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The importance of positive reinforcement behaviors in young children – Candace President, Director/Owner of The First steps Childcare Preschool

Early childhood development refers to how a child grows and develops physically, emotionally, and socially during the first years of life. It’s also inclusive of their lan guage, communication and cognitive skills. All these areas of development are intricately linked and very important during the early years. One of the most important factors to promote development is incorporating positive reinforcement strategies.

This article explores the many benefits of positive reinforcement in young children as they grow, develop, and learn to manage behaviors.

What is Positive
Reinforcement in Early Childhood Development?

Positive reinforcement is a concept that is widely used in child development because it is so effective. Positive reinforcement is an essential strategy to managing children’s behavior in preschool and in the home. It involves encouraging the repetition of desirable behavior by giving a reward after that behavior has been exhibited. These rewards help children learn new behaviors or strengthen existing ones. This could be as simple as giving them praise, offering them a small treat, or letting them do something fun. By doing this, you are showing them that their actions have consequences (positive or negative), and it will likely encourage them to continue to make positive choices.

The idea behind positive reinforcement is based on the principle of behaviorism, which suggests that behavior is shaped by its consequences. Essentially, this means that if a behavior is followed by a positive consequence, such as a reward or praise, then that behavior is more likely to be repeated in the future. This is because the child has learned that this behavior leads to positive outcomes.

Let’s explore some benefits, effective strategies, and how to create a positive environment.

Benefits of Positive
Reinforcement Behavior
in Young Children

• Encourages Self-Esteem and Confidence- positive behavior is wonderfully powerful and has social, emotional and academic benefits for children.

• Reduces Negative Behavior-encouraging positive behavior may help reduce toddler behavioral issues, like aggression, tantrums, and defiance.

Effectives Strategies for Promoting Positive Behavior

Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement is recognizing children for positive behavior. Offering children specific praise when you see them doing something nice like sharing demonstrates that positive behavior feels good and increases their motivation to repeat positive behaviors. Make sure the praise is specific, and if it impacts someone else, mention how that other person must feel.

Clear Expectations
and Consequences

It’s important to provide firm boundaries so that children understand expectations. When children stray from the boundary, there should be natural consequences to upholdexpectations. When thinking about consequences, make sure they are equal to the expectation. If your child draws on the walls, sending them to their room or yelling at them could be confusing. Drawing is ok & great for development, drawing on the wall on the other hand isn’t (unless you are introducing wall or murals). Instead, you may say something like, “I see you like to draw.” Let’s talk about appropriate things to draw on, paper, boxes, etc. Would you like to choose one of these options to draw on? Another natural consequence may be having them help you clean the walls. Get creative before doling out a consequence. In our wall art example, you may also tape paper up on the or offer them an easel.

Consistency and Routine

For young children, consistency is key. Structure and routines help children feel relaxed and secure, making them far more likely to exhibit positive behavior. For example, a child should have routines in their home environment, it helps the child in the preschool setting to adjust to routines. Some of the routines may be similar at home and school, feeding, toileting, placing items where they belong, napping etc.

Creating a Positive


An essential component for promoting positive behavior is creating a positive environment, traits of which may include:

Positive Affirmations – Parent/teacher and child creates a positive daily saying that encourages the child: “I Can Achieve Whatever I Put My Mind To”

Encourage Positive 


Children learn through repetition and need opportunities to practice positive behavior. It is important to encourage positive interactions not only between children and adults, but among children themselves.

Choose activities that promote teamwork, cooperation, and kindness so children can learn by doing.

Our daily interactions with our young children are essential! When our scholars are greeted sincerely with warmth & kindness it has a positive impact on their day & development.

Young children look to us for so many cues as they grow and develop so our positive interactions are vital. We should MODEL positive behaviors consistently so that the children we care for both hear & see what it is we expect of them. And if they have the occasional bad day, it’s ok, if they don’t get it on the 1st try it’s ok. Like I stated earlier, consistency is KEY!