Ajay Patel

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Positive Reinforcement or Negative Reinforcement?

Which is better? When I was young I was raised with both types of reinforcement. While my parents were most likely raised with negative reinforcement. By observing the way my parents (They are immigrants) are today, I can tell that they are very motivated and driven people. What if they were raised differently? Would I be here today?

I live in Canada and there are many children who don't get any negative reinforcement and they tend to become lazy and take advantage of their parents. This kids were raised with positive reinforcement and it didn't really make them the most intelligent and hardworking people. Of course there will be cases where a person with negative reinforcement will be a bad seed and vice versa but I am still interested in this topic.

Also there may be downsides to negative reinforcement, such as negative attitude towards others, depression, anxiety to perform well all the time.

So here is the question for you TED members, what is the more effective way of helping, teaching or raising somebody?

  • Apr 16 2013: I think too much of either is problematic. More studies are showing that a key element to success is rewarding and encouraging a child for hard work rather than natural talent. In one study, grade school children who were told by their teacher that they were "smart" gave up on difficult problems quicker than children who were praised for working hard. In fact, the kids who were overly praised even LIED about how many answers they had gotten right on a test.

    Building a child's self-esteem is a really important aspect of child-rearing, but in order to build self-esteem you must reinforce children in a very attuned way. Empty positive reinforcement breeds vanity and insecurity and negative reinforcement can lead to lack of confidence.
  • Apr 13 2013: Good question and observations.

    I think the answer is that it depends on the child...and the parent ...and the situation.

    A parent needs to be observant, responsive, and flexible relative to raising a child. At the same time, you need to provide safety, security, motivation, and a long list of things that you think will help the child become a successful adult.

    What defines success? Perhaps gaining the things the parents see as positive attributes and being disciplined to avoid the things parents see as negative attributes. The methods used are a result of the parents' knowledge, the situation required for the family to survive, the situations the child encounters during life, the strength and influence of various personalities, and another long list of things.

    In general, good parents will usually do what they think is best for their child. Positive and negative re-enforcement techniques, as well as other corrective actions, are tools available when some action is needed to help the child. Choice of strategy, consistency of application between parents, and skillful application of the techniques are skills parents must learn.

    One of the key things is to be there to do those things when they are needed.
  • Apr 12 2013: What's wrong with using both which would give one the full range of operant conditioning?
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    Apr 12 2013: Both are good, whitch creates diffrent type of people. Your concern with positive reinforcement is misguided, kids who "become lazy and take advantage of their parents" are called spoiled, because they didn't got positive reinforcement, but constant reinforcement.

    The algory of the mule fits to this question. A mule considered as the most obdurate farm animal, so to make him behave the way you want you want you use a carrot and a stic. Acts well? get a carrot, misbehave? get hit with a stick. If you feed him irregardless to his behaviour, he will get mad at you to get his way, if you hit him with no reason, he would live his life in fear.

    Mostly, people who were raised by negative reinforcement have more powerful drive to succeed and are more carefull in taking risks. On the other hand, people who were raised by positive reinforcement are more present oriented- enjoying the current, have higher self esteem and work better under presure.

    So when it will come to raising your child, you can now decide what you want him to raise to be, instand of just raising him to be bigger.