i‑Learner Education Centre

Steps to Success » Positivity

The Importance of Positive Reinforcement

As parents and educators, we can encounter occasions when a child refuses to perform a certain task, like reading a book, cleaning their room, or doing homework. Through my work with a range of different children, I’ve come to understand the importance of positive reinforcement in situations like these. It’s both simple and effective!


What is positive reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is the method of encouraging desirable behaviours through a system of praise and rewards. To understand this clearly, let’s look at examples below:

  1. A football coach giving her players high-fives when they score goals
  2. A mother putting a star on a sticker chart when her child cleans their room
  3. A father saying, ‘I’m so proud of you!’ when his child wins a contest

This sounds very simple, but positive reinforcement is a less commonly used method than punishment and negative reinforcement in classrooms and at home.


Why is positive reinforcement important?

Research has shown that punishing a child in the hopes of getting them to do something always results in anger, resentment, and aggression (Dad, 2010). In addition, negative reinforcement has been proven to encourage an increase in problematic behaviour as children become more socially inappropriate to escape the negativity (Bernier, 2012).

In contrast, it has been found that students who are reinforced socially with positive reinforcement are 68% more likely to do or follow what was being encouraged of them (Bernier, 2012). This happens for several reasons.

Children have an innate desire to please adults. If you create a positive environment for your child, he/she will be more willing and motivated to perform desirable behaviours in order to make you happy. Positive reinforcement also fosters positive relationships between parents and children, which in turn leads to trust, respect, and innate motivation to do good.

In addition, positive reinforcement teaches children a fundamental life-lesson – that if you want something, you need to work hard for it. This builds character and grit in children, which, according to research, are determiners of success when they grow up.


How can I apply positive reinforcement at home?

Positive reinforcement can be given in three different forms – verbal, behavioural, and physical. Depending on your child’s personality and motivation pattern, you can mix and match the different forms.

Verbal positive reinforcement

  • Give your child praise like:
    • ‘You can do this!’
    • ‘Great job!’
    • ‘You should be proud of yourself!’
  • Use specific phrases that show that you appreciate your child’s efforts
    • ‘I’m so proud that…’
    • ‘I’m so happy that…’
    • ‘It’s wonderful that…’
    • ‘Thank you for…’

Behavioural positive reinforcement

  • Give your child a pat on the back or a high five whenever he/she accomplishes something
  • Hug your child often
  • Show up to their concerts, plays, contests, etc. to show your support
  • Take your child to the movies, a park, a museum, etc.
  • Have meals together often

Physical positive reinforcement

This refers to any kind of gifts or present, ranging from a sticker to a bicycle. The gifts do not have to be something expensive – they can be anything that your child values.


It is immensely rewarding to see children’s big smiles and to hear their heartfelt laughter. The next time you would like to encourage a desirable behaviour in your child, rather than falling into negative patterns and creating a negative atmosphere, let’s spread more positivity and kindness by using positive reinforcement.



  1. Baer, Donald M. (1961). Effect of Withdrawal of Positive Reinforcement on an Extinguishing Response in Young Children. Child Development. 67-74.
  2. Dad, Hukam. (2010). Comparison of the Frequency and Effectiveness of Positive and Negative Reinforcement Practices in Schools. Contemporary Issues in Education Research. 127-135.
  3. Bernier, Stephen., Simpson, Cynthia G., Rose, Chad A. (2012). Positive and Negative Reinforcement in Increasing Compliance and Decreasing Problematic Behavior. National Teacher Education Journal. 45-51.