Modifying a child’s behavior can be challenging for parents and teachers as techniques used at child care can differ from those used at home. Children model what they see and respond to adult’s conscious and subconscious teachings. Reinforcement techniques are often applied without intention, resulting in consistent behavior that can be considered deviant.
We all make use of reinforcement every day, whether it is at work to encourage a new employee or to teach the family pet a new trick. Being aware of reinforcement techniques and consciously applying the correct one can help parents and teachers guide children through behavior modification. Here we take a look at what positive and negative reinforcement is and the impact each of these has on early childhood development.
What Are Reinforcement Techniques?
To ‘reinforce’ means to strengthen. When used as a behavior modification technique it teaches children that a particular set of behavior will bring about a requisite response. It works because it teaches patterned behavior, increasing the likelihood of prosocial behavior repeating itself and discouraging future misbehavior. The outcome depends on what has been modeled, repeated and reinforced to the child.
What Is Positive Reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement works by adding a positive stimulus, like a reward, to enhance a set of behavior. As technical as it sounds, adults experience it every day and the concept can easily be taught to children. Adding a positive experience to reward specific behavior and encourage its repeat in the future creates a pattern.
With consistency and repeating the reinforcement, a pattern develops and children become accustomed to behaving a certain way. Practical ways of practicing positive reinforcement are:
- Giving your child a high five when they complete a chore.
- Clapping and cheering when the child completes a task they have struggled with in the past.
- Praising your child in the presence of another adult for good behavior.
What Is Negative Reinforcement?
Negative reinforcement works by removing a certain stimulus to encourage positive behavior. This removes consequences associated with misbehavior and increases the chances of positive behavior occurring in future. Unlike punishment, negative reinforcement increases behavior while punishment takes away behavior. Examples of negative reinforcement are:
- A child doing the dishes to stop their parent from nagging.
- Allowing a child to leave the dinner table after eating some of their vegetables.
Which Reinforcement Technique Is Best?
Both positive and negative reinforcement can serve a purpose, but finding a balance in applying the technique is essential to ensure consistency and the successful modification of a child’s behavior. Considering the benefits of positive reinforcement, adding stimulus can be better than negative reinforcement, because who does not like to receive a reward or praise?
The Benefits Of Positive Reinforcement
Children learn that they will not always do everything correctly, but are taught to be proud of their accomplishments.
Teaching children the value of hard work and the rewards that come with it can teach them principles that can help them into adulthood.
Positive affirmations can result in changes in brain chemistry and can have a greater long-term impact than behavior encouraged by fear or anxiety.
At Parkland Children’s Academy, we make use of positive reinforcement such as sticker charts to encourage good behavior. The sticker chart acts as a reward for tasks completed such as brushing teeth or completing basic chores. We encourage parents to reward their children for positive behavior as it reinforces the techniques and behavior encouraged at school. It is our belief that early childhood development includes emotional as well as cognitive skills and our preschool curriculum includes outcomes that encourage this. Contact us today to find out more about our facilities!