The best way to teach is to praise positive actions and ignore negative ones.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.

Many parents and teachers agree with this adage that the best way to teach children is to reward them for good behavior and ignore bad behavior. The suggestion is common enough that in my 33 years of teaching, I have encountered countless parents who follow it. The theory suggests that positive reinforcement will help children be motivated to learn and work hard. However, the problem with this line of thinking is that children face so many distractions in today’s society that praise alone is not enough. In fact, in many classrooms, teachers find themselves praising children even when they misbehave, thereby discouraging them from learning.

In most classrooms, teachers rely on positive reinforcement to reward good behavior. For example, a student may be praised for showing up on time, coming to class prepared, or completing homework on time. These praiseworthy behaviors help the teacher’s classroom run smoothly. The teacher may then issue another reward, such as extra recess, a treat, or a trip to a field trip. When these rewards are withheld, students often question why. “Why can’t I get the bonus next time I conduct myself well in the classroom?” or “Why don’t I get to go on the field trip?” Because rewarding students for good behavior is part of the teacher’s job often feels like a broken promise. So children may resort to acting out to regain their” reward.” If a teacher consistently rewards children for good behavior, they begin to believe that behaving well in the classroom is the only way to be successful.

Unfortunately, acting out in the classroom can undermine a teacher’s authority. For example, a disruptive student in the class may lash out at a teacher, causing trouble for the rest of the class. The teacher may then reward the student for bad behavior by allowing him to stay in the course after the rest of the students have already gone home. This reward can encourage the students to act similarly, allowing them to disrupt the class even more. This behavior may begin to erode the authority of the teacher. Eventually, the students may even begin to believe that the teacher rewards them for their bad behavior. Thus, the cycle of fighting begins, and the teacher’s authority begins to erode.

The solution to this problem is to praise the positive behaviors they observe in students while reprimanding the destructive behaviors. For example, teachers should honor students when they show interest in a subject, participate willingly in class discussions, and do other positive behaviors beneficial to their learning. In turn, they should use discipline when students exhibit undesirable behaviors such as bullying, disrespect, or defiance. Some teachers may also choose to give students rewards for maintaining a productive classroom environment. This may be as simple as providing each student a sticker when they contribute positively to the class discussion. In this way, the teacher is praising students for good behavior while also discouraging them from misbehaving.

Moreover, by praising students for their positive behaviors, the teacher demonstrates that she is aware of their achievements and cares about them. As a result, the students will be motivated to perform better and behave positively. Finally, teachers should not allow negative behavior to go unchecked because students will come to expect it and act out when it is not rewarded. Therefore, negative behavior should be dealt with immediately and firmly. For example, if a student is disruptive and disrespectful to the teacher, the teacher should remove the student from the classroom. If the teacher cannot find another student to take the disruptive student’s place, then the student should be permanently removed from the school. In this way, the class will be restored to its positive and orderly environment, and students will no longer be rewarded for bad behavior.

The above scenario illustrates one way in which positive reinforcement can encourage undesirable behavior. However, there are many other situations in which positive reinforcement can be counterproductive. For example, when students see other students receiving rewards for good behavior, they may also try to obtain these rewards. As a result, they may engage in activities that they otherwise would not, such as cheating, lying, or stealing. Another way positive reinforcement can backfire is when a teacher rewards students for failing a test, quiz, or assignment. For example, if a student does poorly on a math test, the teacher may praise him for making a reasonable effort or giving the correct answers to a few problems. However, this negative behavior should have no reward. Instead, the teacher should encourage the student to study harder and do better on the next test. If this type of positive reinforcement is used too often, students will begin to view failure as a positive thing. As a result, they will grow accustomed to failing, damaging their self-esteem and preventing them from achieving their full potential.

The conclusion can be drawn that positive reinforcement alone is not enough to motivate children to behave. To successfully teach children, teachers must praise the positive behaviors they observe while reprimanding the undesirable behaviors. Teachers should also reward students for positive behaviors, especially those that demonstrate initiative, empathy, or cooperation. This helps to reinforce the positive aspects of the student’s behavior and encourage future positive behavior.