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Positive Reinforcement for Kids – Why It Matters?

positive reinforcement for kids

Positive reinforcement for kids has become a popular parenting technique in the last few years. The idea behind it is that kids are more likely to repeat behaviors or actions if they’re rewarded for them while they’re happening–rather than after they’ve happened.

There have been mixed reactions to this idea, both good and bad. But there are also many benefits to using positive reinforcement as a parent, including increased confidence in parenting skills and better relationships with the children you care for–no matter how old they are.

In this article, we will discover the topic of positive reinforcement for kids in more detail. We will also offer advice on how parents can use the technique to their best advantage while avoiding the common pitfalls.

What is Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is a parenting style that teaches children to repeat behaviors or actions by rewarding them while the action is happening. This contrasts with traditional punishment-based parenting styles, which punish kids after an action has happened (negative reinforcement) designed to discourage bad behavior from happening again.

While it sounds simple enough, positive reinforcement can be very effective in helping kids learn appropriate behaviors and actions. But using it effectively takes some work and commitment. 

Here at Baby Steps Daycare, we subscribe to the same approach. We reinforce positive behavior in our daycare setting. Our staff has trained very effectively in Positive Discipline, which is a system that helps children learn by following rules and guidelines.

Positive Reinforcements: Examples in Day-to-Day Life

parenting style

Let’s take a look at some examples of what positive reinforcement might look like in your own life.

Say you are trying to get your child to clean up her room. You might say things like, “Look how clean this is!” or “I’m so proud of you for getting this done so quickly.” Then, when she starts doing the same thing again, you might praise her for it or talk about how great her work was. These types of positive reinforcements encourage kids to follow through on the action you’re trying to teach them.

Here are the other examples of positive reinforcements in day-to-day life:

  • While trying to teach your child to say “Hello” politely, you might praise him for using the word.
  • You might point out what he is doing correctly when painting with watercolors.
  • While teaching your child how to count, give him small rewards for getting the correct number in a row or a multiple of 10.
  • Whenever your toddler uses the potty, he receives candy.

What are the Benefits?

Positive reinforcement is a useful parenting technique that helps to draw children’s attention and engagement with their environment and value personal responsibility for their actions. In addition, it can help improve the relationship between a parent and an individual child. Positive reinforcement can also help to motivate children to boost their confidence and learn new behaviors.

What Are the Pitfalls?

pitfalls of reinforcement

While positive reinforcement is an excellent tool for parents, it’s important to remember that it isn’t a magic bullet that solves all parenting issues. As with any parenting style, positive reinforcement will not work for every family or child. It just won’t be enough for some families, and other methods (such as removing negative reinforcements) are essential.

The biggest pitfall with positive reinforcement is a common one. Children who are overly reliant on rewards for good behavior can become overly dependent on positive reinforcement techniques. In these situations, it’s important that parents reinforce the right values and avoid spoiling their children.

It is important to recognize the pros and cons of using this technique. If used correctly and with moderation, positive reinforcement can be very helpful in developing a child’s self-confidence, self-esteem, and sense of control over their lives. But if you use it too much or for the wrong reasons, positive reinforcement can cause more damage than good. So use this technique in moderation. One way to effectively use it is by considering reinforcement schedules.

How Do Reinforcement Schedules Work?

No matter what kind of reward you use, it’s important to have a system to ensure that your child knows when they will receive it. Because positive reinforcement for kids is all about creating an environment where your little one can make a mistake without experiencing negative consequences, you need to be able to deliver the award or treat at the right time.

One way to do this is by using the reinforcement schedule. At first glance, reinforcement schedules might seem like a complicated concept, but they’re simple. Reinforcement schedules are essentially a way to determine when your child should receive positive reinforcement for good behavior.

There are two main types of reinforcement schedules: Continuous Reinforcement and Partial Reinforcement.

1. Continuous Reinforcement

The reward is delivered immediately or as soon as possible after a child exhibits the desired behavior. In other words, if you want your little one to learn that cleaning up their toys will be rewarded with a trip to the playground, you would deliver the reward whenever they cleaned up their toys. This schedule is suitable when teaching a new behavior to a child because it leads to immediate results by building a strong association between the behavior and response.

2. Partial Reinforcement

When using a partial reinforcement schedule, you deliver the reward after a certain number of responses or after a specific period of time. With this schedule, you need to decide how long you want to wait before offering praise or a treat for your child’s desired behavior. The children’s behaviors are reinforced at an interval that is either variable or fixed. The intervals increase the effectiveness of the reinforcers. . This schedule is most suitable when a behavior already exists. The following are the four kinds of partial schedules, according to different purposes and needs:

  • Fixed Ratio: A fixed ratio schedule is one where the reward is given out based on a specific rule, such as every three times your child displays the desired behavior. For example, if your child responds to every request, you reward them after three positive responses. This method is great for children with a strong attention span who respond quickly.
  • Variable Ratio: Good behavior is reinforced after a variable number of occurrences. For example, after the first response, the fourth response, and maybe after the sixth response. This schedule is ideal for kids who have a hard time maintaining their attention and focus, as the intervals are unpredictable.
  • Fixed Interval: With a fixed interval schedule, you wait a set amount of time before rewarding your child for their desired behavior, for example, after every alternate hour or a day or a week.
  • Variable Interval: With a variable interval schedule, you wait a random amount of time before rewarding your child for their desired behavior. For example, if the particular reward is scheduled to be delivered every hour, sometimes you might get it at thirty minutes, and sometimes you might have to wait sixty minutes or longer. 

How to Effectively Use Positive Reinforcement?

effective parenting strategy

Positive reinforcement for kids is an effective parenting strategy, but it’s important to know how and when to use it best. Some parents end up overusing this technique, which can lead to some negative side effects. If you want your child to make good choices out of the kindness of their heart and not because they’re expecting a reward, then you need to learn how best to utilize positive reinforcement in your everyday interactions with your child.

To effectively use positive reinforcement, you may consider these tips:

1. Prefer intangible rewards over tangible rewards: Praise is more effective than material rewards. For example, a parent may say how proud he is of their child for sharing his toys with other kids in the classroom or how much he enjoyed watching him eat his vegetables. So use praise more than treats or toys. This is because intrinsic motivation always goes longer than extrinsic motivation.

2. Praise children for their efforts and not just for the results: You need to make sure that the child knows that the praise is not only for their outcome but also because of their effort. If you do this, your child will feel motivated to learn and grow even further.

Some examples of praise might include “I noticed how hard you worked on your math homework!” or “You did a great job cleaning your room!” These kinds of messages are more likely to spur your child’s development in the long run.

3. Provide children with timely reinforcement: Each child has different needs, so you will want to be sure that you are offering positive reinforcement for behavior related to their age and developmental stage.


Positive reinforcement is a great way to help your child learn the right behaviors and become a better-behaved kid. It is because they will be more likely to understand your expectations and meet them. However, it is important that you don’t overuse positive reinforcement. If you do, it can lead to negative side effects, like creating a child motivated only by rewards or one who lacks empathy for others.

Here at NY Baby Steps, we use positive reinforcement to teach our children to behave properly. We also use it to motivate them to do the things they like. If you want to learn more about positive reinforcement, we encourage you to contact us today. We would love to help and guide you to achieve the goals you have for your child!