Positive Reinforcement

What do you know about praise?  How many types do you think there might be? How many do you think you use in your interactions with children? Are you looking for new or better ways to motivate?  Do you ever wonder if there’s such a thing as too much praise? 

This part 1 is going to focus just on one type of positive reinforcement that’s really familiar: praise!

You can think of praise as happening in two ways: verbal praise and non-verbal praise!

Verbal praise is when you tell a child directly they did a good job at doing something. This is the most common, easiest way for adults to let children know they’re doing exactly what they should be or that they are getting closer and closer to some sort of amazing end result.

verbal praise
verbal praise examples

If you don’t know what you’re doing a great job of, was that praise effective? Not really!

Young children learn best with clear, explicit expectations. Adding what a child did that was great, will help ensure they do it again in the future!

If you catch yourself just saying “good job” all the time, try to get specific whenever you can!

You might just start to see it work better!!

non-verbal praise

The easiest way to vary your praise when trying to reinforce behaviors you want to continue seeing is by not saying anything at all!

Don’t they say we communicate like 80% of what we mean through non-verbal body language? Well praise isn’t any different!

Use these regularly and you should start to notice children look at you more and don’t tune out that typical “good job”

I didn’t realize how much I winked at my kindergartners until one winked back one day!!

Positive reinforcement should not only be praise. Here are 6 ways to provide attention to reinforce a desired behavior that don’t involve praise!

Sometimes verbal or nonverbal social praise is not enough to motivate behavior change.

If you’re looking for a little more incentive to get a child to make a bigger shift in their behavior it might be time to think about bigger, more tangible rewards.

Children can work to earn these over a few days if that’s developmentally appropriate for them.

You may know exactly what their favorite thing is or you may be able to interview them to find out.

I once realized a child didn’t want to earn extra time playing at her favorite place, or even extra time playing with her best friend! What she wanted most was me!

So setting aside some private lunch dates with her was so much more effective than giving her stickers or extra choice time.

It’s very natural to provide reinforcement and not give it much thought. We recommend you take a moment to be a bit more intentional in your delivery of praise and rewards.

Think about the contexts in which you are already delivering it, and perhaps ones you may be missing.

This is a list of when we DO recommend you provide reinforcement.

Additionally, sometimes parents and educators worry about overpraising children and inflating their egos or creating other negative side effects. This list can also be helpful if you’re trying to be more selective about when you deliver it so it isn’t all the time and it remains effective.

Check back in next week for all the Do’s and Dont’s on how to be mindful when delivering your verbal praise!

Have you noticed any of this with the children in your lives?

What other negative side effects do you think result in mindless verbal praise?

This may make behavior analysts do a double take! How might you capture these ideas in less mentalistic terms and instead use more technical language? 

Some HUGE tips to improve your praise game!