Reinforcing Change

The finest professional animal trainers never punish their animals, except as a last resort or to prevent injury. They know that punishment only suppresses undesirable behavior temporarily. Once the punishment is withdrawn, the behavior tends to return.

They also know that punishment teaches their animals to hate and fear them – the last thing a trainer wants. If you’ve ever watched “dog whisperer” Cesar Millan, you will understand.

This is no different for people. Just think about it: How well do you learn from someone you would much rather avoid? How well do you respond to someone who is trying to get you to do something by threatening or hurting you? How much do you learn under adverse conditions, and how quickly do you forget what you have learned? Chances are the one thing you will remember is how you managed to avoid anything to do with this person.

Of course, when it comes to children, we need to be realistic. If you have a two-year-old who is too young to reason with and who repeatedly runs out into a busy street, your only alternative may be some form of physical restraint or punishment.

But, in a vast majority of situations, we can best teach others by praising their efforts, no matter how faltering or incomplete, and building their confidence, step by step. Enlightened leadership knows this works, as these same tactics help create loyalty and engagement within their organizations.

For young children, be sure the learning task is within the child’s capacity, ignore mistakes, focus on successes, and be patient. In fact, patience goes a long way in most situations. We can goal-set all we want, but some situations we simply have no control over. This is where our resiliency and option thinking abilities come to the forefront.

So, focus on the end-result you want, gather your positive self-talk, and let your natural creativity find the answers to the challenges you face. You generally will be pleased with the results.