Positive Reinforcement and Building Self-Worth

Today we are going to discuss the incredible impact that positive reinforcement has on shaping children’s behaviour and enhancing their sense of self worth. Positive reinforcement is the act of acknowledging and rewarding desired behaviours in order to encourage them to occur again in the future. The technique is not only good for implementing behaviour change, but can also contribute to building a child’s sense of self worth and promoting a growth mindset. Rather than solely relying on external rewards, positive reinforcement can help tap into intrinsic motivation, helping children to take pride and initiative in the tasks they are completing.

Positive Reinforcement and Building Self-Worth

The Power of Positive Reinforcement:

There is evidence that emotional and behavioural disorders are present in an estimated 9.5% to 19.5% of preschool aged children. Challenging behaviour can be hard and emotionally draining to manage for both parents and child alike, especially if regular behaviour support is mainly through negative consequences when something goes wrong. The application of positive reinforcement is consistent with recommendations by national organisations for early childhood and early childhood special education. Combine positive reinforcement with regular positive affirmations/self talk and watch your child’s confidence and behaviour soar!

Benefits and Techniques:

1. Validation and Recognition

We all like to be appreciated for our hard work so when your child shows initiative or goes above and beyond what you expect them to do, this is a great opportunity to show them your genuine appreciation. Be clear and intentional about what you are celebrating and use encouraging language to reinforce the behaviour. Additionally you can use non-verbal symbols such as a thumbs up or a high five to celebrate. This recognition encourages your child to continue to put effort into tasks and empowers them to have confidence in their abilities.

2. Verbal Affirmations

Use positive language and affirmations to encourage your child. Check out our Hug A Bug World shop to see our soft affirmation hearts. You can use these with your child to support their sense of self and to develop confidence in their
abilities. Affirmations such as “I am loved” or “I can share”

will help your child to build confidence in their own capabilities and can act as a travel sized positive reinforcement tool that your child can use on their own! Verbalising affirmation in this way can encourage the internalisation of the values and morals you are trying to teach your child. Regularly go through these affirmations whilst giving the heart a squeeze to aid connection through mind and body.

3. Set Realistic Expectations

Build up the age-appropriate expectations you have for your child slowly and over an extended period of time. Positive reinforcement helps to shape a positive self image, but this doesn’t happen overnight. Be consistent with recognising and appreciating your child’s achievements, focusing on what they did particularly well in the task rather than what they could have done instead. Through time, a sense of trust and security will build up in both your relationship with each other and your child’s relationship with themselves and you may find your child positively reinforcing themselves through their affirmations as they learn these techniques that increase intrinsic motivation.

We hope this information has been helpful for you. Let us know via social media if you implemented any of these ideas. And if you have any topics that you would like us to cover. We always love to hear from you!

Have a wonderful week,
The Hug A Bug Team Instagram – @hugabug_world


Writer: Anna Baird
Sources: Hardy et al (2020), Using Positive Reinforcement With Young Children, SAGE Journals
Hukam Dad et al (2010), Comparison Of The Frequency And Effectiveness Of Positive And Negative Reinforcement Practices In Schools, Contemporary Issues in Education Research, Vol3, No1

Positive Reinforcement and Building Self-Worth

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