Everything You Need to Know About Positive Reinforcement for Children

Positive reinforcement is the act of using praise or rewards to acknowledge something good your child does, as opposed to shining a negative light on his or her faults or actions. Both rewards and verbal praise are valuable forms of positive reinforcement which can improve your child’s self-esteem and help him or her become a productive member of society. A recent British study indicated that frequent praise on a daily basis can motivate children in positive ways. However, some types of praise are more beneficial than others. If you intend to use positive reinforcement to help your child grow and develop properly, then you must understand the process of positive reinforcement fully and implement it properly. Otherwise, your efforts may inadvertently produce the opposite result. Below is a list of things you need to know about positive reinforcement, including types of rewards for good behavior and which reward and praise systems work best to help children grow and learn.

The Effects of Positive Reinforcement for Children Versus Negative Reinforcement

Typical forms of negative reinforcement you may choose to use on your child include scolding, nagging and grounding. There may be times when you feel such tactics are necessary, but use them sparingly. Multiple studies have shown that recognizing poor behaviors more than good behaviors in your child may cause him or her to associate misbehaving with gaining attention from you. He or she may then view gaining your attention for doing something wrong as a reward, causing misbehavior to occur more often.

Positive reinforcement is typically a better way to gain the trust and respect of your child. While you are providing positive reinforcement, you will also make him or her feel better about accomplishments, which can boost self-esteem. Your child will gain confidence in his or her abilities and learn to be more independent when it comes to performing certain tasks. When you praise the accomplishments of your child, you are also likely to make him or her want to please you more, which, depending on your child’s age, may lead to more studying or occasionally completing chores without being asked or reminded. These factors contribute to making positive reinforcement a vital tool which you must use on a daily basis to build self-esteem and independent traits in your child.

Forms of Positive Reinforcement for Children

Positive reinforcement for children comes in many forms. For example, you may choose to use verbal reinforcement to show your child you are proud of him or her. If your child cleans his or her room, you can praise him or her verbally for doing so. However, in order for the reinforcement to be effective you must be specific about the action you are acknowledging rather than just telling him or her something generic, such as “Good job.” Giving your child specific praise will let him or her know you are paying attention to the good things he or she is doing, rather than paying attention only when something is done wrong. Specific praise is also important because your child needs to know the exact action for which he or she is being praised.

Another form of positive reinforcement you may choose to use to reward your child is the use of a physical reward. A physical reward may be a social interaction, such as a high five, hug or pat on the back. You may also choose to employ the use of physical rewards in the form of objects your child wants. For example, if your child is young he or she may respond well to stickers. If he or she is older, more individualized rewards based on his personality or hobbies may be required. Physical positive reinforcement can also be accomplished using point-based reward systems which will allow your child to earn larger rewards after he or she performs a certain number of chores as well. A chart with a point system may also help your child to track and take pride in his or her progress.

Identifying the Goals You Wish to Establish by Using Positive Reinforcement

Identifying the goal you wish to accomplish with your positive reinforcement will help you to choose which type or types of reinforcement to use. For example, giving your child a physical reward like a baseball card for performing a chore will motivate him or her to complete the chore at the present time. Additionally, combining a physical reward with verbal praise may show him or her that performing certain chores can help to gain your praise and respect or the praise and respect of others on a regular basis. In turn, he or she may become more self-motivated in the future rather than relying on receiving physical rewards in exchange for doing tasks.

Know the Difference Between Positive Reinforcement for Children and Bribery

When you are attempting to implement positive reinforcement with your child, you must understand a key difference between positive reinforcement and bribery. Bribery is bargaining with your child or promising him or her a large payoff for a comparatively small activity. The act of bribery may also involve giving your child what he or she wants before the desired action is completed. Positive reinforcement is praising or rewarding good behavior he or she has already completed in a way that is appropriate for the respective accomplishment. If you bribe your child on a regular basis, he or she may stop performing certain positive actions until a disproportionate reward is offered.