Monthly Series – Part 4: Effective Reinforcement and Consequences for Behavior

Effective Reinforcement
Reinforcing a behavior is something educators do to make the behavior more likely to occur in the future. The key element of reinforcement is that it is done at the time of the behavior. It’s much different than offering a reward. Rewards mean giving a student something only after they have accomplished something. Reinforcers can be social, (i.e. praise) or tangible (a token, ticket etc.). They should be given for specific positive behaviors. Don’t reinforce a student for not doing something negative (that’s bribery, and it’s a bad idea). Remember that reinforcers don’t work when (a) the student’s need is more powerful than the reinforce, (b) the student doesn’t have the skill to perform the desired behavior, or (c) the environment is the problem.

Effective Consequences
Educators can use consequences to deter behavior that a student is capable of stopping. Like reinforcers, they don’t help when the student has a stronger need, a lack of skill or is in a problematic environment. Consequences imposed by adults should be logical (they relate to the behavior that resulted in the consequence) reasonable and short-term (long term consequences lose their effectiveness) and given immediately in response to the behavior, once the student is calm.

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