Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Positive Reinforcement

R' Doron Beckerman has a very good piece on Cross-Currents regarding education that I'd like to throw out a couple excerpts from:
There is an educational approach known as “The Nurtured Heart Initiative,” or “The Inner Wealth Initiative,” developed by Dr. Howard Glasser, that takes the above to the next level, inverting the equation altogether. The concept is that “difficult children seek intense relationships, and they quickly learn that they can readily engage and control others through negative behavior. These children can become almost addicted to the rush of this kind of relationship” (The Inner Wealth Initiative, pg. 165).

What this approach does is intentionally pour on huge amounts of positive energy when the student is doing something positive... [...]

On the negative side of things, problems and poor choices should not be given much attention and energy, and they thus become unnecessary as a way to gain relationships. To be sure, rules are strictly enforced, but not with high intensity interactions, long-winded lectures and the like. These reactions are perceived by the relationship-seeking child as an energetic reward, and encourage more of the same. The “action” happens when good things take place, and that is where the student naturally wants to be.
I don't think this is limited to difficult students, either; I think it's as applicable to little kids, young adults, and grown men and women. One of the most difficult parts of parenting or teaching is striking the balance of not taking good actions for granted, which allows kids to think that only negative actions will get them attention, and making clear that those actions are to some extent expected to encourage kids to strive to improve even further.

May we all be blessed with the wisdom to approach such situations with the proper balance.