3 Ways to Give Positive Reinforcement

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Are we predisposed to love? Do we all love in the same way? Is love genetic? 

These are the questions people have been asking for generations when it comes to parenting and teaching children. 

Parents and teachers have different ways of responding to their children’s positive and negative behaviors. They usually acknowledge positive behaviors by saying things such as “Good job,” or “Well done on your test.” Psychologists call this positive reinforcement, which they claim helps shape and change behavior by presenting a reward (vocal or material) that motivates the child to display that behavior again. 

In this blog, we will uncover the difference between positive and negative reinforcement and how to best motivate your children by delivering meaningful positive feedback in a way that exhibits the human need for love.

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Positive Versus Negative Reinforcements

“Don’t yell,” “Stop hitting,” and “Leave me alone” are examples of negative reinforcement because after hearing such statements, the child modifies his or her behavior to avoid them. 

Both reactions differ from punishment, which is either a change in the environment (today, “time out” is in vogue) or a consequence (such as not allowing the child a treat due to unfinished homework). 

Parents use positive and negative reinforcements, as well as punishments. So do teachers, who hold that these enable students to better adapt to their classroom environment by learning which behaviors are and are not desired.

Positive Reinforcement Motivates Children

As a mental health occupational therapist, Miriam Manela Frankel's experience has proven that positive reinforcements better encourage and motivate a child toward desired behaviors. Acknowledging even small acts or behaviors with just a nod of approval and a smile elicits unexpected cooperation. 

These simple tips will help you  give children the positive reinforcement they need in order to flourish. 

3 Ways to Give Positive Reinforcement
  1. Notice – Make short comments to the child, delivered with a smile, even when he or she is not doing something particularly positive or negative, such as, “I see you’re playing Legos,” or “I see that you are wearing a different belt.”

    Children thrive on being noticed, so don’t wait for them to demand attention by behaving inappropriately. Even the youngest among them realize that “the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” so they often vie for attention by doing something negative. Fulfill that need by noticing them, often, in a neutral manner.

  2. Touch – For those children who would appreciate it, touch them gently every hour. Others might only welcome touch infrequently.  No matter the need, instances of human touch are essential for children to flourish. This can be a pat on the shoulder, a quick rub on the back, a tousling of the hair, a hug, or a stroke on the cheek.

    Studies have proven that children deprived of human touch fail to thrive. So within the proper boundaries, of course, touch the children you care for.
  3. Specify – Identify a character trait you want to cultivate in your child and praise it. For instance, during mealtime, you might say, “It makes me happy when you eat neatly.” Or when he just got a new toy, you might say, “I love the way you are playing quietly.”

Learn How to Parent With Positive Reinforcement

When you create or recognize opportunities to offer positive reinforcement, the child will learn how good it feels when he or she displays those behaviors and will increase the frequency with which they occur. In short, the child will feel love through your parenting and teaching and want to repeat good behaviors. 

Children long for attention and will get it at any cost (even punishment) if it’s not given for positive behaviors, but most of all, they long for the love of their parents and the admiration and approval of their teachers. When adults utilize the three suggested interactions with children, everyone achieves their goal.

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