All parents want their children to exhibit positive behaviors that will help them transition
smoothly through the different stages of their development. And while parents have the
best intentions, they often don’t use the most effective discipline strategies to achieve
that goal. And granted, parents do their best to implement the knowledge and
experiences that they have in their parenting. However, becoming more familiar with
operant conditioning concerning behavior modification strategies such as positive
reinforcement can take their parenting to a new level.
Operant conditioning was founded by B.F. Skinner, who believed that the most
effective method for understanding behavior, looked at the causes of an action and its
outcomes. His findings spawned from Edward Thorndike’s work on the “Law of Effect.”
Through this “method of learning,” relationships are made between behaviors and
consequences, which can be positive or negative. As Skinner performed his studies, he
found that reinforced or rewarded actions are more likely to be repeated.
In operant conditioning, there are key terms used to describe the types of responses,
which are often confused. Positive means adding something, negative means taking
something away, reinforcement means increasing a behavior, and punishment means
decreasing a behavior.
1) Positive Reinforcement: A behavior is strengthened by the addition of a desirable
stimulus. Ex. A parent gives a child more time to play video games if he cleans his
2) Negative Reinforcement: A behavior is strengthened by the removal of an
undesirable stimulus. Ex. A parent makes a child pay $5 every time her room is
3) Positive Punishment: A behavior is weakened by the addition of an undesirable
stimulus. Ex. A parents scolds a child when they misbehave.
4) Negative Punishment: A behavior is weakened by removing a desirable stimulus.
Ex. A parent takes away a child’s favorite toy when they misbehave.
Many parents fall into the discipline strategies involving punishment. And while it can be
useful in the moment, more long-term effects such as fear and aggression can be
instilled. Through his studies, Skinner found that positive reinforcement was the most
effective method of reinforcing desirable behaviors.
When it comes to behavior modification, SKILLZ Child Development Centers utilize
positive reinforcement as the go-to approach. The Certified Pediatric Ninja Specialists
are trained in science and psychology to impact children’s lives positively. In the
classroom, students earn stripes for their belts when they work hard to achieve a new
skill. When they receive eight stripes, they can earn a higher-level belt. Also, the class
structure allows time for a “game” at the end of class as a reward for hard work. These
positive reinforcement strategies are also shared with parents in ways that can be
implemented at home.
Using positive reinforcement strategies can aid parents in fostering more positive
behaviors in their children. Although this takes a little more time and effort to implement,
the benefits are long-lasting. Additionally, children will feel more confident and happy,
and the parent-child bond will improve.