Professor says positive reinforcement does not work in the long run

Q. My son who is in Ce2 recently came in tears saying he did not want to go to school anymore because he was punished for speaking during a silent reading. The teacher deprived him of recreation. I think it’s horrible. It is not the job of a teacher to destroy a child’s love for school. What if instead of constant punishment for every little offense, was positive reinforcement used?

A. He was in tears for missing recreation? Ah, sweet innocence of youth. Let’s hope that it will never have really difficult consequences. Or a boss. Or a job.

I do not see what the teacher did horrible. My advice would be to have a conversation with your Ce2 student about “coping skills”.

Jody Stallings Professor

“Positive reinforcement” is a subject that divides teachers. Many of my elementary school colleagues tell me that it works very well. But I will tell you something that does not work in high school and high school: positive reinforcement.

I’m not saying it’s all bad, of course. The compliments and some rewards are very good for the mind. I’m talking specifically about the widespread use of extrinsic rewards as a means of instilling good behavior.

One problem is that rewards for good behavior can not keep pace with the changing desires of children. I remember that I was very motivated in the first year to receive each week a small colorful price handmade. Can you imagine that this kind of thing is a serious incentive for a child who has just 48 “likes” on his latest Instagram post?

I have an education teacher who told the story of an old man who was annoyed by teenagers going home every day, crossing his yard and trampling the grass. They did not know his screams, so one day he decided to try positive reinforcement to reverse that. He offered the children a dollar for each day they walked on his lawn. The children were happy to do it, especially since they had done it anyway, and for a month, the man did his best.

One day, he suddenly stopped paying and told them it was over. The children were so disgusted that they never wanted to walk on his lawn again.

This tends to achieve positive reinforcement when extrinsic rewards are removed. The behavior you want to maintain does not always follow. It was linked to a reward. Now free of everything, he is free to do what he wants. If a child won a candy to keep his own locker, it is likely that his locker would be dirty as soon as there was no reward.

And this brings us to a second problem: schools must not prepare children for a world that does not exist. In real life, citizens are not rewarded extrinsically for being good citizens. You do not get a bonus check because you pay your taxes on time. The gendarmes do not give you a 50 € gift certificate for respecting the speed limit. Nobody offers you a pizza party for not having set your neighbors on fire.

As far as recreation is concerned, I am not saying that every school offense deserves punishment. But children should learn that actions have consequences. Your son has learned that boys who read when it’s time to read have the freedom to play at recess, and those who want to talk at the wrong time lose that freedom. That’s how it works in the real world, right?

Are there people who do not steal the banks because they are afraid of losing their freedom?

Of course, and I agree with that. Ideally, however, people do not steal banks because it’s the wrong thing to do. Most of us are probably in this category. Even though we know we could “get away with it,” we still would not rob the banks because it’s morally wrong. And that’s what we should teach our children.

So if it was my child who came back crying that he hated school because he had lost his recess for speaking during the reading time, I would have firmly informed him that the next day he should stop speak during the reading. And if he hates school because he was deprived of recreation, he’d better be ready to hate the house too, because if he disobeys the teacher again, there will also be consequences. right here.

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