In the light of a series of violent crimes perpetrated by teenagers recently in the U.S.A., the game PaxGBD, true to its name Pax, which means peace, gives the public hope that this tendency for criminal behavior can be neutralized if the disruptive or negative behavior is curbed during childhood. PaxGBG (Good Behavior Game), a simple team-based game that rewards children with privileges for “being active and expressive at given times” was found to promote self-regulation and focus while reducing hyperactivity and delinquent behavior. Researchers at the University of Georgia and Pennsylvania State University studied children from kindergarten to fifth grade, in 72 community based after-school programs in the rural, urban, and suburban areas and found that the game reinforced good behavior, raised EQ, and encouraged productive use of their time.
PaxGBG is a “behavioral vaccine” for hyperactivity and problem behavior. –
Dennis Embry, game developer
Researchers focused on after school hours because most of these children often came from single-parent or dual-income families, and lacked adequate, sustained, and genuinely caring adult supervision in the home. Left to their own devices for amusement, these children become prone to socially unacceptable behavior including delinquent behavior, early drug use, and gang involvement. Going beyond the boundaries of the school, for which the game was originally designed, it was observed that children who were on PaxGBG programs acted out less, developed less mental health problems, and coped with living problems better in adulthood. Initially, tasks took 1-30 minutes and lasted up to two hours as kids adjusted to the game. In time, they learned when to engage, when to support or encourage each other, and when to calm down. In a sense, it allowed them to focus on goals and provide peer-support, pretty much like in the real world.
Playing PaxGBH game dramatically reduced disruptive behavior and has been rolled-out with similar success in Ohio, Seattle, Winnipeg, Alberta, and other areas. It has also been widely used in the classroom setting, especially in Seattle. In Syracuse, New York it engages children for long hours and teaches children to self-regulate in and out of the classroom. In fact, the Alberta Ministry of Health is using this game alongside the Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) to “protect children from lifetime mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders”.
The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Union County in Ohio reports that because of increased self-regulation as a result of playing the game, the following are achieved:
- more nurturing environments
- increased academic performance and
- improved long-term outcomes. Note that these seem to be universal findings.
This particular county in Marysville, Ohio implemented PaxGBG for over 30 years and found startling results; a wake-up call for schools that dismiss low-tech and simple tools for learning and behavior modification. The PAX classrooms had:
- extra classroom hours (60 – 90 minutes more)
- 75% drop in disruptions
- 60% drop in discipline referrals
- 20-30% drop in identification for special education. It would have been great to compare standardized scores and a long-term tendency for substance dependencies as well as violence among comparative schools that use and don’t use PaxGBG. At the end of the day, schools and after-school programs should consider adapting PaxGBG to promote “peace, productivity, health, and happiness.