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Positive Reinforcement Vs Punishment In Enhancing Learning

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Young People
Wordcount: 2389 words Published: 21st Apr 2017

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Positive reinforcement is the conveyance of a stimulus that has the preferred effect on strengthening a certain behavior while punishment is the introduction of a stimulus that has an effect of declining certain behavior. Positive reinforcement is a method applied to strengthen good deeds and do away with bad behavior in children. Positive reinforcement also instills a sense of self-worth and inspires self-belief in children. The most common forms of positive reinforcement given to children include, praising or rewarding a child which raises the child chance of cleaning his/her room.

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Punishment is used to refer to addition of something aversive so as to discourage the behavior. The most general case involves reprimanding a child for disobedience. The reason why the children change behavior after a punishment is that they always relate reprimanding with negative behavior. Since children fear reprimanding children therefore avoid involving in negative behavior which calls for punishments.

Positive reinforcements versus punishments as means for learning

Proponents of positive reinforcements argue that use of reprimanding to boost learning in children is an aversive method that is painful and uncomfortable. According to (Coon, 2005), people and conditions related with punishments have a tendency of becoming feared, disliked and relented. This aversive attitude of punishments makes it particularly poor as means used to for making children to learn. When used as a means to promote learning in children, punishments will only instill fear and children will not be willing to learn.

Supporters of positive reinforcement suggest that positive attention can be used to keep improving the children’s behavior. Natrajan, (2003), argues that a parent might try to set future goals with the child and this promotes the child to learn quickly. On the contrary, punishments instill fear in the children and they develop a low regard on any goal that might be set by the parent. Natrajan, (2003), further argues that punishments cannot be used in goal setting.

Positive reinforcements can work well with children by giving them tangible items or praising child for a task well done or even a hug. The children will learn to improve their behavior since they like rewards and gifts. Advocates of punishments argue that, when children get used to being rewarded with tangible items in order to involve in positive behaviors. In such a situation rewards and gifts can become a problem when they are too expensive for the parent to provide. According to Natrajan, (2003), gifts and rewards can be ineffective in promoting learning in children since children can develop an attitude that they have to be given rewards in order to perform specific tasks. In addition, advocating for a rewarding culture in children does not instill a sense of responsibility in them and children learn to perform tasks only because they expect to be paid.

Advocates of positive reinforcement also argued that parents have been worried that positive attention might lead to ruining their children. However, supporters of positive reinforcement have maintained that positive attention encourages the children to yearn doing good in order to get support of parents. Proponents of positive attention, argue that rewards or commending children can ruin them only when given while not due.

Proponents of positive reinforcements suggest that it would work well when a parent notices her child wrong things, by commenting something negative about the behavior. According, to Natrajan, (2003), such a comment from a parent might act as a reward for the undesirable behavior and the child will change since the children have realized the parent is not happy with the behavior. Supporters of positive reinforce also advocate for a parent to wait and notice when the child does something right and takes the opportunity to explain the wrong behavior.

Proponents of positive reinforcements argue that when commending the child the focus should be on the parent’s feeling rather than criticizing the child. An example is when a parent notices her child assisting another child in a home care, the parent should commend the child with words such as “that makes me…..proud of you.”In such a situation the child feels esteemed and this promotes the good behavior.

Advocates of punishments suggest that while using punishments as a means of teaching children, then, the punishments should be mild. According to, (Coon, 2005), when the punishments are too mild they can become ineffective. For instance, a child who is fond of snatching toys form her sister should not only be punished but the sister should also be congratulated for sharing toys with the others. According to, (Coon, 2005), reprimanding informs the person the response was not right but it does give the person the direction of the right thing.

In circumstances that pose immediate hazard to children, like a situation where a child reaches for something hot or a picking a toy that rolls in the middle of the road, mild reprimanding will be applicable to stop disaster. Reprimanding in such circumstances works best if it produces actions that are incompatible with the response the individual wants to suppress. For instance, when a child stretches his/her hand to reach a hot stove, its best to reprimand the child by slapping the outstretched hand so that it is withdrawn immediately.

Advocates of punishments argue that reprimanding lowers the possibility that a response will be repeated. According to (Coon, 2005), for punishments to be effective they need to be given after the undesired response takes place. A punishment works effectively by reducing the frequency of occurrence of the undesirable behavior.

According to (Coon, 2005), the effectiveness of punishments in bringing to an end the undesirable behavior depends on their timing, strength and regularity. Reprimanding work best when it takes place when undesirable behavior is being witnessed and immediately afterwards and when it is applied each time such a response occurs.

Advocates of punishments suggest that severe reprimanding following a situation that could have resulted to danger is extremely effective in bringing to an end to a behavior. For example, when a 12 year old child gets a shock by putting his/her finger in a light socket that may be the last time the child ever tries such. In many situations reprimanding on temporarily only suppress the behavior and responses restrained by mild punishments more often than not resurface.

Supporters of positive reinforcements, according to Perry, (1973), argue that reprimanding cannot eliminate such vices like lying in children. Rutter, (1987), maintains that reprimanding only motivates the children to be better at lying and use the refined lying skills to other situations in which lying may advance their interests. He further adds that when children become experts in lying there is no any height of punishments that will change their behavior.

According to (Rutter, 1987), use of positive reinforcement is more effective in stimulating learning in children than use of caning. For example, offering a piece of candy for a child who scores high marks on a test promotes the child to do better in future tests. In addition, use of verbal praise, such as telling the child “well done my child” stimulates a child to improve the performance in future tests.

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Advocates of punishments argue that reprimanding is stronger and lasts for a long time as compared to positive reinforcement. According to (Coon, & Mitterer, 2008), in case a parent has a particular task which they wish their children to perform, and after accomplishing the task badly they are reprimanded on the other hand when they do them well they are reinforced mildly and they will accomplish the task mediocre. According to (Perry, 1973), when a parent displays discontent with the child when the accomplishment is poor then, the children are likely to change the situation.

Cameron (2006), argues that the society has used punishments rather than positive reinforcements to promote desirable behavior although the results have not always been positive. Teachers have been known to reprimand children who do not complete their homework with the hope that students will be able grow a sense of accountability for their work. In addition, Cameron (2006), argues that parents condemn their children’s working routines so that they can instill high standard of success. Punishment systems have been created and maintained as means of accomplishing aims of high output, contentment with success, concern for others and so on.

Use of punitive means as a means to encourage learning should not be used since reprimanding is among the main source of external have power over peoples characters. Cameron (2007), argues that since disciplinary means have resulted to serious negative effects has lead to society condemning the usage of any external form of influence. Many researchers have also condemned use of punishment as a means of learning since it involves external control of human behavior and has negative effects. Punishments should not be used as a means to promote learning since students enjoy school environment and work hard particularly when there is a properly set positive reinforce system. Children admire and enjoy learning do so without being punished. Positive reinforcement works by making children self-motivated to accomplish their goals.

Advocates of positive reinforcement argue, punishments should not be used promote learning, since use of punitive systems has not been able to encourage learning but instead it has resulted to bitterness, sense of low self-worth, dissatisfaction and attempts to overthrow those in power. Cameron (2007) argues that use of disciplinary means has backfired.

Typically children, learn by early interactions with the caregivers to use socially appropriate skills to meet their needs. According to Stormont et al., (2007), this pattern of communication is governed by principles of positive reinforcements. This principle of positive reinforcement demonstrates that when the character is contingently obeyed by an object or events find strengthening, they are likely to continue to use the behavior. For instance majority of the children have continued to request for an item using polite language like please and this behavior reform those who comply.

Advocates positive reinforcements argue that use of punishment to enhance learning in children is an aversive method that is painful and uncomfortable. According to (Coon, 2005), people and conditions related with punishments have a tendency of becoming feared, disliked and relented. This aversive attitude of reprimanding makes it particularly poor as means used to for making children to learn.

Advocates of positive reinforcements suggest that, it is among the best method of instilling a learning behavior in children. According to (Rutter, 1987), when positive reinforcements are used correctly, it can have good results in influencing children behavior. Rutter, (1987), further maintains that children adapt quickly and are willing to act in behaviors that are desired by their parents.

Supporters of positive reinforcement in addition imply that use of reprimanding should be discouraged in children upbringing. Hawes& Shores (2001), also support that yelling to children when they have been found involved in undesirable behavior as a form of punishment. The advocates of positive reinforcement argue that instead of yelling at children’s for wrong doing, parents should reward them when the behavior is desirable so that the rewards add to stimulate the good behavior.

Advocates of punishments as a means to promote learning suggest that reprimanding should be used as a means of training when children display risky and dangerous behavior. Perry (1973), maintains that a parent cannot use positive reinforcement such as a reward to bring an end to dangerous behavior running into traffic. Use of punishment would be the best remedy to discourage such wrong behavior.

Supporters of punishments have also suggested that very negative reprimanding to be effective is changing children behavior. If two children are fighting over a toy, the best remedy to bring an end to the fight over the toy would be by removing the toy (Perry, 1973).

Advocates of positive reinforcement argue that among the benefits of using positive reinforcement particularly in a classroom setup is that children become more attentive and take more interest in learning. Contrary, to this when the cane is applied to reprimand wrong responses; the children develop fear of participating actively in classrooms. Hawes, & Shores (2001), maintain that when children are commended or rewarded with touchable items for right answers they develop desire to learn and enhanced participation in classroom.

Advocates of positive reinforcements argue against using punishments as a mode of instilling behavioral change in children. Rutter (1987) suggests that positive reinforcement is a better psychological means of bring out behavior change in children and at the same time it’s simpler to utilize. According to (Perry, 1973), parents are required to weigh the consequences of using punishments and those of positive reinforce and then make the best choice.

My own view is that I support the use punishment when children engage in wrong behaviors. According to the Bible ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ suggests that children should be reprimanded in order to stop undesirable behavior. Considerable punishment need to be applied to bring about behavioral change. The timing and intensity of the punishments should be dependent upon specific stimulus expected from children. For example, if a parent finds a 12 year putting objects in power socket, the child should be reprimanded and informed of hazards of electricity. The choices of whether to use positive reinforcement or punishments depend on the parent or the caregiver.


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