Pros and Cons of Positive and Negative Reinforcement and Rewards

Most often in a classroom teachers must reflect and focus on behavior management techniques, especially in settings with children with learning and behavior problems. One of the most common forms of behavioral management is positive and negative reinforcement techniques.
The concept of negative reinforcement is to strengthen a behavior because a negative condition is stopped or avoided as a consequence because of the behavior. This concept is often confused with punishment, however it is very different. Punishment weakens behavior because a negative condition is introduced or experienced as a consequence of the behavior.

Whereas the concept of positive reinforcement implements systems like rewards or things that students will generally work to achieve. However, the definition of a positive reinforcement is more precise than that of a reward. Positive reinforcement occurs when the following three conditions are met:
  • Consequences presented dependent upon a behavior.
  • The behavior becomes more likely to occur.
  • Behaviors are more likely to occur because the consequence is dependent on the behavior.

Negative Reinforcement:
  • Yelling
  • Punitive
  • “You” messages
  • No opportunity for corrective behavior
  • Confrontation/power struggle
  • Name on the board
  • Time after school
  • Parents called
  • Ultimatums (you better put this away)

Class Materials:
  • Eleven by Sandra Cisneros
  • Brick wall

  • You are singling me out.
  • You are out to get me.
  • My parents let me do it.
  • You always believe others or take their side.

Positive Reinforcement:

  • Limit setting
  • Anything that allows them to redeem them self
  • Cool down
  • Walk
  • Providing the student with choice
  • Conflict resolution (helps with confrontations)
  • Social contract
  • Constitution
  • Behavior plan
  • Job (encouraging them-belonging)

Class Materials:
  • Chapter 9- Reasonable Logical consequences Page 153 the 3 R’s of discipline Coloroso (reconciliation, restitution, resolution)
  • Disciplining with Dignity Curwin and Mendler – Chapter 7

  • I am such a good student.
  • My teacher really likes me.
  • I love school.
  • I am getting such good grades.

Negative Reinforcement:
  1. To identify and establish the behavior to be modified which will eventually lead to the desired behavior.
  2. The student understands the reason for the behavior and no longer exhibits the behavior.
  3. The pattern is being set for a student to learn what types of behaviors/actions are acceptable in the classroom.
  1. Decrease student’s self-esteem and confidence.
  2. The student will become non-responsive.
  3. Student feels threatened and unwelcomed in the classroom.

Positive Reinforcement:
  1. The pattern is being set for a student to learn what types of behaviors/actions are acceptable in the classroom.
  2. The token economy system encourages students to take appropriate risks.
  3. Praise creates a non competitive environment and helps a student to become comfortable in receiving praise. (encourages students individual effort without being comparative)

  1. Kids can become dependent on rewards
  2. Students can lose motivation if rewards are taken away
  3. Rewards may decrease students motivation by having them focus on receiving a reward instead of learning

Do you think that rewarding children for good behavior is a bad idea because this will decrease the intrinsic motivation? Is this true?