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How to Change Behavior

Me And My Parents

Me And My Parents (Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik)

Part of a parent’s job is to modify the behavior of their child or children to protect them from danger and to learn more appropriate ways for their child or children to get what they want or need.  For this we get very little training and what we do know we have learned from the way our parents‘ raised us.  It is surprising to me that for one of the most difficult jobs in life we get very little education.  How we acquire knowledge is very important and yet it is often not studied by the very people who need it.

Behavior modification has been around for a long time.  It has been taught to mental health professions, parents, teachers, and others.  It seems very simple to do, but it is not that easy to apply.  It takes some finesse and that is what makes it work for some users and not for other users.   In this method, behavior change is facilitated by the use of rewards and punishments.  Rewards can be given consistently or they can be given intermittently.  The latter rather than the former is more effective.  The behavior targeted to change is also important.  Punishment focuses on the wrong, unwanted behavior and rewards focus on the desired behavior.  It is usually best to develop an appropriate behavior by rewarding it with which to replace the “bad” behavior.  An appropriate replacement behavior for one child might not work for another child.  Also the effectiveness of the reward used depends on what the child likes to do or have. Social rewards like praise are better in the long run than concrete ones.

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Making Judgments

There are some things worth making judgments about and there other things not worth making judgments about.   When life or death decisions are to be made, it is important to use good judgment.  When personal taste is involved, it sometimes makes no sense to always inflict our opinions on others.  Not everyone has the same standard of beauty or shares the same taste in food.  Newlyweds or those couples living together for the first time often find this out rather quickly.  I was in a grocery store once and a young couple were making their first shopping trip together.  They couldn’t seem to agree on anything.  My husband and I both cook, but I am more likely to add salt to things and he is more likely to add sugar.  I mistakenly believed too that who one thought was a beautiful woman or a handsome man was shared by others.  One of the females in my family and I were talking about actresses and I found that certain actresses that I thought were not beautiful were found to be very attractive to her.

Gossip 0ften mostly involves making judgments about others’ “bad” qualities or behaviors.  Usually when such comparisons are made,  we feel better about ourselves by comparison.  Rather than making judgments, perhaps we should practice making and giving complements.  In psychology it has been found that giving rewards such as praise for “good” or desired behaviors is more effective in changing behavior than punishing or criticizing undesirable behaviors.  I have found that rather than joining in when someone is making negative comments about someone or their behavior, if I point out some good qualities of the person and/or my more positive personal experiences with that person, it changes the tone of the conversation and makes it more productive  “Bad” reputations never did anybody any good..  .  .

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