Classical and Operant Conditioning

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Negative reinforcement is the most appropriate preliminary response based on the child's behavioral inclinations (Baker & LeBlanc, 2014). Because the daughter realizes there will be no negative consequences for their conduct, she may be emboldened to engage in such behavior in the absence of any underlying basic causing reasons. Introducing a reward-punishment dynamic would make the young girl more aware of the potential negative consequences of her conduct. The youngster may be unaware of the burden her delaying tactics make on her mother and hence fails to recognize the significance of effective behavioral adjustment.

The mother's biggest concern is the child's apparent willful refusal to obey any instruction that would result in an earlier bedtime. It is obvious that they do not have a comprehensive understanding of the mammoth benefits that sufficient sleep presents to them due to their limited developmental aptitude. Hence, any assumed conditioning schedule or technique must address the two major concerns- the child’s conscious consistent disruptive conduct and her apparent inability to appreciate her mother’s perspective. The parent should assist her achieve behavioural change through a comprehensive schedule of reinforcement in an elaborate operant conditioning exercise.

Schedule of Reinforcement

As the daughter is at the very beginning of her formative life, continuous reinforcement schedules are most suitable for her behavioural adjustment. The primary objective of the schedule is to enable the daughter to establish an association between her actions and a given response (Mazur & Fantino, 2014). At age 5, she is at Piaget’s intuitive thought sub-stage. She has begun using primitive reasoning and can draw conclusions and associate certain actions with evidenced consequences. The daughter is relatively cognitively limited hence, cannot understand the rationale behind the mother’s insistence on a given behavioural code. However, upon persistence by the mother, the daughter can relate the parent’s adverse temperamental change to an early sleep outcome.

Additionally, the reinforcement schedule can leverage on the fundamental developmental factors of initiative and guilt. Erickson’s stages of development indicate that a five-year-old child is exceedingly loyal to the parents and family, hence, is exceptionally likely to be guilted into behaving as is required (Mazur & Fantino, 2014).

At the beginning of the reinforcement schedule, the daughter will receive positive reinforcement. The mother will ignore all attempts to have her awake past a given deadline. The girl will be requested to stay in her bedroom with all attempts to seek attention with non-genuine justifications disregarded as a form of punishment. The purpose of this approach would be to initiate a sense of discipline and mild restraint on the child. She will begin to understand that she should only seek attention when it is absolutely necessary. As such, the daughter will limit her interactive bedtime adventures as there will be no audience or participation from the mother.

The mother would periodically asses the daughter’s reaction to her conditioning to determine its efficacy. The girl will be placed on a secondary regimen of the reinforcement schedule. This stage will extensively involve positive reinforcement. She will be given attention when she requests for it but will be immediately withdrawn when she demonstrates no legitimate reasons for needing it. As Baker & LeBlanc (2014) explain, behavioral adjustment through operant condition in young children may be particularly challenging. They feel entitled to parental affection, especially in instances where they have been afforded constant presence and attention. They also have a limited capacity to rationally interpret the new behavioral demands. As such, they may react with a noteworthy amount of resistance or aggression towards the enforcers. They may also exhibit passivity. However, as this section of the schedule involves the reward of desired behavior, the child may quickly forget the adverse portion of their conditioning. Through a continuous loop of Pavlovian interaction, the daughter will begin to see the mother as an authority. The parent will be perceived as affectionate and mindful but will also be understood to be a fierce enforcer of rules. After the successful operationalization of this schedule, the child is likely to subliminally attain a new perspective on the previously contentious behavior. The role of the mother relative to the behavior under question will certainly change. While the daughter is likely to retain her regard for her mother, she would have learnt the limits of her tolerance.

The implementation of the schedule is a robust process that requires a lot of patience and affection from the mother. A parent can be especially tempted to spare their child the rigors of the process due to an initial negative reaction. They may also assume the prerogative of readjusting some of the articles of the proposed schedule. It is perfectly understandable. However, a parent is mandated to ensure the wholesome behavioural and physical development of their children, a position that may involve the sacrificing of unfounded reservations against positive behavioural adjustment techniques. The adoption of such corrective approaches is often highly recommended.


Baker, J. C., & LeBlanc, L. A. (2014). Aging. The Wiley Blackwell handbook of operant and classical conditioning, 695-713.

Mazur, J. E., & Fantino, E. (2014). Choice. The Wiley Blackwell handbook of operant and classical conditioning, 195-220.

April 26, 2023




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