Positive Reinforcement Examples: Effective Strategies For Encouraging Positive Behavior

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret

The article has been reviewed by medical expert Margaret Dogwood, BSN, RN

You’ll find tons of positive reinforcement examples in different aspects of a person’s life. But, do you know what they’re for? Do you know its impact in a person’s overall day?

Giving a thumbs up, a high-five, cheering and clapping, verbal and non-verbal praising, and getting a reward are among the most common examples of positive reinforcement.

In this guide, you will learn everything about positive reinforcement deeply. We’ll uncover what they’re for, how they’re used, a few examples, and many more!

What is Positive Reinforcement?

Positive Reinforcement compared to positive and negative punishment
Source: AllPsych.com

I know how you know what positive reinforcement is, by nature – you just can’t define it! Well, in a nutshell, positive reinforcement is the process of offering a pleasurable stimulus or reward in order to make it more likely that a desired behavior will recur in the future.

To understand it better, there are two components in positive reinforcement:

  1. Behavior
  2. Stimulus or Reward

The behavior is the component in which it’s acted, while the stimulus/reward is the component given as a result of the behavior.

What About Negative Reinforcement?

Most people would think that negative reinforcement is just the complete opposite of positive reinforcement. But, it’s not.

The idea behind it is similar to positive reinforcement, where a positive outcome is expected. However, there is no stimulus or reward proactively given. Instead, the elimination of an unpleasant stimulus immediately after the behavior increases the probability that it will happen again.

For example, parents complain and scold their children because their room is always dirty. The child will then always clean their room in order for their parents not to scold or complain any longer.

In other words, you’ll modify how you behave when the unpleasant or “negative” stimulus goes away.

Both positive and negative reinforcement was part of operant conditioning. It was an experiment done by B.F. Skinner in the 1930s, where he wanted to see how rats changed their behavior based on consequences.

Positive vs. Negative Reinforcement: A Quick Comparison

I know how it’s a lot of information to take in and how it’s too complex to understand. So, we made a table that outlines their differences for you to understand it better and easier.

Positive ReinforcementNegative Reinforcement
involves following an action with a reward or a “positive” stimulus.involves avoiding or eliminating an unpleasant stimulus after engaging in an action.
The focus is on delivering incentives or enjoyable outcomes.The focus is on removing or preventing negative effects.
It increases the chance that a behavior will continue in the future.It increases the chance that a behavior will continue in the future.
Examples Include: Giving praise (verbal and non-verbal), providing treats, offering incentives, etc.Examples Include: Removal of a chore, relief from an unpleasant task, ending an unpleasant situation.

Types of Positive Reinforcement

A differentiation of what positive reinforcement is and is not
Source: Behavior TLC

Psychologists and industry experts actually extended and developed a few different types of positive reinforcement. They did it to further classify and categorize behaviors and actions more specifically.

There are actually four different types of positive reinforcement:

  • Tangible
  • Natural
  • Social
  • Token

Tangible reinforcers are those that actually involve physical rewards to gain a desired behavior. They can be anything from sweets, money, toys, or other objects that seem “desirable.”

Natural reinforcers are the ones that have direct relation from a specific behavior. It can be studying hard and listening to your teachers to get higher grades and marks.

Let’s move to the next one, which is social reinforcers. From the term alone, these are reinforcers that involve any type of positive social remark. It may be verbal praise, remarks, or gestures.

Then, lastly, token reinforcers are those that are often given “in exchange” of the positive behavior. For instance, an employer may exempt and add one day off to an employee who always comes in 1 hour earlier before work.

What Are Some Positive Reinforcement Examples? Here’s Six That Work!

Positive reinforcement can be seen in many different aspects and areas in a person’s life. In parenting, these actions can be highly beneficial not only when it comes to the behavior of the child, but also in terms of their overall development.

A few of the general positive reinforcement examples are:

  • Giving a thumbs up to your kid or child after a chore
  • Giving praise to a work or a job well done
  • A gentle, but recognizable tap on the back, following a difficult situation
  • Non-verbal praising or showing of gratitude
  • Giving a reward or a token for an action or a result of a behavior

Let’s take a look at some examples of positive reinforcement in different situations.

Positive Reinforcement Examples in Parenting

By encouraging desirable behavior, creating positive connections, and supporting healthy growth in children, positive reinforcement plays a crucial role in parenting.

Emma, a first-time mother, discussed how she used positive reinforcement on her 2-year-old. She asked the 2-year-old not to make a mess and gave him an apple slice if it happens. The toddler always cleans up after himself and does the effort automatically.

Generally, it involves both promotion and reinforcement constructive behaviors through the use of rewards and recognition:

  • Parents can use a token system to reward children for desired behavior by giving them tokens or points. This can then be redeemed for goodies or privileges. For instance, a kid may accumulate tokens for doing chores. So, the child can use them to watch their preferred TV show or pick a family activity.
  • When their kid demonstrates desirable behaviors, such as doing homework or sharing toys, parents can offer explicit and sincere praise. Saying something like, “Great job on finishing your homework on time! I appreciate your dedication and effort.”
  • To encourage kids, parents might grant them extra privileges or rewards. Providing extra playtime or a modest reward, for instance, in exchange for regularly behaving responsibly or according to home rules.

Download 3 Free Positive Psychology Exercises (PDF) 

As parents, you may find positive reinforcement tricky, especially if you’re new at it. So, we prepared three free positive psychology exercises! 

You can print it or you can use it digitally!

The Well-Being Thesis  

This exercise was designed to help parents increase positive reinforcement with their children. It tackles three (3) positive things, expressing gratitude, and the kindness journal. 

Download Here! 

Positive Psychology’s Three Positive Relationships

This next downloadable PDF is from Positive Psychology. It is a science-based, detailed set of exercises to help build healthy and meaningful relationships. 

Download Here! 

NOTE: Click Yes, Send me the pack and you’ll receive it via your email! Plus there are tons of surprises you’ll receive, too! 

Positive Psychology’s Growth Mindset Phrases For Children

And lastly, the Growth Mindset Phrases sheet. It’s a list of the words you must try to avoid using versus what you can say instead. 

Download Here! 

Positive Reinforcement Examples in the Classroom

In the classroom, positive reinforcement is an important tool. This may improve student engagement, motivation, and nurture academic success.

  • Teachers and educators can give stars to students. This signifies that they have done an amazing job and that it’s acknowledged.
  • The more formal route would be by providing documentation. It can give children a sense of satisfaction and encourage good conduct to recognize their achievements with diplomas, rewards, or class festivities. Awards for academic excellence, growth, or acts of charity fall under this category.
  • Giving children vocal recognition for their efforts, accomplishments, and contributions. This can increase their drive and self-esteem. It may seem simple, but this goes a long way!

FAQs

Here are a few of the most unanswered questions about some of these positive reinforcement examples!

What Are Positive Verbal Reinforcement Examples

There are a lot! In fact, you’ll never have a shortage of what to use! Some examples would be I am proud of you, you’re the best, great job, very good, and many more! Whether you’re doing praise, recognition, feedback, encouragement, or affirmation, it’ll have a positive mark on your baby’s heart and mind.

What Are Positive Self Reinforcement Examples? 

Self-reinforcement often entails intrapersonal reinforcement. It could be like treating yourself to a good meal, buying or doing something you want, etc.  

What Are Positive Reinforcement Examples For Students?

Positive reinforcement in the academic setting varies by age. But to give you a few examples, you can do verbal recognition, token or award system, benefit exchange, and many more! You can say things like, perfect, excellent, well done, or give praise or recognition to their work.

Is Positive Reinforcement Better Than Punishment? 

Yes, positive reinforcement is generally seen as something better, more effective, and more efficient than punishment. This is because positive reinforcement helps build self-esteem, fosters a healthy relationship, and promotes the desired behavior in a more positive way. 

The Final Verdict

Out of the multiple positive reinforcement examples available, you’ll definitely be able to find one that will best suit your needs. Don’t over-exaggerate on what to do, though. Allow it to be natural because your child will feel it – adults will, too.

If ever you need help understanding positive reinforcement again, feel free to go back to this guide! 

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "mamallove.com" and "cashsavvytips.com", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

Get a freebie every week!

Join 40,000+ parents and teachers , and you'll get a freebie in your inbox at least once a week, along with tips, information, and other resources!

Subscribe to the Mamallove newsletter: