View Full Version : Positive Reinforcement

02-22-06, 12:16 PM
I was surfing the web today to find Positive things online...
I came accross this link which I thought it would be worthy of attention at th eforums here...Perhaps the link is also already elsewhere, and, if it is, then, it does not hurt to have two of them...(IMHO)...

:) Positive Reinforcement (

I also am a strong advocate for Karen Pryor's book: "Dont Shoot the Dog"...
Has anyone read it? Any comments on it?

02-22-06, 05:36 PM
I haven't read "Don't Shoot the Dog . .. "

But, I am a behavior therapist and am a firm believer that positive reinforcement is the best way to go when modifying a behavior and always the first thing to try.

02-22-06, 06:37 PM
Positive reinforcement has always worked best for my daughter and me. Make the payoff good enough and immediate enough and we can really perform!:D

I've also done some reading that says this is generally true for ADDer's as long as the reward comes predictibly, quickly, and every time.


02-24-06, 12:14 PM
Is there any instances where any or all of the other three types of reinforcement might work better?

I really do not have any obvious examples, but maybe you might...

I took the class as a requirement when i was in th developmental disabilities field, but backed off taking the state certification... I believe you can no longer get certified as a CBA just taking that test...I am grateful to have still some of the knowledge, and I am sure you are as well...

It is powerful stuff isn't it?

02-24-06, 02:58 PM
The great thing about positive reinforcement is that it doesn't matter if the person is add/adhd or not. Everyone wants genuine positive feedback that they matter and are appreciated for their efforts. I heap praise on all my students. I make a point of "catching them doing something good."

I have one student who, unbeknownst to me, had a horrible, violent parent who has no custody or visitation anymore. The scars run sooooo deep. He wasn't classically defiant, but there was just...something about him? I could see it in his eyes. I checked my papers and he had no IEP, no notes to indicate what had gone on (privacy issues, etc). I started making a point of praising every thing he did, no matter how small. I modified his work anyway. In two weeks, he went from a depressed-looking, brooding boy who was failing my a boy with a big, wide smile who is proud of his accomplishments and now earning an A. He joined the art club. He's HAPPY. This wasn't just due to me, it has a lot to do with the approach his entire team of teachers is adopting for him. I doubt he'll qualify for an IEP. His issues are more fallout from severe emotional trauma he is only beginning to address. My job is to help him learn to succeed, IEP or not. :) He's worth the effort, and I tell him so every day.

02-24-06, 04:16 PM
It's a good question, Meadd! I completely agree that reinforcement is a powerful thing!

You should always try positive reinforcement first.
You want to catch people at their best and praise them for it. This is something that many people usually don't think about doing. It's too easy to get at people for the negative things.

ms_sunshine's example of positive reinforcement is so great!! If you want to increase a behavior - always catch them and tell them about it while they're behaving that way or just after.

Negative reinforcement isn't used a lot. It's taking away something aversive that will hopefully increase the likelihood of the behavior. Here's an example of it:
Your mom (or wife) nags you to finish the pile of laundry, bugs you and bugs you about it for 2 days. You finally finish the laundry - the nagging stops!
Because the nagging stops - that increases the likelihood that you will do finish your laundry faster next time, because you don't want to be nagged.

Positive punishment (aka punishment) is usually used by parents, but I dont think is usually effective. Positive punishment is adding something aversive, in hopes of increasing the likelihood that the punishment will decrease the unwanted behavior.
An example is a parent spanking a child for disobeying them. Another example is putting that gross tasting nail polish on a nail biter's nails to decrease biting nails.

Negative Punishment (aka extinction) is also used often by parents, and there are some instances where it works well. It is removing something so the unwanted behavior decreases.
But, I don't agree with trying this before positive reinforcement. If it's used it should be used in conjunction with positive reinforcement.
This is usually used best with unwanted attention seeking behaviors.

I'll give a few examples of it:
*A 5 year old asks the same question over and over and over and over. Ignore the question after you've answered it 1 time (and you know they fully understand what you've told them). They should get tired of asking and not getting your attention, so they stop asking.

*Your teenager comes home late - you take away the car for 5 days.

Positive reinforcement is definitely the most powerful. All reinforcement/punishment must occur immediately after the behavior and be consistent for any type of reinforcement to work. Punishment can likely result in anger and resentment.
If anyone decides to use negative reinforcement, punishment or extinction - it must be used with positive reinforcement (reinforcing an alternative, replacement behavior).

03-07-06, 05:19 PM
I'd like to positively reinforce your votes and comments on the subject matter...even though not reinforcing soon after ya'll posted...but hopefully will have positive consequences.

thanks again for the feedback and reinforcement...


Meadd (aka Ed)

05-01-06, 06:26 PM
MS sunshine;
thanks so much for making my day-it puts a smile where there was none-hope where there was emptiness and just goodness-we all can do our part to make this a better place. thanks. Lori

05-04-06, 10:02 AM
the best reformnt i find is if someone blivessssss in you an has faith to say you make a diff to the world an that your loved liked for who you are makessss such a difff a good teacher freind helpssss you on in life most dont see just how impornt a teachers imparct can have on a child or adlut for that matter when you conderder how much childs life is at school a good 16years is set in a school teyp inverment they have a very big impatceted on there lifesss permenayly dorm....i should know

08-10-06, 09:19 PM
Definalely use positive reinforcement as the first option. Everyone likes to be praised, especially children. There's a lot of research that suggests this is by far the best technique in managing behavior, especially with ADHD.

08-10-06, 10:40 PM
If this poll, (as insignificant as it is, considering the entire 'world' didn't vote on it), shows a majority 'rule', that positive reinforcement is the 'way to go'...then someone tell me why most don't employ this tactic...

I was one who 'voted' on utilizing positive enforcement ONLY.

WTF is the problem, with most of the 'societal' world, in thinking this is less worthy than 'punishment only' means ?????

I'm not EVEN going to apologize, for being passionate, about this subject.

08-11-06, 01:22 AM
I think people don't use positive reinforcement because it's too easy to catch people being bad. When someone does something appropriate, that person is doing what they're "supposed" to be doing, so no one thinks to positively reinforce it.
(That's been my experience since becoming a behavior analyst)

Positive reinforcement is a simple, easy concept and needs to be employed more.

It also drives me nuts that people continue to dole out the same consequences over and over and over to a person but the person's behavior never changes. However, those doling out them out never think about changing the non-effective consequence to something that might work better.

Can you tell this is my passion (behavior analysis)?! :D


08-11-06, 01:13 PM
I wholeheartedly agree with you, Courtney.

I've believed that utilizing 'punishment', is far easier for the 'punisher', than utilizing positive reinforcement means, to achieve acceptable behavior.

'Doling' out punishment only, is a 'twisted form' of an ego boost for the 'punisher', in my opinion.

10-25-06, 08:17 AM
Personally, I need positive reinforcement and negative punishment. It is extremely hard work to use both in the correct porportion, but the benefits are great.

Mabye it is a result of my Christian upbringing, which I highly value, but I need to see that there are negative consequences to my negative actions.

The problem is that most people use negative punishment as a primary or exclusive tool for behavior modification, and we know that is a poor method of encouraging life-long, positive changes.

I remember seeing research, I wish I could remember where, that said that many children and adults feel more secure and less anxious when they experience clearly defined separation between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.

mrs A
10-26-06, 02:10 PM
I agree with positive reinforcement as it working better. My problem is myself and my ADD H have been raised with all the negatives you can get!! Never experienced any positive comments while growing up, or even now, by my family. I guess thats why I can't take compliments. Old school ways of the european upbringing are hard to break. I am trying and will keep trying, but it is very hard, even knowing how I feel now.
I see this is so hard on my ADD son. My H can't even see this let alone try it!! I am always questioning if staying in this relationship will be the worse thing I could do for my children.
Thanks for reminding me of the importance on the positive!!

12-01-06, 12:55 PM
I also voted for positive reinforcement. However, I personally respond to negative reinforcement very well.

A couple of notes, though.

1. I think that all four have their proper place and time.

2. It's important to read Courtney's explanation of the four. Positive doesn't mean "good" and negative "bad" here. Positive means adding something, negative means taking something away. Reinforcement means something like reward, and punishment is just that.

3. Negative reinforcement, the least understood of the four, is an extremely powerful reward. When I was a teenager, I was driven by the fact that I wanted off the Ritalin and wanted to stop going to the therapy sessions. So, I eventually I was able to convince the experts that I had outgrown my ADHD and the things I hated stopped - negative reinforcement.

4. Which brings me to the warning for parents of kids who are like I was. Reinforcements are good, you want to use them before punishments, as a rule. But as I have stated elsewhere in these forums, a smart ADHD kid will immediately begin to look for shortcuts to the rewards (positive or negative). It may not be intentional, it's a typical ADD behavior. Make sure you are rewarding the behavior you want to reinforce and not just an outcome, regardless of how it was reached.

Here's an example. When I was a kid, I never did homework. I didn't feel that I needed it to understand the material, and therefore it was a waste of my time. There was a time in High School when my parents decided to lift my curfew on weekends if I completed all of my homework for the week. So what did I do? I copied my girlfriend's homework and got rewarded for cheating.

They should have rewarded me for sitting down each night, while they were home, and doing some homework, and not just for a report from my teacher at the end of the week that all of the week's homework was turned in. Then they would have been getting the behavior that they wanted. Instead, they reinforced a bad habit - one that went with me to college.