Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is the removal of an unpleasant event when the toddler engages in the behavior or skill. Like positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement leads to an increase in the toddler’s use of the skill or behavior.

  1. Negative reinforcement is NOT punishment. Punishment is meant to decrease behavior while negative reinforcement is meant to increase behavior by taking away the aversive or unpleasant event.

  2. Negative reinforcement is generally used to teach a target skill/behavior to take the place of an interfering behavior. For example, when the toddler says “help” instead of screaming he is given the item he wanted which was being held by his mom.

  3. Negative reinforcement is generally used when using positive reinforcement has been ineffective in teaching the toddler a replacement skill or behavior.

  4. Since negative reinforcement is generally used to teach a replacement skill, negative reinforcement may lead to an increase in the challenging behavior. This may happen if the negative reinforcer chosen is not of value for the toddler or if the toddler does not make the connection between the aversive being removed due to his use of the replacement behavior or skill.