The Power of Positive Reinforcement


positive reinforcementWe have all had moments of mom guilt for losing our patience and maybe even behaving out of character in front of our children. I would say that we are all human, and losing your cool is a part of life.

In a perfect world, we would get the benefit of the doubt, and before anyone jumps to conclusions while viewing us at our less than perfect moments, they would stop to think about all of the great things that we have done. 

Unfortunately, most days, people skip past the millions of things that we do happily and with the best intentions; yet quickly point out things that we miss or get wrong once in a while.

As a mother and a wife, I have to be honest and say that this gets under my skin. And if I am transparent, it hurts my feelings.

I can’t tell you how many days I have spent trying to juggle a million moving pieces to make sure that everything under the sun was done to perfection. I mean breakfast, lunch, and dinner was made, appointments were booked, bills were paid, laundry done, and instead of someone saying thank you or wow, I can’t believe you got through all of that, they breeze through the meals, the grunt work has been overlooked, and someone dares to be annoyed because I forgot to hang-dry the performance fleece!

I know I am not alone here, ladies! So here’s the thing that I have been thinking about. As a grown woman, I wrestle with this. Imagine how tough it is for our children when we put so much time and effort into letting them know what they need to improve without acknowledging all that they do right.

With the end of the first academic quarter approaching, I figured this would be the perfect time to share a friendly reminder. We have to be mindful of not only how but what we communicate to our children. We have the control to direct the narrative, and there is power in positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement introduces a desirable stimulus to encourage or motivate the repetition of a specific behavior.

When I was taking introductory psychology courses for my undergraduate degree, this was explained in the literal sense of offering a reward for good behavior, which would increase the likelihood of the desired behavior happening again in the future.

Now how do we apply that to parenting? Well, you see, that is the beauty of parenthood; we essentially figure out what works best for our family through good old trial and error. There are many different ways to embrace and utilize the power of positive reinforcement. For some, this may include offering a reward or gift as an incentive to repeat a job well done. I have heard of parents offering $25 for each A that a child receives on their report card. Personally, that’s not my style; I am more of a cheer champion.

I like to encourage positive behaviors by verbally expressing how proud I am and how proud my children should be of themselves.

Both methods are acceptable, and I can say that I have found success by trying both routes. I prefer the latter for long-term purposes because I feel like it is an easier and quicker way to identify and acknowledge a job well done.

If we focus our energy on commending our children to apply effort and do what may be their best, we are taking small steps that have a large impact on lifting them and motivating them to keep up the good work or even do better. 

Think about how far a pat on your back goes for you as an adult. Remember how good you feel when you get that long overdue thanks, mom, or great job, hun. Now imagine how important that feeling is to ignite within your child. Before you get worked up about that C or D, let me encourage you to celebrate the A’s and B’s. You would be surprised by how much of a lasting effect those encouraging words could have.

Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement.