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shrubbery's avatar

How do you feel about conditioning?

Asked by shrubbery (10236points) June 28th, 2008

As in, doing specific things or rituals so that a baby or child, or even animal I suppose, behaves a certain way. For example, when a baby wakes up and cries you decide that you will not go and comfort it for a certain amount of time. I mean that’s fair enough I suppose because then they won’t always expect you to come in straight away to cheer them up and they learn to go back to sleep but I know people disagree with this and I know that I couldn’t leave a baby crying for forty five minutes (that’s what the mum told me for the baby I just baby sat-luckily she was fast asleep the whole time anyway) so I was just wondering what you Flutherites thoughts are on this? Not necessarily the sleeping thing, anything else you can think of…

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20 Answers

wildflower's avatar

I found Pavlov‘s theory very interesting. I think conditioning works – both for good and bad.
I have a friend who’s husband has been known to squeeze their daughter’s hand to the point that she starts crying and then he comforts her…...that to me is evil conditioning! At the other end of the scale, I’m a firm believer in slapping cats and dogs over the nose while standing over the mess they’ve made to teach them it’s wrong.

scamp's avatar

I think letting a baby cry for 45 minutes, and squeezing a childs hand to the point of making her cry are both very cruel things to do. I don’t, however believe in running right in and picking up a baby at the first squeak. I think allowing a baby to cry for a few minutes before picking it up, helps to teach a child patience. I will have to come back to this thread when I am not at work to give a better answer. I have more to say on this, but I don’t want to hurry to say it.

edmartin101's avatar

I think operant is more in line with this situation where parents reinforce their child’s behavior if is good or apply some kind of punishment if is bad. Most parents don’t know how to do it properly though. I agree with scamp there are many cruel things parents submit their children to for the sake of making them obedient to their commands. Children no matter how young, are always testing how far they can go to find where is the bottom line, to find what they can get away with and still be within the household so called laws.

marinelife's avatar

I was an adult before I realized that most people were not afraid of their fathers.

I think most of the time people who are applying these sorts of methods have no idea what they are doing, and it is not helpful. It is much more effective to raise a child or an animal rewarding good behavior than “punishing.” Corporal punishment is barbaric. It is much more effective to remove privileges.

With animals a slap on the nose is cruel and confusing. For dogs, a correction method used by the pack leader would be a growl. A human can make a low sound in the throat (BarkBusters uses a Bahhh sound). DOgs are very responsive to that.

For cats: “You need to avoid having the cat associate bad consequences with you. Otherwise, instead of learning to avoid the negative behavior they will be learning to avoid you. For example, if you want your can’t stop jumping on the counter you need to make it unpleasant for the cat to be on the counter and not yell at him or chase him away. Placing something unpleasant for the cat such as sticky paper or aluminum foil on the counter can do the trick.

Cat scruffing should be reserved for those times when your cat’s behavior is totally out of control. A good example would be if your cat starts biting you during playtime. It is important to use good cat training to stop this type of behavior before it becomes habit.

You are going to play a mother cat, but you obviously are not going to use your mouth to hold the kitten down. However, you need to simulate the mother cat’s behavior.

Your cat training by scruffing the cat is accomplished with the following steps:

Firmly but gently grasp the cat by the loose skin at the back of his neck. This is called the scruff.

You will then firmly but gently hold the cat against the ground and make a hissing sound just like the mother cat would.

You will continue to hold the cat down until he becomes a calm. You can tell that the cat is calm when his body relaxes and he is no longer struggling to get away.

playthebanjo's avatar

I sure do like air conditioning! Whew it’s hot!

Harp's avatar

Civil society is largely based on conditioning, really. It’s our ability to perceive cause and effect and sublimate that information that makes us reflexively conform to the formal and informal rules that regulate our social interactions. We learn which behaviors elicit favorable responses and which bring painful responses, and we’re subconsciously motivated to seek the one and avoid the other. Society would be an impossible dream if it weren’t for conditioning.

The dark side of conditioning, of course, is that it opens us up to manipulation in ways that we can’t control. People who know how this works are the ones pulling in high salaries on Madison Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. I think about this whenever I hear Bush speak darkly about “socialized medicine”, or pretty much anything that evokes socialism, for that matter. A large segment of America has been conditioned to reflexively shudder at the very notion of acting collectively for the benefit of everyone. How sad and strange.

I think I’ve taken a broader view of this question than shrubbery intended, but the same mechanisms are at work in a parenting context. When the parent scolds the child for running out into the street, that’s a fundamental conditioning exercise. But clearly, the same mechanisms can be used to less beneficial ends.

shrubbery's avatar

Wow harp, that’s great, I didn’t really intend anything in particular; that’s the only example I could think of so don’t worry, thanks for a great answer!

Anyone read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley?

marinelife's avatar

Yes, it’s a classic. A depressing view indeed.

skfinkel's avatar

Back to the baby crying. When a baby under the age of about nine months or maybe even a year is crying—it’s the only way they have to communicate with you—they need you. If you ignore them (and I don’t mean letting a baby quietly fuss for a few minutes), they produce cortosol which stresses their bodies—not good.

Especially for young babies, they need to be picked up and held gently and loved as much as possible. Interestingly, the more love you pour into them at the youngest ages means the more they will listen to you when disciplined, the more they will think you know what you are talking about when they are older, and the more love they will have and give in their own lives.

Frustrate a little baby, the child will not be happy. Ignore a child to the point where he stops bothering to cry, and you will be creating serious problems for that child for its whole life. I’m afraid that we see plenty of this in our society.

jlm11f's avatar

GQ shrubbery. i will be following this one closely

Tennis5tar's avatar

Do babies have an accurate sense of time? By that I mean, will they recognise it’s been 45 mins and not 10? Does their devlopment allow for that at such a young age?

ezraglenn's avatar

It makes my hair really soft.

edmartin101's avatar

I found this interesting information about infants development stages
From Ann Logsdon,
Developmental Milestones – Your Baby’s First Six Months
Baby’s Sensory Development – Responding to Sounds and Hearing: Within the first few weeks after birth, your baby will begin to respond to sounds in his environment by tracking them with his eyes and turning his head toward them. He will show recognition of familiar voices and will show enjoyment when hearing favorite songs. He will show a startle reflex when hearing unexpected, loud noises.

Crying is a baby’s first communication. His crying signals his discomfort. As we respond to his crying, the baby learns that his crying brings him what he needs. At a very basic level, he is learning that communication is a two-way process. During this period, the baby will babble and begin making delightful sing-song sounds. He is learning to control his voice and form sounds with his facial muscle structures and tongue. Mouthing objects such as teething toys helps develop muscle coordination and precision that will be needed for later speech development. Now if we don’t respond to the baby’s crying needs, the baby becomes insecure and mistrustful, if we do show love and affection to the baby then the infant well – handled, nurtured, and loved, develops trust and security and a basic optimism.

During this period, a baby is beginning to learn to communicate. As he expresses his needs by crying and gesturing. For example, he may turn his head and reach for people and objects. He may turn his head away from foods he does not like. He is learning to express himself in basic ways. He will develop clear signs of pleasure, as in happy babbling and smiles. He will show discomfort and frustration through crying. He will begin to show preferences for certain people and discomfort with others. Through these exchanges, the infant will learn to trust caregivers who meet his needs and mistrust others.

Babies love and learn from repetition, so don’t worry about doing the same things over and over. Repetition, in fact, is the best way for your baby to learn. If as adults takes us on average 20 times for us to pick up a new habit, imagine what will it take for a baby, so repetition is a key factor in the baby’s growth.

Always respond to your baby’s communication. Speak softly, sing to him, and gently touch and pat him for comfort. To calm a baby, rock him gently, hold him, and speak calming words in soft tones. Respect your baby’s need to sleep and turn away from stimulation.

Knotmyday's avatar

@edmartin and skfinkel- Excellent answers! Nurturing a child is essential to proper physical and psychological development. Ignoring a baby when it cries is illogical and selfish, no matter how you attempt to justify it to yourself.
@marina- I’m still scared of my father.
@wild- the hand-squeezing thing is sickening. Report abuse.

wildflower's avatar

Yes it is and my other friend is on that – kinda tricky to report abuse in Sweden when living in Ireland….

jvgr's avatar

A. Conditioning is just a form of teaching. Your child will be “conditioned” by the things you do whether they are intentional or accidental. They will learn many things from your own behavior, some of which you might wish they hadn’t.

B. Crying babies.
Out of 3 children, 1 was a cryer.
So I know how tough this is because along with the crying you get no schedule, no sleep, no relief.
A recent article was published on just this subject, which concludes:

If there is no medical basis (allergy or other physical disorder); it’s ok to just let them cry. They will, eventually, learn to deal with whatever is going on by themselves.

I wish the article had been written many years ago.

SeventhSense's avatar

I think some social conditioning is a necessary part of being a member of society. For example there are some kids who run amok in a restaurant or store and the parents do nothing about it.
There are other extreme groups who don’t think children should be restricted in any way and raise toddlers that actually have no diapers and crap on the floor! Some also breastfeed up until 5 or older. These types of conditionings, lack of social conditiongs, or special conditionings are apt to make a child feel downright awkward when they are presented with the world at large.
On another note.. My mother was one to say quite often, “We don’t..”, or “We believe”..as if she was speaking for the entire family. This type of social conditioning is hurtful for a child’s self esteem because they feel they are betraying the family when they are just being authentic.

YARNLADY's avatar

We are all conditioned by everything that goes on around us. Behavioral modification is based entirely on the concept that sometimes we can influence what happens and hope for a positive outcome. I’m all in favor of positive outcomes.

mirador's avatar

I feel that some conditioning is unavoidable with human beings, whether it’s done deliberately, instinctively, or unconsciously.

Joybird's avatar

Cognitive behavioral therapies are some of the most effective. Training people or other species involves shaping behavior. Conditioning is how we learn in part. When you don’t immediately run in to pick up a crying baby they learn to self soothe and that results in learning to self entertain at some point down the road. They also learn to rouse, self sooth and fall back asleep, a pattern of behavior that even some adults haven’t learned to master. That said you need to learn when your means of shaping is ineffective, less effective than some other method, cruel or just plain dangerous. Let me give you two examples. If a baby doesn’t self soothe and then self entertain and just continues to cry…something might be wrong. It needs to be investigated to rule out the possibility of a problem occuring…babies have strangeled in their cribs after crying for help that went unanswered. On another note since I sometimes rehab dogs…hitting them or inflicting punishment for having urinated or having a bowel movement inside is a poor method of training. To call an animal to you and then to hit them is to create anxiety in the animal and to teach them that you are a source of pain and someone to avoid. It isn’t a demonstration of good pack leadership. It’s a much superior method to crate train an animal and to make sure that they either have their own access to the outdoors to relieve themselves or that YOU honor the schedule you have created for their relief AND that you recognize that just like humans animals DO become ill on occasion and try as they might they cannot open the door themselves.
There is a great book on shaping behavior if you are interested. “Don’t shoot the dog” by Pryor
It’s a cheap, easy read, useful to understand how to put together a behavioral plan for any purpose…training your dog, your kid, students, husband.

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