Negative vs. Positive Reinforcement

Negative vs. Positive Reinforcement One of the many lessons we can/should learn as parents. As a child grows and develops we see behaviours come and go. Since our job as parents is to protect, nurture and nourish our children, it is within our duty to help guide these explorations. Using positive reinforcement and being conscious of not negatively reinforcing undesired behaviours is a VERY powerful tool. BROKEN DOWN: when a child does something well (desired behaviour) i.e. puts on their own shoes, touches another child with gentle hands or eats their peas (finally!) you give positive reinforcement. This might look like this: 😃, 👏🏼, 👍🏼, 🤗 or 😘 Or sound like this: yaaaaaay, you did it!, you worked so hard, etc. If a child does something you do not want them to do (undesired behaviour) i.e. biting, grabbing toys from other babies or throwing their peas on the floor (not again!) you should NOT reinforce the behaviour by giving it too much attention. A very natural response to any of these things might look like this: 😡, 😖, 😫 or 😤 Or sound like this: No!, *gasp*, *insert disappointed phrase in yelling voice here*, or all of the above paired with a long drawn out explanation of how you do not like it when they throw their peas and that they should never do it again because it makes mommy so sad (blah, blah, blah). Since their logic centres are in the process of developing, there is a time and place for this, and it is never when you are mad. Imagine we (parents) are a giant red button 🔴. Imagine that our children see this red button all day every day, curiously wondering what happens when they push it. Well, imagine that our child finds out that if they push that red button, mommy will say: NOOO! And react with a silly face like this: 😤. And- Every single time they push it, that exact same way, mommy will say the exact same thing and make the exact same face. It's magic! To a child- can you imagine what it must feel like to have this kind of cause and effect relationship realized? So fun! So, if we use the throwing of peas on the floor (again!) scenario as the act of pushing the big red button 🔴, and the silly reaction would be what happens every time the button is pushed we are negatively reinforcing the undesired behaviour. 🤔 So what do we do?! In order to not completely ignore the undesired behaviour or to negatively reinforce it we can try one or all of these ideas: 1) say something like "you ate all your peas, all by yourself, that's great!" when they eat their peas and do not toss them on the floor (positive reinforcement of desired behaviour) 2) do not "react" to the throwing of the peas beyond wiping the smile off your face 😐 or taking a nice deep breath

3) save the cleanup for AFTER lunch since that too might be a hilarious cause and effect relationship for your toddler 4) model desired eating habits by eating at the same time as your little one 5) create a super-awesome pea eating game i.e. Who can eat all their peas first? Or... 6) at a completely unrelated time, you could find a book where the character is eating, and use the pictures to help you guide your way through a great talk about eating nicely. There we have it! Positive and negative reinforcement in a nutshell. I hope I have shed at least some light on a very grey topic. Any questions about your specific undesired behaviours do not hesitate to ask! I always want to help. Email me at

Show love, grow love Happy Positive Reinforcing Parents