Reinforcement, Punishment and Acquiring Long-term Behavior

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The key concept that was focused upon for the third module was behaviorism. This conception taught us that “…strict behaviorists believed that all behaviors were the result of conditioning.” (Cherry, 2015). While there were many other new and interesting information that we’ve learned as a class, my mind stuck to the question that was left to us by our educator and this is – What are predominant practices in your home with respect to reinforcing behaviors and for modifying behaviors?

Before I share what disciplinary tools my husband and I use on our two kids, I can’t help but share my own childhood. Perhaps, then, you would understand why we impose the same thing upon our household today.

(Play some melodramatic music here) – Back in the day, when I was but a toddler, I remember growing up in a home that recited the Angelus, prayed the rosary together, and would not allow children to butt in to adult conversations.

Those were the days. I don’t know if anyone who’d read this would be familiar with these  tools – belt, salt, the soft broom, towel, flipflops (okay, they were called tsinelas then), etc. I’ve had close encounters [of] these kinds of disciplinary tools as a kid. I remember going to our neighbors without informing my mother; when I came home, well, the black belt plus a recitation of litany were waiting for me. There were many other errors that led to other similar punishments for me.

While my mother did all these, I did not harbor any kind of bad feelings for her. In fact, to this day, I still honor her. We’ve become friends through the years and memories of such encounters  are now but jokes during days that we reminisce. While critics may argue that behaviorism is kind of one-dimensional when it comes to comprehending the way humans behave, still, the principles therein mean a lot more.

I have chosen to focus on punishment because it proved to be effective, at least, in my home as a kid. Psychology expert Kendra Cherry pointed out that there are two kinds of punishments namely –

  • behavior reduction should the punishment follow after the behavior and
  • consistency in punishment application.

There is no guessing now that my adoptive mother followed both these cardinal principles. First, she corrected my wrongdoing right after I have committed something terribly wrong (stress on the word terribly because my mom was not the sermon happy kind of mom, too, you know). Also, when she said I was going to get a good spanking if I told lies, then I did get them when my wrong deed was proven.

So there you go. Now, in our own home, we like to apply simple Biblical verses in our strategy of disciplining the children. Proverbs 22:6 states, “ Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 13:24 shares the same concept, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

I cannot stress more that God is a part of our teachings in our home. This may not be the belief in all homes nowadays, I have atheist friends, agnostic peers, non-Christian ones, yet we still respect each other. These are the very people who also know how respectful my kids are because they are witnesses themselves (my kids say po and opo and they never leave our home without telling us where they are going).

What I am proud to say is that we also added reinforcement as a part of our disciplinary method. Do we give rewards or praises for good behavior? But, of course! I guess that part makes us modern somehow (e.g. extra minutes of iPad game time for excellent behavior, road trips for good grades, and special toys or knick-knacks for other notable achievements).

Here’s a disclaimer – I really don’t think there is one proven, effective method that will instill the best behavior. We’re just lucky that our chosen methods work well in our home. There are just so many factors in us being human that contributes to behavioral eventuality that it is impossible to say that one method works and the other is a total failure.

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