The old saying goes, “Children don’t come with manuals.” True! However, as a parent it should be common knowledge that it is our responsibility to raise a decent human being, right? So let’s discuss what exactly raising a decent human being consist of, and what that should look like. In order to do so, it’s important to first define a decent human being.
Decent by definition according to Merriam Webster Dictionary:
b: well-formed : handsome
a: conforming to standards of propriety, good taste, or morality
b: modestly clothed
free from immodesty or obscenity
marked by moral integrity, kindness, and goodwill
Human being is defined as:
1: of, relating to, or characteristic of humans
2: consisting of human
3a: having human form or attributes
b: susceptible to or representative of the sympathies and frailties of human nature
By combine definition a decent human being is an appropriate modest, moral, and kind acting person. So then the question becomes, “How do you raise such a person?” Well to answer that question I find it necessary to define raise. Rather than list all 16 defined aspects given by Webster, simply put, to raise is to cause or help rise to a standing position; awaken; to set upright by lifting or building; to place higher in dignity, and to bring to maturity.
Since children do not come into this world knowing right from wrong, and how to act appropriately, then as a parent our responsibility lies in helping them form human attributes to mature with dignity, moral integrity and appropriateness. Parents are teachers. Parent are responsible for teaching their children through demonstration and modeling, guidance and reassurance, and discipline and consequences.
Classical conditioning is a commonly known psychology term, which is based upon the Behaviorist Theory referred to by John Broadus Watson, when he proposed that the process of classical conditioning (based on Pavlov’s observations) was able to explain all aspects of human psychology.1 Stay with me now! Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov was trying to prove a theory that there are somethings that dogs don’t need to know. For example, dogs don’t learn to salivate whenever they see food. This reflex is ‘hard wired’ into the dog. However, he accidentally discovered classical conditioning in his research when he realized that salivation to food was a natural unconditional response. When the dogs saw the food, with food being an unconditional stimulus, they automatically salivated. Eventually, the dogs also learned to associate other object or events relating to food and salivated. However, this was not their initial response, so it had to have been learned.2
To simplify, classical conditioning is learning to identify something that causes a definite response also with another incident or thing, creating the same response. So your child will and can learn through natural and presented consequences that if event occurs then other events will occurs. As parents, your job is to allow the natural consequences and present other consequences to create the conditioned response.
Often when working with parents, they state that they cannot get there children to act appropriately. My response is always, “You are going to have to get creative.” What I mean by creative is classical conditioning by introducing them to some new consequences to teach them appropriateness, and expectations. For example, if your small child continues to act inappropriate the consequence is not receiving the attention they want from you, by you actively ignoring the behavior and not rewarding them. Generally, this inappropriate behavior in small children is actually attention seeking behavior. Eventually, they will learn that their behavior is not getting them the type of attention that they want. If your teen becomes belligerent or unruly, stop doing all the “extra” things we as parents do.
Parents are required to provide necessities such as food, shelter, education and proper medical care. So instead of buying those $100 designer sneakers and sweatsuit, opt for the $29 sneakers and the regular fleece sweatsuit. He has shoe and clothes, right? It is not written anywhere that he has to have designer. Instead of taking her out for McDonald’s or a cooking good ole soul food Sunday dinner, try providing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with a fruit and milk, or some good ole hot dogs and baby carrots and juice, or a meal of the sort. That’s a well balanced meal, isn’t it? Try changing their room around so that they have a bed to sleep in and proper storage for their clothing and shoes, instead of a room full of video games, flat screen television, laptop or other fancy electronics. They have shelter with proper sleep arrangements, right? Let him use the house phone instead of that fancy iPhone or Android that cost you a small fortune to purchase or keep on monthly. If there is an emergency, he has a way to contact you, the legal authorities, or emergency responders, right?
Start minimizing extra until he or she learns that extras are privileges not necessities. Your obligation is to provide what he or she needs not what he or she wants. So when they can display the appropriateness that you want, then you give them the things they want. When you get creative and present consequence through minimizing extras, classical conditioning will eventually occur, because you have then taught your child that when they do A then B will occur, and they have learned that in order for X to happen they have to do Y.
In conclusion, parent with a purpose of raising your children to be decent human-beings with dignity and moral integrity. Know that your responsibility as a parent is allow and afford them opportunities to learn from natural and presented consequences, in order to promote classical conditioning to occur, which will be most beneficial in shaping moral human attributes.
1McLeod, S. A. (2014). Classical Conditioning. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/classical-conditioning.html
2McLeod, S. A. (2013). Pavlov’s Dogs. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/classical-conditioning.html