teacher is employing this red, orange, yellow and green light method of tracking behavior with rewards for staying on green (Excellent) or yellow (good), while handing out written warning for parents to sign and even official write ups for red lights. I know many educators use this method, but at what grade does it start to do more harm than good.

  52. Delia says:

    I really like this system a lot more than the green,yellow, red system because if teachers are only using it as a punishment with no room for improvement throughout the day then the child does not learn or even try to learn to change the behavior. This is what happens in my great nephews class to the point that the other kids walk out of the classroom after school (as I wait outside) telling me that he was on red that day. Plus it seems that she promotes a behavior that allows the children to tell on each other because they know that it will cause the child to get in trouble. This system seems to teach them that they can change their behavior to be better. Glad I found your blog!!

  53. jen says:

    I used this last year and it was my best class ever. I work in the inner city and sometimes my students can be tough. This has made my life and my students so much better.

  54. Mrs. K says:

    Great idea! I am looking to adapt this a little with the shapes. Quick question, what happens when a child needs to work on two or more goals at a time (since they only have 1 kangaroo). Thank you in advance for your help.

  55. David says:


    In the UK and especially in our local area we follow –

    Brilliant ideas re behaviour. I agree completely. It is about children making the right choices 🙂

  56. Nic says:

    I was tickled to find your write up of this discipline plan. I work at a school that used/uses the light system. However, the administrators/owners of the school are not sold on it for everyone. They gave us the opportunity to pick our own system this year. I have been teaching pre k for over 17 years. I had to use the light system at my last school and found that it fell short of meeting the needs of children if it wasn’t modified in some way. Unfortunately, the grades below and above me use the light system STILL despite the chance to be innovative. We agree that all grades need to be consistent so I am sort of stuck with it. Ibelieve I have come up with a way to incorporate the “colors” with the “safety” feature using our school bug theme. Everyone will be a ladybug. They will decorate a pocket for the big green leaf board.. I will have a home flower with yellow petals that will replace the star. If they are challenged in an area, they will move their lady bug to that petal. If they continue to have trouble, they will go into my pocket at the red center of the flower which will be under my ladybug wing. It should promote privacy as well when parents enter the room. At the end of the day, they can put a sticker on their ladybug in their folder if they finished the day in their pocket on the green leaf board.. When the dots are all covered, (10 dots), they can visit the treasure bug (ladybug bucket of erasers and little trinkets). Thanks for your help!

  57. Dr. Toran Elizabeth Isom says:

    I would desperately like to post this on my Facebook page, because I so believe in it, and I’d like to share it with over a thousand friends. How might I do that?

    Dr. Toran Elizabeth Isom
    Faculty Emeriti
    University of Arkansas at Little Rock

    • Sally says:

      Absolutely! Thank you for asking!

      • Dr. Toran Elizabeth Isom says:

        Done! You have multiple shares from my share. As I retire, I am thrilled and heartened to know that young women like yourself are carrying forward the banner of being humane to children, especially children who are diagnosed as ADHD.

  58. Kathryn says:


    I did this with my kindergarteners last year and it worked so well. They all took such pride in being a safekeeper. I am hoping to use the same system again this year, but I have one problem. I dropped my computer yesterday which was connected to my thumb drive that contained all of my school work, including the documents I purchased about the Safekeeper. I tried looking in all my email accounts for the email with the attachments, but I cannot find them. Is there a way to track my order from last summer or do I need to purchase this again?

    I love your website. Thank you for all of your posts! You are an inspiring teacher.


  59. Justin says:

    Wonder how I could use this with my 6th graders they are pretty immature and full of hormones so i am trying to figure if this would work? Some teachers here have gone back to the red yellow green, soo, not sure?

  60. Marrielin says:

    I love this idea! I am doing a bird theme in my Kindergarten classroom this year, so I thought it would be perfect to substitute baby birds (students) and a momma bird in a nest (teacher) for the kangaroos. I have little bird cutouts that have magnets on the back. I’m going to create a “sky” on my white board for them to fly in at the start of each day. When they need help keeping “safe”, they will come and visit my nest for awhile until they are ready to fly again!
    Thanks for the wonderful idea! 🙂

    • Sally says:

      I would LOVE to see it! Please see me a photo!! What a great image!

      • Marrielin says:

        Hi Sally. I will snap a picture as soon as I get it all made and hung up. I feel like the start of school is coming too soon for me to get all these great new ideas ready that I’ve been reading about on your site. I want to try them all!!!! ? You are very inspiring. Thank you!

  61. Gina Burkhalter says:

    This is such a great system for positive discipline. I work with 3 and 4 year olds and most are just learning to follow classroom rules. These ideas allow me discipline while giving the children an incentive to do what is safe and best for the whole group. Thank you for sharing all the great suggestions.

  62. Prema Daniel says:

    Such a wonderful idea. Our classroom have a large number of children here in India, and this innovative way can definitely help teachers to self regulate children’s behaviour in the classroon

  63. Elizabeth says:

    Do you think it would work in a after school program? The children are from first grade to fifth grade.

    • Sally says:

      That is good question. I wonder about the older children – 3rd grade and up. I have only used it with the younger grades.

    • hayley says:

      I am currently putting a system in light the safe keeper system I my after school club. I am hoping this will be enable me to control there negative behaviour I am doing it with 3 – 11 years olds.

  64. Elizabeth says:


  65. hayley says:

    When was this article written? , as I would like to use this within my university research task.

    • Sally says:

      January 2011

  66. Supriya says:

    Love this idea of talking and using the 5 skills. Definitely going to use for my class.
    Thank you Sally.

  67. Celeste says:

    Great system! Has anyone modified it for 8-10 year olds?

  68. mp3juice says:

    Thanks for the marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you may be a great author.I
    will be sure to bookmark your blog and may come
    back in the foreseeable future. I want to encourage continue your great writing, have a nice day!

    • Sally says:

      You are too kind. It’s easy to write about things I am passionate about. I would love to have you read my blogs, this is why I do it!

  69. Noel says:

    I remembered that card method. I hated all of my teachers who did this method as I thought they were all stupid. A lot of my teachers made me turn my green card to a yellow card just because I asked to go to the bathroom. Every time I asked to go to the bathroom they would make me flip a card. I swear ever since then I wanted to slap all of my teachers who did this method.

    Apparently they wanted to justify flipping the card to go to the bathroom because in middle school and high school students had to sit longer which was complete bs. In middle school I had teachers that allowed us to go to the bathroom every time we asked and not only that class time was only 45 minutes. We would get 6 minutes of free period to run to our next class which also gave us time to run to the bathroom, where as In elementary school you had to sit for longer hours.

    • Sally says:

      Wow, I am sure that was difficult. I hope to encourage students to have ownership in behavior and be able to gauge themselves. I also love redemption. Don’t we all deserve “do overs”? I know I do!

  70. Denise B says:

    I cannot get to the order screen….

    • Sally says:

      Hi Denise! I have been working like crazy to get it updated! I removed the sale button and will have a really exciting offer when it’s ready. Keep your eyes peeled!

  71. Amanda says:


    I am going to be a first year kindergarten teacher and I was looking for a classroom management strategy that helps the students learn and think about their actions and happened to find your wonderful strategy. I would love to incorporate this in my classroom. I see that it is unavailable to purchase, so I am wondering when it will be available. I begin school September 6th. I am really hoping it is going to be available within the next week!

    Thank you for such a wonderful classroom management strategy!!!

    • Sally says:

      The new and FREE Safe Pocket System will be out later this week!

      • Amanda says:

        will it be available on this page?

        • Sally says:

          Yes! I am loading into the membership site as a freebie this weekend. There will be lots of additional free lesson plans and more coming to support this system.

          • Amanda says:

            Awesome! Can’t wait!

          • Amanda says:

            Did I miss the upload of the new safety pocket system?

  72. Mary says:

    How can I find out more about your calendar system.. I can’t seem to find it anywhere…
    I would like to try your behavior system also and wonder if anyone has an idea of using it with a superhero theme?!

    • Sally says:

      What a fun idea! Let us know how it turns out!

  73. Annelise Dent says:

    I absolutely love this idea. Having tried the Zones of Regulation (Canada), you quickly realize that the children aren’t learning to change their behaviour. I think this will be much more effective – more along the lines of bucket-filling, which I also use as a character building skill. I look forward to implementing this when I return to work.

    • Sally says:

      Yes! Bucket Filling, love it! I like that children have a chance of redemption, don’t you?

  74. Carrie says:

    I also agree – it doesn’t work. It’s like highlighting the negative. In my classroom I have two classroom rules – 1) Kindness counts – we do a lot of work around language, what kindness looks like, feels like etc… when a child does a kindness we always point it out and thank them following through with why it was kind and how it made us feel. The second rule it 2) grow your brain – how do we do that? In a number of ways – we get a good sleep, drink lots of water, eat good healthy food, play with different friends throughout our day (if we only played with one our brain would only learn how to interact with that one friend), and play with different toys/areas (again, if all you did was puzzles, that would be how your brain grows) – This has created a miraculous change in my room – no longer do I nag or separate – the children often just need a bit of prompting to reflect – What have you done today to grow your brain? Self-regulation.

    • Sally says:

      Oh, I how positive and inclusive your rules are! They encourage the children to think and think how their decisions and actions impact them and those around them. Love!

  75. AJ says:

    This sounds awesome. I am currently using the colored system and last year it did not go over very well, so I have been searching for something new this year. I was reading through the comments and see that someone was told it was going to be up this weekend? Will this be the case? I start school on Tuesday and would love to be able to put it to use with the posters and everything that is offered with this system.


    • Sally says:

      It will go out to subscribers tomorrow! Watch your inbox!

  76. Karen Booth says:

    Love it Sally – I look forward to getting the pack when you post it – how long will that be do you think?

    • Sally says:

      It is ready – I just need to get it up and on the site!! Coming soon!

  77. Beth says:

    Behavior management is always the top concern for both educators and parents. Your system seems to provide children with more positive feedback and learning. Several years ago I attended an ECE conference and sat in on a workshop about emotional intelligence in young children.The concept was simple: teach children to identify emotions and manage them appropriately. I immediately implemented the ideas into my classroom and after a couple of months the negative behaviors just seemed to melt away. The children were more articulate, calm, and empathetic. Since then I have seen several systems for managing behavior by teaching emotional literacy, but the one I found to be the best was Pocket Full of Feelings. If you are interested in checking it out here is the website:

  78. 0AchFrNet says:

    Achat Propecia en ligne

  79. MICKEY says:

    Hello. I come from Asia, and this is my first time to know the RED LIGHT SYSTEM. Is it popular in kindergarten of America. Your new kangroo system is better than the red light system because children could redeem themselves. But, the two systems are in the same. They do not engourage children but punishment.
    As you say, each child is good in the morning. Once they misbehavior, you will put away one kangroo. Your theory address that children are bad and they will centainly behave bad and thay are not encouraged in the moring.
    In my idea, you could set some standards , if children bahave good , you could provide some benefits; If they behave bad, you could punish them. Is it good? Belive children and encourage them.

  80. Karen says:

    Hi I just read your post about the safe pockets behavior management and I am very intrigued. Would you have any suggestions for using this in a special education preschool? Thanks

    • Sally says:

      I believe this could work quite well in a special education classroom. Introduce the concept slowly and possibly incorporate it throughout the day as the students learn more. Let us know how it works for you! We would love to hear your hints and tips!

  81. jeanette says:

    Hi Sally,

    I just wanted to say thank you for all of your fantastic ideas and resources! I am so excited to use your Safe Pockets behaviour management system. Thank you again.

    • Sally says:

      You are so welcome!

  82. Ameena Saleem says:

    Hi Sally
    Amazing loved it, thanks for sharing

  83. Missy Brown says:

    Isn’t it amazing what happens when we focus on strengths instead of weaknesses? Great post, can’t wait to share with the programs that I work with. Many of them use a system like you used to.


  1. […] consider a model like the one Sally Haughey, over at Fairy Dust Teaching, suggests: No More Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light Behavior Management Plan! I love Sally’s emphasis on safety and care, rather than compliance and shame, and that the […]

  2. […] primary idea from Sally over at Fairy Dust Teaching in her post about ridding the classroom of the traffic light behavior management system.  She shares that while the traffic light system, (one that I have used before), is one of the […]

  3. […] unsure of what I should do. I could either try and sleep it off, or break the rules and risk a “red light” by going to pee- a predicament not suited for a three year olds judgment. I decided it was time […]

  4. […] Sally Haughey mentions on the Bam Radio interview her Safe Pockets behavior management system as an alternative approach. I haven’t read through the material but perhaps you would like to check it out. You can view an Overview of Safe Pockets here. […]

  5. […] Sally Haughey mentions on the Bam Radio interview her Safe Pockets behavior management system as an alternative approach. I haven’t read through the material but perhaps you would like to check it out. You can view an Overview of Safe Pockets here. […]

  6. […] Sally Haughey mentions on the Bam Radio interview her Safe Pockets behavior management system as an alternative approach. I haven’t read through the material but perhaps you would like to check it out. You can view an Overview of Safe Pockets here. […]

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