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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?


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  • 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.

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