Understanding Children and Behavior Issues

Behavior issues and the need in understanding children usually fall on teachers and parents. With teachers, dealing with children and their behavior issues brings out another prickly issue of discipline.

Education experts and authorities agree that one way to deal with discipline is related to the outward behavior of children. It is composed of three ideas related to reinforcement ñ positive, negative, and punishment.

Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcements (primary and secondary reinforcements) are sometimes compared to the old ërewards systemí. Basically, it is giving the children what they want or need after they have done what we wanted them to do.

Food, for example, given to the child as a prize for something done is a primary reinforcement. Secondary reinforcements are not rewarding at first, but they will be after accumulating for a period of time. Money is considered a secondary reinforcement.

Negative reinforcement

Negative reinforcement is a little difficult to explain because its use is not usually recognized. Negative reinforcement is something that, when removed, has to be made in order for it to go away. The seat-belt buzzer which gives out an annoying noise and will stop only when it is put on is one example of negative reinforcement.


Punishment as a mode of discipline is different from reinforcement. It is like some kind of an opposite because where reinforcement seeks to increase behavior, punishment seeks to decrease it. However, some punishments do not have direct connection to the behavior it is trying to discourage.


Extinction is the real opposite of reinforcement in the sense that it removes the rewards that encourage or keep a behavior going. A class clown gets laughter from everyone when he clowns around for attention. But if we ignore him, we use extinction which is the removal of rewards (laughter) that keep the clown going.


Still another way with discipline is having the children think about their actions and behaving in appropriate ways. Sanctions are calculated to help children behave and act in moral ways.

Sanctions include 1) temporary exclusion from the group; 2) calling the childís attention to the consequences of his actions; 3) depriving the child of what he misused; and 4) restitution. Restitution means he must make good that which he has done wrong or ill.

Temporary exclusion means a child is asked to leave the group until he can participate and follow the groupís rules. Sometimes, this action does not work with all types. Shy types would leave and never come back.

Calling the attention of the child rule-breaker to the consequences of his actions (for instance, breaking crayons) is one other sanction. Again, sometimes not all child law-breakers will feel the weight of this. A child may defiantly declare that he does not care. This means it could be the time to use the 3rd sanction.

Depriving the use of anything a child has abused or misused is sometimes effective. As with all sanctions, this is related to the childís previous action. The child may not use any crayons because he broke them.

Restitution is a very important sanction that can be used in discipline. It means ìmaking good that which you have harmed.î A child who broke the crayons of another must ìrestituteî or replace the crayons before he is admitted to the group again.

Understanding children and behavior issues are the primary considerations before instituting any method of discipline in schools and even in the homes. It is fair for all concerned ñ the offenders and the do-gooders.

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