Parent and toddler sitting down talking

Benefits of Positive Reinforcement in Toddlers

"Instead of yelling and spanking, which don't work anyway, I believe in finding creative ways to keep their attention—turning things into a game, for instance. And, when they do something good, positive reinforcement and praise." - Patricia Richardson.

Positive reinforcement is a technique that can help guide children toward a more desirable behavior by introducing a pleasant stimulus. It suggests that we can teach our kids without punishment or negative connotations. 

To translate this into a real-life example, you can embrace well-received behavior, such as cleaning up after oneself and preclude behavior, such as throwing food on the floor. 

You might've heard about other forms of encouragement, but we find positive reinforcement to be the most effective and less damaging in the long run. 

Yes, sure, toddlers are chaotic, and there's rarely a time when we're calm enough to face their shenanigans with a neutral reaction, but if we want to raise healthy children, we also need to take their mental health into account. 

The psychology of positive reinforcement

Reward your child for good behavior - seems easy enough to do, right? So why do we still have the punishment system when it comes to parenting? 

To understand this matter better, we need to dive deeper into positive reinforcement and discuss the four types of such conditioning:

  1. Natural reinforcers - These reinforcers go with the flow. For example, a student studies hard and gets good grades on the exam. 
  2. Token reinforcers - It's a reward system that teachers and parents often use. A child can earn a star, sticker, or a specific token that can be collected and exchanged for a reward. 
  3. Social reinforcers - This one comes down to verbal affirmations. Children respond well to phrases such as "good job," "you did great work," etc. That's why a lot of educational mobile games use these verbal reinforcers. 
  4. Tangible reinforcers - Parents often use material reinforcers, such as pocket money, in exchange for doing one's chores. 

B.F Skinner, an American psychologist, talks about these four positive reinforcement classes in his book Science And Human Behavior. He also mentions different types of conditioning, which we will discuss later. 

Before that, we want to show you real-life examples of positive reinforcement:

  • A mother gives her toddler their favorite snack for cleaning up after themselves;
  • A father tells his kid they did a great job helping him with the chores;
  • A teacher gives out gold stars to students who come to classes on time;
  • An educational game character says "well done" once the player passes the level.

We're sure you've used some of these methods with your toddler; long before reading this article. Positive reinforcement comes naturally to us, and studies say it indeed works

Of course, there are other conditioning methods, such as Positive punishment, Negative reinforcement, and Negative punishment. These strategies are effective for teaching or "training," but their effectiveness will vary based on the context. 

Childhood development experts suggest positive reinforcement because it considers mental health and can bond parents and children. But there's a lot more than positive reinforcement can do for you and your family. 

What are the benefits of positive reinforcement for toddlers?

There are many benefits to positive reinforcement, but we want to point out only several: 

Positive reinforcement can build your toddler's self-esteem. 

Using positive reinforcement can help children feel good about themselves. Instead of focusing on what they did wrong, positive comments and attitude teach them that they're good at some things and have room for improvement in others.

This can help build their self-esteem, find success later in life, and contribute to their happy and healthy development. 

Positive development builds up your toddler's character.

Using a positive approach helps develop a strong character and even compels children to exceed expectations. Children who are motivated positively don't spend hours fearing punishment if they make a mistake and put a lot more effort into their tasks. 

Positive reinforcement makes your toddler feel loved. 

Of course, we discipline our children because we love them, but not all kids understand what discipline means. They don't know why sometimes mommy can look angry or raise her voice and ask them to behave a certain way. 

Toddlers can mistake discipline techniques as a sign that they're not loved. This is where positive reinforcement can help you. By responding to your child's behavior with a calm and positive approach, they will feel the love you have for them and follow your teachings as well. 

While we discussed positive reinforcement, there are other ways parents discipline their children. You can read a lot about B.F. Skinner's theory of Operant Conditioning to understand how conditioning works on children, adults, and even animals. 

Before we tap out, we want to add that children don't come with instructions (duh). Yes, it would've been so convenient and helpful; they could've understood the world better, and we would've known how to approach their behaviors in the healthiest way. 

Since we don't have an instruction manual, we research, experiment, and try. Positive reinforcement can be a great tool while dealing with the unpredictable behavior of a toddler. It can help discipline them, and help them grow and develop in a healthy way.