What does Reinforcement mean?

Reinforcement happens after a desired behaviour has occurred. 

“Reinforcement is the process of encouraging or establishing a belief or pattern of behavior, especially by encouragement or reward.”(Source:Reinforcement vs. Bribery)

“Example of positive reinforcement: First give the child a choice of two activities that you would want them to complete. (“Do you want to clean up your toys or take out the trash?”)  This will make the child feel empowered because they get to choose the activity. Then you need to find out what they want to earn for completing the task. (What would you like to work for?”) The last step is to make sure the child understands the contingency for receiving the reinforcer. (“First clean up your toys, then you will get to play video games for ten minutes.)” (Source:The difference between bribery and reinforcement)

What does bribery mean?

Bribery happens before the behaviour you desired has occurred in order to attempt the behaviour from happening. 

“A bribe as a selfish act in that it is done more for personal gain rather than affecting behavioral change. Also that in the long run, bribery does more harm than good.” (Source:Reinforcement VS. Bribe)

“A real life example of a bribe:  A child does not want to transition to the cafeteria during school and he starts to tantrum. While the child is screaming the teacher says, “If you quit screaming I will give you a candy heart”. The child quits screaming and gets the candy heart.  As soon as the class starts to transition to lunch the child starts to tantrum again in the hallway.” (Source:The difference between bribery and reinforcement)

Difference between bribery and reinforcement:


Reinforcement and Bribery are completely DIFFERENT things!

  • In reinforcement, rewards are earned as incentive for displaying good behaviors, whereas bribes are given in response to a challenging behavior
  • Reinforcements create a lasting change in kids; Bribes only work a short term.
  • Reinforcement is planned ahead of time and is usually delivered with praise while, on the other hand bribery is reactive and is mostly delivered in frustration
  • In Reinforcement, the adult is in control and they decide when (and if) the reward has been earned.In bribery the child is in control, negotiation is made in exchange for compliance.