21 Positive Reinforcement Examples that Work! (2022) (2023)

21 Positive Reinforcement Examples that Work! (2022) (1)

Examples of positive reinforcement include verbal praise, a gift, public recognition, and free time. These positive reinforcement examples work for adults and children!

Below I explain each of these, their pros and cons, and when it’s best (and worst!) to use them.

Positive Reinforcement Examples

1. Verbal Praise

Explanation: Verbal praise can be anything from a happy and upbeat “Good job!” through to a public acknowledgement of someone’s good work. We do this in just about any situation – from dog training to schools to the workplace.

Pros: Very fast and simple. Works in any situation.

Cons: Can be overused. Can come across as condescending.

Best For: Dogs, Teachers, Parents, Workplace

2. Food (Candy)

Explanation: We even do this for ourselves: “If I write 200 more words on this article, I can give myself a gummi bear.” It works well with children, of course, as well as dogs in the form of treats. In fact, it’s probably the most widely used incentive for training dogs. In the workplace, you could provide pizza in the staff room on a Friday if everyone meets their quotas.

Pros: Powerful incentive. Works in any situation.

Cons: Parents may not like it. Children have allergies. Can cause obesity with overuse. Sugar can lead to hyperactive behavior.

Best For: Dogs (treats), Parents, Workplace

3. Money

Explanation: Money is perhaps one of the biggest incentives of all. It can be traded in for any number of things, including most of the other physical incentives (like food) in this list.

In fact, money is the positive reinforcement we all get for waking up and going to work each day!

For kids, this might be a few dollars a week in pocket money. In the workplace, it could be a bonus or even stock option at the end of a good year.

Pros: Powerful incentive for adults and children alike.

Cons: Can become expensive! Not possible for pets, of course.

Best For: Kids in small amounts (pocket money). An incentive bonus in the workplace.

4. Free Time

Explanation: This can be for children or adults. I would often use this as a teacher: “finish all the tasks and we’ll have a free afternoon on Friday for you to play games.”

In the workforce, you could set up an incentive structure around completing projects in order to get extra days of paid leave. Or, simply, you could hire people per job rather than per hour so that once they’ve finished the job they will have all the free time in the world.

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Pros: Works well for people who value family and recreation.

Cons: Not usable for animal training.

Best For: Classroom situations.

5. Choose your Own Activity

Explanation: Another one popular for school teachers, this positive reinforcement involves allowing students to choose a follow-up activity if they do well in their current activity. For example, you could tell the students that the winner of a quiz can choose the next activity for the whole class (and give them three or four activities to choose from).

Pros: Comes associated with power if you can choose the activity for both yourself and your classmates.

Cons: Doesn’t work for animals. Less common in the workforce, also.

Best For: Classroom activities, parenting.

6. Applause

Explanation: An applause at the end of a performance is one of the most common forms of positive reinforcement in the world. Sometimes it’s just polite, but if you get a standing ovation or a vigorous applause, you know you’ve done a great job.

Pros: Instant feedback.

Cons: No substantive (physical, monetary) reward beyond the moment which may diminish its power for some people.

Best For: Children and adults alike.

7. Public Recognition

Explanation: Public recognition could be a boss standing up in a meeting and pointing someone out for a good job they did. Or, it could be a teacher being so impressed by a student’s artwork that it goes in the class newsletter that week.

Pros: Provides social status to the receiver. It’s free.

Cons: This can be very fake if not done right – e.g. when there’s an ‘employee of the month’ each month and everyone knows they just rotate through a list.

Best For: Workplace and School situations.

8. Subtle Displays of Approval

Explanation: A display of approval might be a subtle laughter at a well-placed joke or a wink to a kid who did a good job.

A good example of this is when someone eats a meal you cooked for them, and you’re eating it quickly (while maybe also making noises of approval while you eat!), which shows the chef that you genuinely liked what they made for you.

Pros: Often comes across as very genuine.

Cons: Only works if the person you’re trying to reward cares about impressing you.

Best For: Can be used in most situations.

9. Power

Explanation: Many people are very motivated by power. If you’re a boss or teacher, you can give out power to people who you want to reward. In the classroom, this might be allowing a child to choose who is on their ‘team’ for the next activity. At work, this might be a promotion!

Pros: Works for most people. Often doesn’t cost you anything.

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Cons: Be careful about creating a competitive atmosphere where people are fighting for power.

Best For: Workplace, Classroom.

10. Handshake

Explanation: A handshake is a form of positive reinforcement we use regularly, but we’re not aware of it. A handshake takes place after a competitive sporting event to congratulate the winner, for example.

In some cultures (and situations), this could also take the form of a hug. For example, if you want to thank a family member for doing something for you (a form of positive reinforcement), you might hug them.

Pros: It’s free!

Cons: Different cultures will have different conventions about when this is appropriate and what it means.

Best For: Adults

11. A Smile

Explanation: When I was younger, there was no better positive reinforcement than a girl giving me a smile after I made an effort to impress her! And this goes for any situation. A teacher smiling as she reads your work or a boss giving you a smile when you hand in your report are both great examples.

Body language like smiles and winks are excellent cues to people to understand your response – positive or negative (both key reinforcers).

This one overlaps with ‘subtle displays of approval’ discussed earlier.

Pros: Free! Builds rapport.

Cons: Might not work for animals.

Best For: Most situations.

12. Star Chart

Explanation: Start charts are extremely common with younger children. You can use them for potty training, encouraging house work, or even rewards for completing homework at school. Add extra rewards after each 10 starts to further encourage effort.

Pros: Very useful for younger children.

Cons: Not useful at all for adults.

Best For: Ages 3 – 7

13. Time Off

Explanation: Earlier, I mentioned ‘free time’. Free time is common in classrooms, where children stay at school but get to do what they choose. ‘Time off’ might be better for adults, where they can get extra days or even weeks off from work if they meet certain deadlines.

Pros: A strong incentive for adults.

Cons: Could be expensive or not feasible for employers.

Best For: Adults in the workplace.

14. One-on-One Time

Explanation: If access to you is desired, then you can provide it as a positive reinforcement. A good example of this is with a coach, who might tell people in the team that if they do 100 push-ups a day for a month, then they will get a one-to-one coaching session.

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In a classroom, students also often seek one-to-one coaching, especially in the lead-up to exams.

Pros: Strong added incentive for people already motivated.

Cons: Costs you a lot of your own time.

Best For: Coaches

Explanation: Some tasks are in fact enjoyable, and students might want extra time on them. You can provide that extra time as a positive reinforcement for good work during the task.

This is in fact something doner regularly in gamification. Play a video game and you’ll see time gets added to your gameplay in return for completing a section of the game quickly or beating a difficult opponent.

Pros: Good for extending enjoyable activities.

Cons: Doesn’t work in tasks that require extrinsic motivation.

Best For: Gamification.

16. A Ticket to a Game, Show or Theme Park

Explanation: When I went to school, every student who took an optional standardized math test got a trip to the local theme park. I did it every year because I wanted to jump on the rollercoaster!

This can also be quite common in the workforce, where people are incentivized with vouchers to spa days or the theatre.

Pros: Fun!

Cons: Could be expensive.

Best For: Children and adults.

17. Rest or Sleep

Explanation: In adulthood, I came to learn that sleep is a precious commodity. As a parent, you could reward your partner for their great work by saying: “let me look after the kids for a few hours so you can get some rest.”

Pros: Very desirable for parents!

Cons: Children usually don’t respond well to this.

Best For: Parents

18. A Present (e.g. Toy)

Explanation: Gifts can take many forms. But one of the most common ones is to buy a toy for a child for doing something well. For example, if a child behaves themselves while shopping, you could say that you will let them choose a toy at the checkout to add to the cart.

Pros: Gives a lot of freedom of choice – you can choose your toy!

Cons: Adults who have disposable income might not care for this method.

Best For: Everyone – could even work with dogs.

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19. Less Work

Explanation: You could offer someone positive reinforcement by telling them they can do less work if they complete the work they’ve got to do well. For example, if someone is making a coffee table, you could say to them: “If you do a great job with the carpentry, I’ll do the painting for you.”

Similarly, there’s a positive reinforcement in passing an exam, because it means you don’t have to re-sit the exam over and again until you pass.

Pros: Strong incentive to do well.

Cons: Not feasible for pets.

Best For: Workplace and school.

Explanation: Social status could be anything from a special title (“class captain”) to a promotion (from being “junior” to “senior” team member). It works for people who seek the approval of their colleagues and family, or who are motivated by a sense of power.

Pros: Works well for people actively seeking approval.

Cons: Creates social hierarchies. Ineffective with anti-authoritarian minded people.

Best For: Humans only! Sorry doggies.

21. A Trophy or Award

Explanation: Trophies and awards are common both in schools and the sporting world. A gold-silver-bronze system is easy to set up, and anyone with a printer and laminator can put together customized awards.

Pros: Rewards winners in a competitive situation.

Cons: Can be overused (‘participation trophies’). Adults in the workplace might find it patronizing. Doesn’t work with pets.

Best For: Children

What is the Theory of Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is part of the behaviorism theory. This theory says that people (and animals) will be more likely to repeat behaviors that they know will lead to rewards and decrease behaviors that will lead to negative consequences.

It’s a theory promoted by famous theorists including Skinner, Thorndike and Watson. Perhaps most famously, Skinner used the theory with children to train them into (and out of) certain behaviors. He even used it to help children lose their fears of certain animals.

But we also know that positive and negative reinforcement can lose its strength over time. We call this ‘desensitization’. We’ve learned that the best way to prevent ‘desensitization’ to reinforcers is to provide them only in random intervals after the positive behavior has been learned.

To go into more depth on the theory behind positive reinforcement, read my article on behaviorism.

See Also: The Banking Model of Education

Downsides

Many people consider positive reinforcement to be a negative thing because it encourages extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation. In other words, people do things only for the reward they get at the end, rather than due to pure interest in the action or belief in it as an inherently ‘good thing’ to do.

That’s why many people prefer other incentive systems, like those promoted by the humanist theory and sociocultural theory, which both provide more intrinsic forms of motivation for positive behaviors.

Other Motivation Models

Some other motivation models that you could read up about include:

  • Expectancy-Value Theory
  • The ABC Model of Attitude
  • Self-Determination Theory

Conclusion

Positive reinforcement remains one of the most useful ways to encourage good behavior and decrease negative behavior. Whether you’re training a dog, a child, or an employee, we see rewards all around us.

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While it has its criticisms (namely, that it’s an extrinsic rather than intrinsic reward model), it remains an important skill for a teacher, trainer, coach or manager to have. Mixed in with a range of other methods of encouraging motivation, positive reinforcement can be helpful to both the teacher and the learner.

FAQs

What is a real life example of positive reinforcement? ›

A child is told to clean the living room, he cleans the living room [behavior] and is then allowed to play video games [reinforcer].

What is positive reinforcement give an example? ›

As noted above, positive reinforcement refers to introducing a desirable stimulus (i.e., a reward) to encourage the behavior that is desired. An example of this is giving a child a treat when he or she is polite to a stranger.

What are the 4 types of positive reinforcement? ›

There are four types of positive reinforcers: natural, tangible, social, and token. Positive reinforcement can be delivered in experiments as part of a partial fixed schedule.

What are the 4 types of reinforcement examples? ›

There are four types of reinforcement. Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, extinction, and punishment.

What are positive reinforcers? ›

Positive reinforcement is the act of rewarding a positive behavior in order to encourage it to happen again in the future, as in Getting an A on the test was the positive reinforcement I needed to continue studying.

What are examples of positive behaviors? ›

  • Walk at all times.
  • Keep hands/feet to yourself.
  • Be kind to others.
  • Use manners.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Allow others to learn.
  • Respect others/property.
  • Complete assigned.

What are some examples of positive punishment? ›

Positive punishment is when you add a consequence to unwanted behavior. You do this to make it less appealing. An example of positive punishment is adding more chores to the list when your child neglects their responsibilities.

How do you positively reinforce yourself? ›

Self-reinforcement can start with simple actions by giving yourself small rewards; like treating yourself to a nice dinner or going to the movies Pick rewards that are important to you, that you really love and don't feel guilty about.

What is positive verbal reinforcement? ›

Verbal reinforcement is one of the most effective types of positive reinforcement that school staff can use. Describe the positive behaviour while giving praise. The comments should focus on what the student did right and be stated in positive language. For example, “That was a wonderful paragraph you wrote because …”

What are 3 examples of positive reinforcers? ›

Examples of Positive Reinforcement
  • Clapping and cheering.
  • Giving a high five.
  • Giving a hug or pat on the back.
  • Giving a thumbs-up.
  • Offering a special activity, like playing a game or reading a book together.
  • Offering praise.
  • Telling another adult how proud you are of your child's behavior while your child is listening.
2 Sept 2022

What is positive reinforcement for students? ›

In education, positive reinforcement is a type of behavior management that focuses on rewarding what students do well. It differs from positive punishment in that it focuses less on reprimanding students for misbehavior and more on rewarding good behavior and accomplishments.

What are positive reinforcement strategies? ›

Positive Reinforcement: Adding something pleasant or desirable (e.g., toy, food, attention) to make a target behavior more likely to occur. Negative Reinforcement: Taking something unpleasant or undesired away (e.g., aspirin to relieve a migraine) to make a target behavior more likely to occur.

What is the best type of reinforcement? ›

Variable ratio: Variable ratio intermittent reinforcement is the most effective schedule to reinforce a behavior.

What is an example of positive reinforcement in the classroom? ›

For example, a student calls out during class to get attention. When the teacher responds, i.e. pays attention to the disruptive student, this response acts as positive reinforcement – therefore, the probability that the student will call out again increases (Smith, 2017).

What are real life examples of positive and negative reinforcement? ›

For example, spanking a child when he throws a tantrum is an example of positive punishment. Something is added to the mix (spanking) to discourage a bad behavior (throwing a tantrum). On the other hand, removing restrictions from a child when she follows the rules is an example of negative reinforcement.

What are natural reinforcers? ›

A natural reinforcer is defined as a reinforcer that has a direct relationship to the child's behavior and the task. The reinforcer, a consequence, is logically related to a chain of antecedents and responses. EXAMPLE. A toddler may indicate interest in blowing bubbles.

How is positive reinforcement used in relationships? ›

Statements of praise, asking questions, desirable assignments, useful conversations, and showing interest in what others have done are all examples of potential positive social reinforcers.

What is positive reinforcement in the workplace? ›

Positive reinforcement involves adding a rewarding stimulus (e.g., a bonus) in order to increase a positive behavior (e.g., productivity). Negative reinforcement involves reducing an aversive stimulus (e.g., a crowded office setting) in order to increase a positive behavior (e.g., productivity).

What are the 5 positive behavior in an organization? ›

Third, POB not only improves performance and management effectiveness, it results in positive behaviors such as altruism, conscientiousness, civic virtue, sportsmanship, and courtesy.

What are positive Behaviour support plans? ›

What is a Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) Plan? A Positive Behaviour Support Plan is a document created to help understand behaviour and support behaviour change in children and adults who have learning disabilities.

What are positive work behaviors? ›

Examples of positive workplace behaviors include: Championing company values. Cooperating with and collaborating with others. Welcoming new ideas.

What is the best punishment for a teenager? ›

One of the best punishments for teens could be letting them face the natural consequences of their actions. You can also try limiting their privileges to certain times or assigning them extra chores. Make sure the punishment comes across as a learning experience rather than a complex task imposed on them (1).

How do I discipline my 11 year old daughter? ›

Discipline Strategies That Work
  1. Engage in Problem-Solving.
  2. Use Natural Consequences.
  3. Rethink the Reward System.
  4. Create a Behavior Contract.
  5. Provide Pre-Teaching.
  6. Take Away Privileges.
  7. Prioritize Connection.
  8. Avoid Labeling Your Child.
18 Mar 2022

What is the best punishment for a child? ›

Early Bedtime or Extra Nap: Early bedtime or an extra naptime is an effective positive punishment for younger children. Children do not want to sleep when they could play or be active, so being forced to sleep is a great deterrent to bad behavior. Also, most small children act out more when they are tired.

What are some examples of reinforcement? ›

Reinforcement can include anything that strengthens or increases a behavior. 3 In a classroom setting, for example, types of reinforcement might include giving praise, letting students out of unwanted work, or providing token rewards, candy, extra playtime, or fun activities.

What is an example of self-reinforcement? ›

Have you ever given yourself a reward when you accomplished a task, like eating a decadent dessert after making a deadline? This is called self-reinforcement and it occurs when individuals select a reinforcer and reward themselves for reaching or exceeding a criterion.

What are self reinforcing behaviors? ›

Self-reinforcement in operant situations generally refers to those arrangements in which the subject delivers to himself a consequence, contingent on his behavior. However, it is noted that the definition of all other types of reinforcement make its delivery contingent on the subject's behavior.

How do you pair yourself with reinforcement? ›

To begin pairing yourself with reinforcement, first find out what your student's preferred socially mediated reinforcer is. You can do this by conducting a preference assessment. Next, you will engage in the socially mediated reinforcer at the same time as delivering the other reinforcer (usually tangible or edible).

How do you reward good behavior? ›

Examples of Social Rewards

Affection – includes hugs, kisses, a high five, a smile, a pat on the back, or an arm around the shoulder. Praise – Praise happens when parents say things like “Great job,” “Way to go,” or “Good boy/girl.” However, specific (or labeled) praise tells a child exactly what behavior you liked.

Is praise positive reinforcement? ›

Praise is a form of positive reinforcement that combines attention with a positive verbal statement.

What is an example of positive reinforcement quizlet? ›

Positive reinforcement works by presenting a motivating/reinforcing stimulus to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future. EX: The little boy receives $5.00 (reinforcing stimulus) for every A he earns on his report card (behavior).

Why is positive reinforcement used? ›

Positive reinforcement helps develop a child's self-esteem

Children who are confident and have healthy self-esteem are the ones who are more likely to find success later in life. By using positive reinforcement, we are making our children feel good about themselves; especially when they have done something right.

How is reinforcement used in school? ›

One of teachers most valued behavior management tools is reinforcement. Reinforcement can be used to teach new skills, teach a replacement behavior for an interfering behavior, increase appropriate behaviors, or increase on-task behavior (AFIRM Team, 2015).

What are the positive behavior of students? ›

Across both samples, school achievement was correlated with love of learning, perseverance, zest, gratitude, hope, and perspective. The strongest correlations with positive classroom behavior were found for perseverance, self-regulation, prudence, social intelligence, and hope.

What is positive reinforcement in challenging behaviour? ›

In operant conditioning, positive reinforcement comprises the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a particular behaviour. This makes it more likely that the behaviour will happen again in the future.

What are reinforcing techniques? ›

What are reinforcement techniques? Reinforcement techniques are operant conditioning methods designed to increase the likelihood of a desired response. There are three types of reinforcement techniques: positive, negative, and extinguishing. Each technique represents reward, punishment, and ignorance.

What are real life examples of positive and negative reinforcement? ›

For example, spanking a child when he throws a tantrum is an example of positive punishment. Something is added to the mix (spanking) to discourage a bad behavior (throwing a tantrum). On the other hand, removing restrictions from a child when she follows the rules is an example of negative reinforcement.

What is an example of positive reinforcement in the classroom? ›

For example, a student calls out during class to get attention. When the teacher responds, i.e. pays attention to the disruptive student, this response acts as positive reinforcement – therefore, the probability that the student will call out again increases (Smith, 2017).

What is an example of positive reinforcement quizlet? ›

Positive reinforcement works by presenting a motivating/reinforcing stimulus to the person after the desired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior more likely to happen in the future. EX: The little boy receives $5.00 (reinforcing stimulus) for every A he earns on his report card (behavior).

What is positive reinforcement in the classroom? ›

In education, positive reinforcement is a type of behavior management that focuses on rewarding what students do well. It differs from positive punishment in that it focuses less on reprimanding students for misbehavior and more on rewarding good behavior and accomplishments.

What are some examples of positive punishment? ›

Positive punishment is when you add a consequence to unwanted behavior. You do this to make it less appealing. An example of positive punishment is adding more chores to the list when your child neglects their responsibilities.

What are the examples of reinforcement? ›

Reinforcement can include anything that strengthens or increases a behavior. 3 In a classroom setting, for example, types of reinforcement might include giving praise, letting students out of unwanted work, or providing token rewards, candy, extra playtime, or fun activities.

Is yelling positive reinforcement? ›

Yelling at teens reinforces bad behavior. Think shouting at your teenager will get him or her to behave? Think again, say experts. A study, published online this week in the journal Child Development, states that screaming at your teen as a form of discipline might make the bad behavior even worse.

What is positive verbal reinforcement? ›

Verbal reinforcement is one of the most effective types of positive reinforcement that school staff can use. Describe the positive behaviour while giving praise. The comments should focus on what the student did right and be stated in positive language. For example, “That was a wonderful paragraph you wrote because …”

How do you give yourself positive reinforcement? ›

Self-reinforcement can start with simple actions by giving yourself small rewards; like treating yourself to a nice dinner or going to the movies Pick rewards that are important to you, that you really love and don't feel guilty about.

What does positive reinforcement result in? ›

In operant conditioning, positive reinforcement involves the addition of a reinforcing stimulus following a behavior that makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. When a favorable outcome, event, or reward occurs after an action, that particular response or behavior will be strengthened.

Which of the following is the best example of shaping? ›

An example of shaping is when a baby or a toddler learns to walk. They are reinforced for crawling, then standing, then taking one step, then taking a few steps, and finally for walking. Reinforcement is typically in the form of lots of praise and attention from the child's parents.

Does reinforcement increase behavior? ›

Reinforcement means you are increasing a behavior, and punishment means you are decreasing a behavior. Reinforcement can be positive or negative, and punishment can also be positive or negative. All reinforcers (positive or negative) increase the likelihood of a behavioral response.

What are the 5 types of positive reinforcement? ›

Examples of Positive Reinforcement
  • Clapping and cheering.
  • Giving a high five.
  • Giving a hug or pat on the back.
  • Giving a thumbs-up.
  • Offering a special activity, like playing a game or reading a book together.
  • Offering praise.
  • Telling another adult how proud you are of your child's behavior while your child is listening.
2 Sept 2022

What are reinforcers for students? ›

Any social, work, or play activities that students engage in voluntarily are potential reinforcers. Extra recess time, leading the school pledge, playing a game, five minutes of talk time, listening to music, and computer time are all activity reinforcers that are available at little or no cost.

How do you give reinforcement to students? ›

If you're trying to figure out how to use positive reinforcement in the classroom, here are 9 classroom reinforcement systems to consider.
  1. Verbal praise. ...
  2. Stickers and written praise. ...
  3. Special privileges. ...
  4. Send a positive note home. ...
  5. Prize box. ...
  6. Token economy. ...
  7. Behavior punch cards. ...
  8. Behavior coupons.

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