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The Cookie Jar Checklist

Freelance trainer and consultant Mark Goodwin has put forward this really useful checklist of how to go about building and maintaining effective relationships with young people to help them learn well.

A guest blog as part of our INSET Junction project.


  1. Show that you BELIEVE in them, however they show up, even if you are the only one who does. Speak and act in ways that show the extent of your belief. Regularly refer to their POTENTIAL.
  2. Be real about the CHALLENGES of life and the universality of those challenges, but talk honestly, encouragingly and openly about overcoming any challenge. Things will change and other people (just like them) have done it. Optimism and hope help to create a more positive future – help them to VISUALISE this future.
  3. Use a COOKIE JAR. Remind them of when they have done things well before and how much better it feels when things are going well. ‘See the best part’ and ‘Catch them being good’.
  4. Check your own EMOTIONS and MINDSET (speak from a mindset of possibility, growth, improvement and positivity). RESPOND rather than react. Give them time and space to do the same.
  5. BE PRESENT, speak less, judge less and listen. Ask questions. Offer SOLUTIONS, give CHOICES and positive ways forward. Break it down into micro steps, the next minute if necessary.
  6. Be interested in the CONTEXT of their lives and their experience. Show empathy. Understand their needs.
  7. Avoid the language of power, control and coercion. Use the language of POTENTIAL, RESPONSIBILITY and RELATIONSHIPS. Be generous with final warnings and last chances. Be even more generous with fresh starts and clean slates.
  8. Find their PASSION, MEANING & PURPOSE… build connections to school, learning and themselves around these.
  9. If you’re not happy with work or behaviour have a quiet word – talk about CONSEQUENCES but do it with grace and understanding and protect the dignity of both of you.
  10. Talk honestly about the difficulties of CHANGE, how we all have massive in-built resistance to changing but that it can happen, it just needs an alternative set of beliefs and to take that vital first small step….

And remember, most kids have heard every threat and plenty have had them carried out – if they worked, you wouldn’t be reading this.

Mark Goodwin is an independent trainer and CPD provider specialising in behaviour and well-being. You can contact him on for a pdf copy of this list.

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