Reward and punishment to children


One of the most resilient topics in the current world of raising children is which punishment is the most effective in correcting behavior and guiding children to grow up into desirable members of the society. The two warring options are the exercise of rewards and the application of punishment as ways of correcting behavior. This article will look at what is meant by rewards, as well as, by punishment, and, further, look at the different ways each method of correction is effective. In addition to this, the paper will also describe and explain what a token economy is using an example of where and how it might be used.

When a parent or a figure of authority desires to change or reinforce a certain behavior in a child, there are two aims these individuals usually have in mind.  They might be aiming to increase a certain desired behavior, or they might be aiming to decrease a certain undesired character. Either way, these individuals can achieve their goals through two approaches. One of these approaches is using punishments to decrease a certain undesired behavior, and the other way is using rewards to encourage a certain desired character.

So what is meant by rewards? A reward is a form of positive reinforcement, which involves a parent or figure of authority giving a child something pleasant. For instance, a teacher might give a child who has behaved excellently some candy or an apple to encourage him or her to keep on behaving as well as he or she has. Another example of a reward is the paycheck many people get from work. Those people who are able to work hard and maintain their jobs are the only people who manage to receive a check each end month. Therefore, a reward is a form of positive reinforcement, which works or is effective in reinforcing desirable character through motivation, encouragement, and approval and rewarding(Episode 2).

The opposite of rewards is punishment. Punishment is a form of a positive punishment whose goal is to decrease an undesired character. Punishing someone is giving him or her something unpleasant. Examples of a punishment include spanking a child when they show an undesirable behavior like lying. Another example is spraying a cat with water on the face when he scratches the couch. Another extremely common example of a punishment among adults is getting a ticket for speeding. Punishments work effectively by giving someone something distasteful or unpleasant to discourage them from repeating the same unpleasant behavior(Episode 2).

There are other approaches commonly used for reinforcing behavior. Token economy is one of them. This is a system of modifying behavior through positive reinforcement based on the operant conditioning principles. One of the most practical explanations is that children will do or behave in a certain way if rewarded for it and if there is a chance for them to earn prizes or tokens like tickets, points or chips. For instance, a teacher in class can use token economy to encourage excellent performance by rewarding those who pass well with tokens like tickets to movies or points, which the children can exchange later for bigger prizes(Chance, 2003).

Although researchers have proved that these approaches can work to modify behavior, one should also follow the rules of schedules of reinforcement. Most figures of authority will not necessarily reinforce behavior all the time. In real life, people do not usually receive reinforcements for their behavior all the time. A schedule of reinforcement is a principle that states which instances of behavior are reinforced. There are different kinds of schedules, which apply to different people and different instances of behavior. These include variable schedules, fixed schedules, duration schedules, interval schedules, ratio schedules and continuous reinforcement(Chance, 2003).

All these are different ways through which behavior can be encouraged or discouraged to ensure that individuals show the desirable character or behavior.



Chance, P. (2003). Learning and Behavior. Toronto: Thomson-Wadsworth.

Episode 2: Rewards and punishments. Retrieved from

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