Why Positive Reinforcement Produces Better Results

Why Positive Reinforcement Produces Better Results

When it comes to teaching kids, it can be hard to know how to best tell them they are right or wrong. What if I upset them? Can I praise too much? What if I’m not firm enough? 

One thing is clear. Humans respond well to approval. We thrive on it. So, when we see children making the correct decisions or carrying out an action in a great way, giving them positive feedback can come naturally. So, how do we approach incorrect or undesirable behaviour? If positive behaviour deserves positive feedback, does negative behaviour deserve negative ramifications?


If your child does something they shouldn’t, it is easy to launch into telling them they are wrong. But positive reinforcement can be beneficial when both encouraging and discouraging certain behaviours. At Chatterbox, our speech therapy team employs positive reinforcement techniques and can help you do so, too.


Keeping Reinforcement Positive For Learning 

Discipline and guidance can target children’s traits, interests, and strengths. Using positive reinforcement can empower children and encourage them to repeat or improve the choice, action, or behaviour that led to the praise. It can also promote independence and confidence, rather than decreasing their willingness to give something a go by providing criticism. 


If children are simply told they have done something incorrectly or differently to what was expected, they might lose their self-confidence and passion for what they were trying to do. Discipline runs the risk of squashing new ideas and preventing growth. For example, rather than saying, “Don’t crush up the chalk. That’s not what it’s for and you’re wasting it”, you could say, “I like how you’re being creative and finding different ways to make patterns with the chalk. Is there a way we can stop it from blowing away?” 

The emotions attached to failure can be hard to bear. However, if children receive positive feedback for something that is incorrect, they are more likely to accept what happened and be driven to improve themselves next time. For example, if your feedback regarding their assignment draft is, “You didn’t explain it well”, they might not want to try again, and they don’t learn. They may feel more encouraged if you say, “Your thoughts about reading are interesting. It would be good to know about what type of books are good for people your age and how they can access them. Keep trying.” 

Many of us were brought up receiving praise for good behaviour and negative reproaches for bad behaviour. Now that research has led to the advice that positive reinforcement for both is better, it can take us a time to change our own habits. Don’t be too hard on yourself as you learn and adjust. In fact, use positive reinforcement! 


How To Provide Positive Reinforcement 

Effective positive reinforcement often involves complementing the action, decision, or behaviour, rather than complementing the person. Research shows that being positive about the effort rather than a trait encourages self-efficacy and a desire to grow.  

When we provide praise, we connect a reward to the good behaviour. By this, we don’t mean giving a chocolate every time a child writes a grammatically correct story! The reward depends on the situation, the behaviour, and the goal.


Tangible Rewards 

Receiving a chocolate can be effective in the short-term to motivate and inspire. Try to place focus more on the achievement than the reward and to not use it as the ultimate reason and goal for the action or decision.


Social Reinforcers 

Feeling appreciated, admired, and accepted are strong motivators, so positive feedback in the form of praise, affirmations, and encouragement provided by others can be highly productive.


Natural Reinforcers 

When a child does something well and can see the achievement, they receive positive reinforcement naturally. For example, they feel self-satisfaction when they complete their tricky word puzzle. Natural reinforcers motivate children to repeat a behaviour or decision and support agency, confidence, and self-esteem, so they are often the most effective type of reward.


Token Reinforcers 

A reward system built on the visual representation of progress and effort can be fun and beneficial and one that many children respond well to. For example, star stickers can accumulate on a chart throughout the week to demonstrate good behaviour and be traded to receive something meaningful, such as a visit to their favourite park.


Positive Reinforcement And Speech Therapy 

Part of being human is getting things wrong so that we can learn from the experience and get closer to getting them right next time. We want to foster children’s desire and motivation to put effort in rather than deter them with negative feedback about how they failed. It can be hard to watch your child struggle or behave inappropriately but helping them find the emotional and mental courage to keep trying by letting them know they are valued and supported is powerful. 

At Chatterbox, we use positive reinforcement in several ways and settings to promote learning and provide a safe and reassuring environment. We can work with your child to develop and facilitate strategies and learning techniques if they are having trouble with speech, literacy, or certain behaviours. Please contact us with questions or to make an appointment to see one of our friendly and experienced paediatric speech pathologists.