Positive Reinforcement

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Lifelong Benefits of Positive Reinforcement on our Children

In my many years of teaching, I have encountered numerous children with behaviour challenges. I have notice a pattern of negative reinforcement by both parents and teachers in their attempt to stop behaviours that are detrimental to their academic results.

Let’s first look at how human nature reacts to negative and positive stimuli:

  • All of us, both children and adults, want to avoid negative stimuli such as canings, getting yelled at by the boss, or disapproving looks.
  • All of us, both children and adults, want to receive positive stimuli such as hugs, compliments by the boss, or approving looks.

In the absence of any prolonged stimuli, most children (and even adults) will attempt to attract attention by creating responses which provokes the negative stimuli from the parents and teachers (and for adults, their bosses).

Why do children attract attention by being ‘naughty’? Well, most of us DON’T believe in rewarding expected behaviours. For instance, when our children behave in socially accepted manners, we believe that is EXPECTED. When they do well for their tests, that is EXPECTED. Thus, what do you think a child will do when he/she feels a need for attention? Do well on a test? No, because it is expected of them to do so. There will probably be no positive stimuli though he/she does well. Soon, it becomes a cycle of negative stimuli and poor behaviour between the child and the parents.

Let me give you an example.

Tom gets an A on his test. His parents praise him and thinks that it is EXPECTED. However, for this next test, he got a D. His parents thinks that he did not put in his best effort. For the next test, he got another D. This time, he was harshly reprimanded. Tom gets yet another D and his parents take away his smartphone as they believe he must have played too much. Tom stops trying hard altogether. He resorts to acting out to get attention in class and at home. Over time, his poor behaviour escalates to get the same amount of attention. His parents finally scheduled a meeting to find out why Tom gets into trouble in class. At home, they equally have problem disciplining him.

The following is another pair of parents who have taken time to understand positive parenting techniques and the importance of consistent positive reinforcement.

Samantha gets a D on her test. A compliment is followed by constructive questions. Samantha changes her study habits. Samantha still gets a D for her next test. Her parents stayed by her and taught her in constructive ways what she could improve on. Her parents even scheduled a meeting with Samantha’s teacher. The teacher works with Samantha. Samantha will probably do better in her next test.

Regardless of the results, Samantha still has support from her parents and teachers, and is not alone, which is very important for her continual positive attitude towards academic work and life.

Let’s carry both these scenarios into adulthood…

Using mainly Negative Stimuli

Tom graduated from the polytechnic with Bs and Cs. He’s working at a company and is a hard worker. He does what he’s told at work because he doesn’t want to get into trouble. He shows up to work regularly and has had a few promotions.

Using mainly Positive Reinforcement

Samantha graduated from the polytechnic with As and Bs. She started out as a junior executive in a local firm. Samantha knew she could do better than that. She worked hard employing the same positive reinforcement techniques her parents had used with her to improve her self-confidence. The customers, co-workers, and the company’s senior management staff appreciated her positive attitude and hard work. Samantha asked questions and was not afraid to try or suggest new ways of performing daily tasks at work. She is now the manager of the firm’s new outlet with a very busy schedule as she is taking courses to further improve herself in the evenings.

Conclusion

Though the above two characters are fictional, the results are not. The main building blocks for both leadership and innovation is self-confidence and a fearless mindset to achieve tasks even in the face of temporary lack of achievement. It is only with consistent positive reinforcement that a child develops self-confidence to persevere and to develop and initiate creative ideas.

Do you want your child to want to do the right thing or be afraid to do the wrong thing?

What we do

We emphasis the importance of positive reinforcement to develop self-confidence, perseverance, and determination to overcome challenges through a series of hands-on as well as pen-and-paper activities.

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