One Saturday afternoon, my sister-in-law aged twenty-eight years old visited us at our home with her two kids. The two kids were girls aged six and three years. As usual, the kids got into playing with each other as the rest of us were busy talking about various family and job related issues. Within no time, the younger child came running to her mother crying and complaining that her sister had pinched her. Upon interrogation, I learnt that the older child pinched the younger one for picking a playing object that belonged to her without her permission.
The mother was furious. She summoned the older child, pinched her and condemned her for the shameful behavior. She even threatened the child that she would beat her up if she would repeat the mistake.
The older girl left the room crying claiming that she was charged unfairly. After some few minutes, the young child was calm celebrating her victory. The older one was still crying lamenting for playing with her younger sister. She confessed that she would not play with her again.
Inasmuch as I am concerned, the mother performed exemplary well for pinching the older girl because by doing so she was able to bring order to the situation. The younger child stopped crying whereas the older one was commanded to stop crying at once or face caning. Although my sister in law was able to calm the situation, she failed for weakening an undesirable behavior without reinforcing a desirable one. She particularly did not show her older child how she should behave in the future if she was to find herself in a similar situation. Most likely the child would repeat the same mistake because she thought that she was judged harshly (Bigner, & Gerhardt, 2014). In order to stop the older child from repeating the same mistake, my sister in law should have done more than she did that day.
In order for my sister in law to reinforce a desirable behavior by weakening an undesirable one, I would recommend her to do the following next time.
- With the help of behavior modification approach, I would recommend her that in the process of weakening an undesirable behavior she should reinforce a desirable behavior. In this case, she should ensure that her older child understand why she disciplines her the way she does rather than leaving her without an explanation. This does not mean that she should not discipline the child, but it means that in the processing of disciplining the child she should take time to counsel the child. Then she can discipline the child once she understands the reasoning behind the disciplining strategy (Bigner, & Gerhardt, 2014). This way, the child would abandon the undesirable behavior and acquire a new behavior through reinforcement.
- With regard to counseling-based strategies, my sister in law should have advised the younger child to ask for permission before she picks playing objects belonging to her older sister. The fact that my sister in law did not do this, the younger child might repeat the same mistake in the future. Literally, my sister in law might reinforce a bad behavior in her younger child unknowingly (Bigner, & Gerhardt, 2014). In order to discourage the bad behavior, my sister in law should have advised her younger child to never pick playing items from her older sister without asking for permission. This way, the younger child would acquire a new behavior through reinforcement and counseling. Leaving the issue the way my sister in law did may not help her children to acquire desirable behaviors. It would only resolve the issue at hand and leave others unresolved.
- With regard to counseling-based strategies, my sister in law should have also advised the older child to desist from behaving violently when wronged. My sister in law should have advised the older child to treat the younger child with some leniency because she is young yet to understand how some issues operate. She should have particularly resulted to advising the older child rather than disciplining her the way she did without giving her an explanation (Bigner, & Gerhardt, 2014). Although the counseling strategy might not have dealt with the immediate issue, it would have reinforced some desirable behaviors in the children. The younger child would have learnt how to act in the future with regard to playing objects that belong to her older sister whereas the older child would have learnt how to treat her younger sister.
- With regard to social learning theory, I would recommend my sister in law to teach the older child desirable behaviors so that in the process of socializing with the younger child, the younger child can acquire desirable behaviors from the older child. For example, I would recommend my sister in law to advise the older child to treat the younger child with leniency when she picks her playing objects. In this case, the older child should not result to fighting, but she should sweet talk the younger child to give her the playing object. If the older would learn to do this, the younger child would learn appropriate behaviors through modeling (Bigner, & Gerhardt, 2014).
- With regard to democratic child training, I would recommend my sister in law to establish a consistence pattern of making decisions in the family and then encourage her children to develop that pattern within their social circles. For example, I would recommend my sister to develop a strategy of treating other people with kindness. If the children would be encouraged to develop such a strategy, they would learn to treat each other nicely.
In spite of the above, there is always more to a story. My sister in law reacted the way she reacted because she had observed her older child behave the same way in other instances. She told us that she wanted to instill discipline in the older child. However, she forgot that instilling discipline without reinforcing a desirable behavior may not work. It may only resolve a current issue, but fail to resolve a future one (Bigner, & Gerhardt, 2014). Therefore, I would recommend my sister in law to weaken an undesirable behavior by reinforcing a desirable behavior.
Bigner, J., & Gerhardt, C. (2014). Parent-child relations: an introduction to parenting. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.