Types of Reinforcement

Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is being used in a mathematical sense in which something is being added or presented (praise or treat) following a behavior which increases the probability of the child engaging in the behavior in the future. Whereas in Negative reinforcement something is being subtracted or taken away (toys, tv, movie) following a behavior and as a result, increases the future likelihood of the behavior. Therefore, positive and negative reinforcement will both increase the probability of a behavior because the behavior is being reinforced.

However, several factors influence the effectiveness of reinforcement – Immediacy and Contingency. For consequence to be effective as a reinforcer (treat or praise), it should be delivered immediately the behavior occurs and must be contingent on the behavior.  That is, it must be delivered only if the behavior occurs.

It also requires a change of habit on the part of the parent as much as it is intended to change the behavior of the child. Some parents will have to learn not only to praise as against criticize but also to praise well. This may not feel natural at first because for some of us,  the natural tendency to correct and fix behavior problems was embedded in our upbringing thus difficult to remove (well-intended though) but over-reliance on this approach deprives us of the many opportunities to recognize the potentials in our children.

Positive and Negative Reinforcement if followed consistently, allows parents to understand their child’s strength, personality traits, interests, and ultimately give parents an opportunity to connect, communicate more effectively with them which in turn empower them to be more of themselves.