Friday, September 30, 2011

Operant Conditioning 101 With Children

If dogs could talk, like this child, they too would tell you that rewards work to encourage a behavior and mild aversives work to discourage it.

Yes, there is a role for punishment ("time out" is the punishment here) in raising kids. 

Of course, there is another part of operant conditioning, which can be seen in the hilarious video seen below. This is extinguishing.


Now, here's a question: Is this mother being cruel to this child because she is not giving it a response?

Is this child being unnecessarily and dangerously stressed because the mother is ignoring the child?

Is this mother teaching the child to scream and cry hysterically in order to get its way?

If this mother succeeds in getting this child to stop throwing temper tantrums, will that child simply grow up to throw temper tantrums at other people?

Believe it or not, this is what some people believe might happen if you do not give in to a child (or the dog) and simply practice old-fashioned extinguishing.

No wonder so many dogs, and kids, are such a mess!


Seahorse said...

While I understand the thrust of the first mother's video, I think rewarding a child's "eating nicely" is setting the bar pretty low. I'm probably sounding like an old fogey, but some things within a family are expected, and "eating nicely" certainly would fall into my "expected" category. Having said that, I have no idea where this mother had to start regarding mealtime issues, so maybe "eating nicely" is a huge step forward.

In my childhood we were expected to get good grades, but did get very small money rewards (a quarter per "A"!) at report card time. The financial reward was not necessary an incentive, but worked more as a pat on the back acknowledgment of a job well done. Though we were internally motivated to excel, make no mistake, avoiding the wrath of our father was a HUGE motivator! Ye olde carrot and stick at work every day!

The second video is pure gold and should be shown to every parent before leaving the maternity ward.


Luca Swank said...

Part of what I love about the second video is how well behaved her dog is.