Are you practicing positive reinforcement? Do you even realize when you do? What is positive reinforcement?

Humans have a tendency to place their fears on those they love without meaning to by pointing out and focusing on negative behaviors. Some of the things we say to our children out of love, are often things that can be detrimental to their future behavior. When we see a small child climbing on something, we often will say something like, “Don’t climb up there, you will fall!” It’s an automatic response to our own fears of our children falling and getting hurt.

Positive reinforcement in an instance such as a small child climbing on something would be to instill safety without fear. Saying something like, “Wow,  you did so great climbing that! Next time you want to climb something, please make sure I’m there to watch you, I don’t want to miss it!” You’re praising the child’s agility, yet imparting how important it is for you to be there in a positive manner, which will still allow the child to explore the boundaries of their agility without instilling the fear of falling. Later, as the child grows, you can further introduce the safety of climbing with a buddy or spotter. You never know, the child may become a first class mountain climber in the future.

The picture above showing a little boy drawing on the wall could really push a parent’s buttons, right? My nephew is a very talented artist. When he was four years old, his mother came in to find him drawing on one of her fancy, new couch pillows. Her initial reaction was anger until she saw that he’d drawn nearly a perfect replica of Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage. She then realized she did not want to inhibit his talent and took a moment to rearrange her emotions. Instead of berating her son for drawing on her new pillow, she told him what a beautiful drawing he’d done and took him shopping for drawing materials, explaining to her son that drawing on something more suited to his artistic aptitude was much better than drawing on the furniture. The positive reinforcement assured my nephew of his wonderful talent and because he was rewarded for his talent and then given a “better” alternative to drawing on the furniture, he never marked up the furniture again.

Even as adults, we still need the power of positive reinforcement. I was pleasantly surprised the other day when a perfect stranger came up to me in the store and told me how impressed she was at how I placated my 3 year old grandson out of having a total melt-down. I did not give in to him by any means, but I did give him options as to how he could calmly get what he wanted by using good behavior rather than bad behavior. Once he exhibited the good behavior, I rewarded him.

People are so quick to point out negative, especially strangers watching from the sidelines. The fact that this young woman had the presence to tell me what a good job I did with a screaming toddler in not only keeping my calm, but helping him with his, was very refreshing. Do not be fooled, I certainly had the quick thought of flipping my grandson over my knee, but I have learned that the positive reinforcement lasts much longer and promotes better behavior.

An article in the Very Well Mind by Kendra Cherry explains the power of positive reinforcement by operant conditioning in an easy to understand manner. The explanation of the types of reinforcers, like “Natural”, “Token”, “Social”, and “Tangible reinforcers” is simple and easy to comprehend. It’s a short and simple article that is well worth the read.

I hope this helps you understand and take immediate actions to help yourself be more positive in your relationships.

My love to you all!