Learning is a relative permanent change in behavior, and there are many ways in which humans can learn things. B.F. Skinner, a famous psychologist who worked in the 1940’s, came up with a theory for learning called operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is when a subject learns the difference between good and bad behavior because he or she is either positively or negatively reinforced. These positive or negative reinforcements, or rewards, either encourage the repetition of the behavior or attempt to stop it. One main idea in the theory of operant conditioning is shaping. Shaping is when a person positively reinforces a behavior with successive approximations. The successive approximations encourage a person to perform the desired behavior. For example, when parents celebrate when their kids puts on his clothes all by himself for the first time, even if they messed up a couple of things. But over time, the parents would only praise the child if the dress perfectly all by himself. Using shaping and successive approximation, it can teach kids how to put on their own clothes all by themselves.
The Smith-Garcia’s are having a baby and should learn how to raise their child appropriately. Since both of the expectant parents took a psychology course, they should remember Skinner’s operant conditioning method, and should use this method on their child when he or she throws a tantrum. For example, if their child throws a tantrum because he wants his favorite candy bar, a parent should not give him the candy bar so that he will stop crying. Over time, giving the child the thing it wants in order to make the child end it’s tantrum, will teach the child that throwing tantrums are a positive way to get what it wants. Therefore, I recommend that they should use ignorance as negative reinforcement. If a child learns that throwing a fit gets him or her nothing, then the child will most likely learn to not throw tantrums when he or she wants things.
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