Discipline is paramount to child success. The basic purpose of discipline is to teach a child or adolescent how to act in accordance with social norms and expectations. In order to be successful in the discipline of children, teachers must have an understanding of behavior, language, and learning styles. These are the reasons why you need a good foundation for child psychology as a teacher or caregiver in order to ensure effective discipline strategies when necessary. There are countless child psychology theories that can be incorporated into a child’s discipline. Some successful theories include the behaviorist concept of operant conditioning and the social learning theory. These effective theories are backed by countless studies that focus on teaching a child to behave in a certain way.
Skinner (1957) suggests that human beings learn through consequences or rewards for their behavior. This is referred to as operant conditioning, which refers to “any process in which an individual’s behavior is modified by its consequences” (Howland, 2000). The consequence-reward system of operant conditioning teaches children desirable behaviors while also discouraging undesirable behaviors. Skinner’s legacy is felt in society through various types of learning. For example, the popular Parenting by Rewards and Punishment (Ranks, 2006) program attempts to reward good behaviors among children.
Another example of Skinner’s operant conditioning is in the popular “Skinner Box”. A Skinner Box is a chamber that provides stimuli for an animal to press a bar for a reward. The positive reinforcement offered by this machine causes the animal to perform certain actions in order to receive a reward. This theory has been applied to disciplinary methods used on children who misbehave in school. One method that utilizes operant conditioning involves rewarding desirable or appropriate behavior through positive reinforcement and punishments or negative reinforcements for unacceptable behavior (Baumrind, 1966).
As a teacher, you may convey information to students using the Skinner Box method. This child psychology example involves rewarding the child with a positive reward that interests him/her in order to maintain his/her focus on the lesson or task at hand. For example, if you see that one of your students who frequently daydreams is constantly looking out the window, you can offer him/her a sticker or other desirable reward for meeting certain criteria during class time. If this student meets your criteria by paying attention and answering questions in class, then you can reward them by giving them extra time on the computer or access to a new toy at recess.
Various other examples are available of behavioral teaching methods like this from a child psychology perspective. The reward-punishment system is one such method of applying operant conditioning to discipline a child. You can also use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior in students, especially those who are difficult to control (Corder, 2006). Positive reinforcement is defined as a consequence that has the potential to increase or maintain the individual’s behavior in its current level. Consequences are expected rewards given based on a desired behavior such as higher marks on an exam or being allowed to play with the newest toy available.
However, negative reinforcement involves providing students with consequences after they have completed their task or learned their lesson. For example, you can allow your students to play with their favorite toys if they have improved their grades on recently taken exams. Negative reinforcement works in the same manner as positive reinforcement because it also encourages desirable behaviors to continue.
In addition to operant conditioning, another discipline theory that may work in child psychology systems is social learning theory. Bandura (1973) theorized that children learn by observing the behavior of their parents and peers. In order for a child to develop socially, he or she must learn new information. Humans are known to be observant and thus, pick up behaviors through social learning theory (Bandura, 1973). For example, children adopt the behavior exhibited by others such as parents and caregivers in a positive manner through modeling.
When parents are responsive to their children and take initiative to communicate with them and find a way to resolve issues effectively, children are more likely to behave accordingly. In addition, if children see that they can influence the adults around them, they will have more success in school. This social learning theory is similar to operant conditioning in that the child must perform a certain behavior in order for the reward of attention and reinforcement. The difference is that social learning is defined as an active process which can be emotional or physical (Baumrind, 1966).
In child psychology systems, you may form a plan for your students based on their learning styles. For example, a child may be classified as an auditory, tactile, or visual learner. Each learning style has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, auditory learners are able to learn by listening to information and may ask for cds to help them feel more comfortable with a subject. Tactile learners prefer to touch things around them in order to gain a better understanding of the information presented. Visual learners rely on pictures, images, and graphs in order to visually understand what is being presented by the teacher or caregiver.