Understanding Child Behaviour

M Ilyas Kalhoro
In the previous article,titled “Importance of Parental Involvement in Learning” published in this newspaper, I had discussed how the parental involvement helps in improving learning outcomes and consequently uplifting educational standards. Linking with the previous piece of writing , here I would like to shed some light on how the behaviour of children can be manipulated to get desired behaviour so that they remain tend to their study and adopt acceptable habits. Parents involving themselves in education of their children , if are not able to manipulate their behaviour and to stimulate them to studying , they ( the parents) may fail to acquire intended learning outcomes. Same is true for the teachers; they also need to understand the psychology of students to arouse in them interest for learning , otherwise it would be difficult to receive fruitful results . That is to say , it is essential for parents and teachers to know how to influence the behaviour of children . Psychologists suggest to employ three-pronged strategy to gain desired behaviour from children . The components of this strategy are Antecedents , Behaviour and Consequences .They call it ABCs of child behaviour : A for antecedents , B for behaviour and C for consequences . These three components work together to develop behaviour. Using all these three a desired behaviour can be obtained from children in home or at classroom.Now let’s try to understand the three components separately. Antecedents refer to what we can do before a behaviour takes place to make the desired behaviours most likely to occur. These are the things ,said or done , that increase the likelihood of occurrence of a certain kind of behaviour . For example , when a parent says to his child ” if you are a good boy , you will keep yourself neat and clean.” Here the first sentence is an antecedent , and it seemingly increases the chances of the occurrence of intended behaviour. It should be noted that the type of delivery of the statement determines its effectiveness . The antecedents are likely to influence the behaviour provided have been delivered with a gentle tone . Not only such statements , but also the display of soft tone of voice and pleasant facial expressions ,when asking for doing something, constitute antecedents. Roughly saying a child “respect your elders” is less likely to be effective in changing behaviour than saying it lightly with matching expressions . Besides, offering assistance is also a form of an antecedent that can help in getting desired behaviour. For example , you can say your child , “Let’s do homework” . After sitting a while , you can leave . The child will most probably remain engaged in completing it. This may create lasting interest in the child for doing homework – you will not always have to bother sitting with him . The B part of the ‘ ABCs’ of child behaviour is itself behaviour. It implies what can be done to replace the unwanted behaviour with the desired one . This can be done by shaping the child behaviour. The step-by-step process is involved to teach a child new behaviour . For instance , if you want your child to drink milk , ask him to take just a sip ,not more . Carrying on this practice for some days will ultimately produce the result of child drinking the whole glass of milk. Similarly if you want to see your child doing homework for an hour daily , start by making him do it for a few minutes .Then day by day slightly increase the time . Eventually , the child will learn doing it for an hour . The new behaviour can be shaped with the help of four ingredients : (1) set the liked behaviour (goal behaviour); (2) specify a small step (3) choose the positive consequences that will be used on completion of small steps, such as praise or reward ; (4) go on increasing the step in quantity or amount , but slightly, if completed . Besides shaping ,another way of replacing unliked behaviour with the desired behaviour is modeling , that is teaching by example . This is observational learning . Children are very good observers . They try to imitate those close to them . How do you talk , what are your expressions , and what do you wear , everything is noted by them. If you use gentle language with others , children will also be gentle in their behaviour . If you show aggressive attitude , children will also display aggression in their relation with their peers. This modeling can serve very useful role in influencing the behaviour of children. The final ”C’ part of the above mentioned ‘ABCs’ of child behaviour specifies consequences. The consequences imply what will be our response after the behaviour is completed . There are two kinds of consequences . The number one is positive reinforcers , such as praise or rewards ,used after the child engages itself in a behaviour that you want to develop. While, the second one is negative reinforcers ,such as punishment, used after the child engages itself in an unwanted behaviour . ( I will write in a separate article about the usefulness or uselessness of punishment , the negative reinforcers , in developing a child’s behaviour ). Instead of providing the reward of candies or chocolates , the best positive reinforcer is praise. More and more use of praise should be made, as it can help reinforce the wanted behaviour. If a child behaves with his sister nicely . He should be praised for it , because this act of praise will play the role of reinforcer . For any good act if a child is not praised then there is a greater likelihood that the child will not adopt the behaviour permanently. So, praise should be used constantly as the most effective tool for influencing the child behaviour. The above mentioned techniques surely are not exhaustive of the prescribable list for changing the behaviour of children ,as it is a vast subject-matter. Nonetheless , these can help to a great extent. The parents and teachers in our society – mostly stressing on the use of corporal punishment for manipulating child behaviour- need awareness on how to stimulate children to show the desired behaviour and adopt good habits. The government can raise awareness among parents and teachers with the help of civil society , electronic , print and social media , holding teachers training programs and by conducting awareness seminars . Children need to be given dignified status so that they could be able to become productive citizens of society in future .

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