Yes, Positive Reinforcement Works

A hallmark of what I teach, and coach, is that you create positive behavioral change by providing encouragement and showing people (or yourself) how to build on existing strengths – the positive reinforcement approach. And you don’t create behavioral change by criticizing or bullying. At best, bullying creates short-term change, but the behavior typically reverts as soon as the student is away from the bully, and long-term the student can develop an aversion to the bully and everything s/he stands for. Think of the parent who forces their kid to practice piano for hours every day – and the kid grows up and never touches the keyboard.

The “positive reinforcement” approach is common wisdom among enlightened teachers, coaches, parents, bosses, etc. Here are two examples of it in action:

A delightful toilet-training example. I particularly love how the nanny is not afraid to give herself praise and props for her success – if more of us did that, more of us would be less fearful and more empowered.

And a New York Times essay by a writer who wrote a book on animal training techniques, and then went home and used those same techniques – effectively – on her husband. It’s called What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage and it was one of the most-emailed articles in all of 2006.

Remember – all positiveness!

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