I’ve thought a lot about positive reinforcement. Praising children seems to be a no-brainer. But I’ve had some questions:
● What makes the new learning stick and have meaning?
● What can I say or do to help kids retain what they’ve learned?
● What makes MY new learning stick?
The key is finding intrinsic meaning in the task at hand. The new information needs to relate to something real and meaningful. Making associations or learning with a friend is one way to create meaning and is fun. It also helps if the task is experiential.
As a parent, my husband and I wanted our kids to feel good about themselves for being who they are; not in response to how others judged them. We thought that if our kids could reflect on and recognize their personal growth and worth they would be lifelong learners and ultimately feel better about themselves. (I think it’s working but the parenting is not over yet!)
So many kids come to our Social Adventures Groups with poor self-esteem; the world is telling them they don’t measure up. Our goal is to build competence leading to confidence. They learn how to be a friend; not because we tell them they are good friends but because they are actually acting friendly and are rewarded by kids saying, “You’re my best friend” or “Can you come to my house to play?” The kids don’t need us telling them, “Good job” or “Those words made Johnny feel so much better.” The friendly feedback and all around good feelings create the intrinsic motivation to learn more, try harder, remember, and grow. Reinforcement is good but the ultimate goal is always to create a safe place for children to learn, make mistakes, recover, reflect and bloom. As Spring approaches, I wish you all many opportunities to plant and water seeds of learning in your children and watch them feel proud in all their splendid glory!
Submit: Jill Perry M.S. OTR/L
image by: crimsong19