Some children behave in appropriate manners and some do not. Young children behave in a rather random manner, repeating behaviors that get a desired or positive reaction. This means that whatever attention given, even if directed toward a negative behavior, will increase the interest that behavior will be repeated. So, do we need to reinforce children for showing appropriate behavior? Yes, we do!

Adults usually tend to spend more time paying attention to their children’s negative behaviors; for example, telling them what not to do rather than acknowledging the things they are doing well. Positive reinforcement is one of the method that we can use as an adult to teach young kids how to identify which one is appropriate and acceptable attitude and which one is not. By focusing more on positive reinforcement, children may  learn that proper attitude is not just to avoid the  bad consequences but because it is the correct thing to do.

Giving positive reinforcement, whether in a classroom or in your own home, will be especially challenging. There are many behaviors we must request of children that may have nothing to do with their interest.  To best achieve a positive reinforcement, it’s better to explain the rules to the child beforehand, and acknowledge them when they follow the rules. For instance, we can set a duration of his/her playtime, and ask them to pack up their toys when the time’s up even though he/she still feels like playing. If the child follows the agreed rule with no fuss, that’s when we let him/her know that we approve his/her behavior. We can do this by praising his/her actions in a specific manner, like “You are doing great putting on your shoes by yourself!”

Children are highly motivated by the attention of an adult. So when we consistently gives attention, praise, or rewards to positive behaviors, the child will learn to only repeat those behaviors and not the negative ones. Also, reinforcing one child’s behavior helps other children to learn and display positive behaviors. For example, praising one child for “washing hands before eating” draws attention to that positive behavior and encourages the other students to do the same.

Furthermore, positive reinforcement increases children’s self-esteem  and can be particularly important for children especially those who display challenging behaviors.


written by Yenti Handala
Center Director of Tutor Time Pluit