This is one of those principles that everyone agrees with in theory, but deep down tend to believe that punishment is more effective. Perhaps we are hard wired that way. Perhaps years of the “get tough” on crime policies have brain washed us. Either way, “catching them being good” is a real challenge for most of us. By the way, the optimal ratio of four positive interactions for every negative interaction is true in parenting and spousal relationships too.
Positive Reinforcement Law #1: Many offenders are essentially immune to punishment.
Positive Reinforcement Law #2: Positive reinforcement should be specific, behavior-focused and swift, but unpredictable.
Positive Reinforcement Law #3: Traditionally, most offender feedback has been about which behaviors are not desired. Positive reinforcement provides information about what behaviors are desired.
Positive Reinforcement Bottom Line: Teaching people what not to do (i.e., punishment) is sometimes necessary, but instructing them what they should do (i.e., reinforcement) leaves less room for confusion and creates less anger.