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Three Keys to Unlock the Power of Positive Reinforcement

“Ricky, get down! You shouldn’t be up there!”

“You can’t do that.”

“I don’t want to hear that language again.”

“We won’t be tolerating that behavior.”

If you hear phrases like these coming out of your mouth on a daily basis do not despair. It’s a struggle we have all had to face. For some reason, we almost seem to come pre-conditioned to jump immediately to the negative. Perhaps it’s human nature.

Not that negative statements are a complete no-no. Taking them out of our vocabulary entirely would lead to occasional communication breakdowns. But just as a pair of scissors does not work well without both blades in play, our interactions are decidedly less effective without balancing both types of reinforcement. And since negative reinforcement seems to come more naturally, it’s important that we make a conscious effort to practice positive reinforcement.

Three Keys to Unlock the Power of Positive Reinforcement:

  1. When possible, phrase corrections in the positive. This simple technique reminds us to say things like “Try it this way!” instead of “Don’t do it that way.” One little flip of the phrase makes all the difference.
  2. Check to see if you’re complementing after correcting. After encouraging students to try something in a new way, be sure to let them know that you’ve noticed their efforts by telling them that they’re doing a great job. If they’re still struggling unsuccessfully to implement the changes you’ve suggested, congratulate them for trying. Your continued encouragement could make all the difference; continue to encourage them until they get it right.
  3. Keep your eyes peeled and be timely with your comments. Although some find it tempting to wait until a more convenient moment (if there really is such a thing!) or store up positive comments for parent-teacher conferences or written progress reports, studies show that positive reinforcement is most effective when it’s offered immediately after the behavior.

Implement the above three keys as often as you can: you’ll soon find that practicing positive reinforcement will come to you more naturally than ever.

For more information on this or other classroom management issues, please feel free to contact us.

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