I have always been interested in reinforcement and punishment because it seems so contradicting in itself. It’s complex to think about how we can increase desirable behaviors or decrease undesirable behaviors, but sometimes you attain one when trying for the other.
Adding desirable stimuli may produce negative behavior? Why does this happen? So, do we then take away the desirable stimuli to reduce the negative behavior? Or will that, in turn, also produce more behavior that is negative?
Using stickers (extrinsic/concrete reinforcers) to reinforce good behavior is what comes to mind when thinking of these questions. Are they good or bad? It is an approach many teachers use “for academic achievement and appropriate classroom behavior” (Ormrod, 2012, p. 59). However, we (future teachers) are being told that using stickers is not a good thing. One professor commented that students should not be rewarded, or reinforced, for things they should be doing such as walking down the hall, sitting quietly, doing homework, etc. I agree with this in part, but I feel that in order to initially accomplish our goals of “increasing the frequency of a particular behavior” (p. 59) we should offer an appealing consequence. It would be great if students naturally rewarded themselves intrinsically, and we wouldn’t need to figure out extrinsic strategies that worked effectively.
I’ve never witnessed stickers (or any other concrete reinforcer) to lead to undesirable behaviors unless it brings a student to expect the reward each and every time. We may have caused the desirable behavior to increase, but the money in our pocket will quickly decrease. Perhaps a better strategy for stickers would be to put them on some sort of behavior management chart rather than directly giving the sticker to the student. On the other hand, could you use stickers as a punishment for undesirable behavior? Is it acceptable to take away an earned reward as a form of removal punishment? I, personally, don’t like the idea. I feel it is very disheartening to a child to have taken away what has been earned, as if what they did to earn it has been cancelled or disregarded.
I have many mixed feelings between positive reinforcement and removal punishment, and I’ve noticed that my internal conflicts have greatly increased since I’ve had a child of my own. What is a parent/teacher to do in order to succeed in developing well-behaved little people?