MYTH: FORMAL POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT STRATEGIES ARE NECESSARY PARTS OF ANY GOOD DISCIPLINE PLAN.
FACT: FORMAL POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT IS NOT NECESSARY, AND CAN EVEN BE HARMFUL TO OLDER STUDENTS
Teachers and parents of children older than elementary school age should be very careful with how much positive reinforcement they use to discipline. Many people seem to think that rewarding children as much as possible will inspire them to consistently behave well. There are a few problems with this approach:
1) Children who get too used to being rewarded for everything they do will eventually not want to do anything unless there is a reward involved.
2) Older students who get used to rewards will not be prepared for college professors and employers who do not use reward systems.
3) Children will not respect teachers who have to use bribery succeed.
4) Rewards will have to be continually increased to keep children interested.
I am not a huge fan of using positive reinforcement too much even in elementary school settings, but I can see the logic of using it there. The sooner students learn that they don’t get a party or a lollipop every time they do something right, however, the better off they will be.
When we follow the speed limit, the police don’t pull us over and give us an ice cream cone. No, they pull us over only when we break the speed limit. For older students especially, positive reinforcement should be used as verbal reassurance and support only, never as a formal “carrot” used to try to inspire good behavior.
Please send me your questions and comments about discipline! I love hearing from people who are interested in the topic like I am. I am more than happy to address these comments in future blogs. Thanks
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