February 1, 2024

What’s The Difference Between Positive and Negative Punishment?

There are two types of punishment: positive and negative reinforcement. Here are some examples to help clear up the confusion.

Punishment is used to help decrease the probability that a specific undesired behavior will occur with the delivery of a consequence immediately after the undesired response/behavior is exhibited. When people hear that punishment procedures are being used, they typically think that something wrong or harmful is being done, but that is not necessarily the case.

The use of these procedures have been used with both typical and atypical developing children, teenagers, elderly persons, animals, and people exhibiting different psychological disorders. There are two types of punishment: positive and negative, and it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. Below are some examples to help clear up the confusion.

Positive Punishment:

This works by presenting a negative consequence after an undesired behavior is exhibited, making the behavior less likely to happen in the future. The following are some examples of positive punishment:

  • A child picks his nose during class and the teacher reprimands him in front of his classmates.
  • A child wears his favorite hat to church or at dinner, his parents scold him for wearing it and make him remove the hat.
  • During a meeting or while in class, your cell phone starts ringing, you are lectured on why it is not okay to have your phone on.

Negative Punishment:

This happens when a certain desired stimulus/item is removed after a particular undesired behavior is exhibited, resulting in the behavior happening less often in the future. The following are some examples of negative punishment:

  • For a child that really enjoys a specific class, such as gym or music classes at school, negative punishment can be removal from that class and sent to the principal’s office because they were acting out/misbehaving.
  • If a child does not follow directions or acts inappropriately, he loses a token for good behavior that can later be cashed in for a prize.
  • Siblings get in a fight over who gets to go first in a game or who gets to play with a new toy, the parent takes the game/toy away.

When thinking about punishment, always remember that the end result is to try to decrease the undesired behavior. For positive punishment, try to think of it as adding a negative consequence after an undesired behavior is emitted to decrease future responses. As for negative punishment, try to think of it as taking away a certain desired item after the undesired behavior happens in order to decrease future responses.

Learn about the difference between positive and negative reinforcement here.

Download our Guide for Families

We know that choosing a local ABA facility can be a hard decision. We’ve created an informational guide to help you understand more about the questions you should be asking while meeting with different providers.

Although we talk about our services here, our highest goal is for you to feel comfortable and knowledgeable about picking a provider that is the best fit for your needs. You are making a decision that will impact the entire trajectory of your child’s life!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
The cover of the NSPT Guide for Families, which helps families to figure out the questions to ask when picking an ABA provider.

Continue Reading


Why we do what we do.
Success looks different for every child... But we bet we have a story that matches your child's needs. Like James, who started with us as non-verbal and lacking the ability to initiate and maintain social interactions. Today, he can speak complete sentences, clearly state his needs, and navigate social interactions with his friends!

Contact us to get started

  • 1
    Submit an inquiry form
    Completing this secure form helps us understand how we can serve you.
  • 2
    We'll reach out to you!
    One of our dedicated team members will connect with you to discuss services, your insurance benefits, and your family’s needs.
  • 3
    Paperwork & insurance
    We'll review and confirm your insurance benefits, and we'll work with you to gather additional paperwork required and discuss financial expectations based on insurance.
  • 4
    Treatment personalization
    We'll schedule an assessment date for your child with one of our clinicians. This assessment will serve as the basis for your child’s personalized treatment plan. After, we'll meet to discuss recommendations and your child’s treatment plan and start date.
  • 5
    Start making progress!
    We will greet and welcome your child to our warm and supportive environment where our staff will provide 1-on-1 care to meet our treatment goals.