Child behaviour- Can it be moulded?
- By Tanisha Vakharia
As parents, worrying for our child tends to become our second nature. We are always worried about our child’s future, how they might lag behind from others, or find themselves in a problematic situation. Most of these worries are pre-surfaced with constant involvement towards discipline and questioning like “Is your homework done?”, “Keep your things in place”, “Don’t use your phone too often” to an extent that we find ourselves ‘Nagging’ our child all the time.
Psychologist Erik Erikson believes we go through 8 stages of psycho-social development before we form our personalities. These stages help us determine who we are and what we will become from birth to death. Our roots of personalities are formed and determined by several factors, one of them being ‘nagging’. The question that arises is how can we avoid nagging and continue to get the desired behaviour? The answer lies in reinforcement. Reinforcement involves strengthening a response, it can be positive and negative. Positive reinforcement involves adding a stimulus to strengthen response and negative reinforcement involves removing a stimulus to strengthen response. The use of Positive reinforcement is seen as the most effective method in encouraging desired behaviours among children.
Decoding Positive and Negative reinforcement
Consider the following examples:
Core concept : Strengthening the Desired Behaviour
a. Every time your child helps you with a house chore (Desired behaviour) appreciate their effort and Thank them and take their suggestions with respect to some decisions as to what should be the dinner menu (Positive Reinforcement).
Added Stimulus: Autonomy to decide dinner menu
b. You have realized that your child is not devoting extra time to study before his/her exam. You want him/her to spend 2 hours extra on his studies (Desired Behaviour). So, you decide to give him a break from his daily routine of taking the pet out early in the morning which he/she as such does not like much (Negative Reinforcement).
Removed Stimulus : Getting up very early in the morning
Think and Reflect:
How can you positively reinforce the desired behaviour of spending 2 hours extra on studying?
Age While a simple ‘Thank you’ or ‘I appreciate it’ will work with a child, the same may not work with older children or adolescents. Reinforcement should occur with something that holds meaning to the individuals. Verbal praise, Encouragement words or tangible items that they like, can be a positive reinforcement for children aged 7 to 11 years but for 12 to 18 years age group verbal praises don't have a great impact. They prefer tangible items that add value to their self esteem.
About the Author
Tanisha Vakharia is a student of psychology from the University of Mumbai. She is passionate about creating content, watching movies and making life one big adventure. She aspires to become a true humanitarian and help the world one smile at a time