Do you punish your child to teach them a lesson? Positive & Negative Reinforcement


Parents frequently employ both reinforcement and punishment to change their children's behavior or to aid in the development of developmental skills such as sensory processing and fine motor skills. Both negative and positive reinforcement have the same goal of increasing the rate of a given activity, although they have some distinctions and similarities.



When you introduce someone to the concept of "reinforcement," they are encouraged or inspired to repeat a behavior, which is either:


  • To keep any undesirable stimuli at bay.

  • To be rewarded or to receive the desired reinforcer.


Differences Between Positive and Negative Reinforcement

  • Positive reinforcement is an operant conditioning notion in which a favorable reinforcer is presented to encourage a person to repeat a behavior.


  • Negative reinforcement is an operant conditioning notion in which certain reinforcers are shown, and the person's behavior is increased in order to avoid the reinforcers. Operant conditioning is a type of associative learning in which the strength of the behavior is modified by reinforcement or punishment.



Examples of Negative Reinforcement


To keep you from nagging at them, your kid washes the dishes (behavior) (aversive stimulus).


After two more bites of veggies, your daughter can be excused from the table (aversive stimuli) (behavior).


Negative and positive punishment, like reinforcement, refer to eliminating or adding an element in order to get the desired effects. They make no mention of the severity or quality of the punishment.



Example of Positive Reinforcement


  • You compliment your child on their handwriting practice (reinforcing stimulus) (behavior).

  • For each "A" on their report card, your child earns money (reinforcing stimulus) (behavior).






Both punishment and reinforcement have the ability to change behavior. The distinction between the two is that punishment is intended to lessen behavior while reinforcement is used to encourage it. However, these meanings are not the same as how we use them in everyday life. In most cases, the term "reinforce" refers to "emphasize," whereas "punish" refers to "harm."



Because punishment has negative side effects in the classic sense (i.e. presenting unpleasant stimulus), you should definitely err on the side of good parenting or positive reinforcement. You don't want to abuse positive reinforcement, either, because too much of a good thing can have a negative effect.




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