I'm one of those people that just can't help but…
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Treat a dog a biscuit when it gives its paw to you, and you will encourage this behavior. When your dog tries to pee in the living room and you hit it with a stick, you discourage this kind of behavior.
Humans are also trainable as well. I can hear some of you, “We’re not animals. We’re not stupid! We can’t be manipulated.” This, my friend, is just the egotistical part of our brains telling us that we are so much better than other animals. Sure, we are smarter, but it doesn’t mean our brain isn’t governed by our instincts. You can read my post about the Subconscious as to how important and powerful our basic instincts are. We share the same instincts with animals; yes we are smart and can recognize when we are being manipulated, and we understand things in a deeper level, but it doesn’t prevent us from being conditioned.
Many of our habits are formed when we were young. This is why the role of parents and friends during the child’s development stage is extremely important. Traits such as honesty can become enhanced or diminished based on how they were raised.
Imagine a scenario where you have a teenage son who has just confessed to you that he’s been taking drugs. In this situation, some people may reprimand him, hoping to discourage him. But in this situation, you’ve actually encouraged him to hang out more with the friends who are engaging in drug behavior. You’ve discouraged him to find his parents as a safe zone, and so he turns to his friends instead. In fact, you would think reprimanding him discourages him, but reprimanding him isn’t what’s causing the drug behavior in the first place; you have to find out what the underlying cause is for drug use. Peer pressure? Image? Getting girls? Rebellious behavior towards authorities and parents? THIS is what should be targeted. When you scold him, he feels that you are scolding him for being honest, which becomes counterproductive.
Bear with me for a second. Your son comes home and confesses to you, thinking he’s done a good thing, by being honest to you. You have told him that being honest is very important in life. Now he comes home being honest about his drug usage, and you scold him instead. Guess what happens? Your son becomes much less honest. In fact, he would not want to share any information with you anymore. Why should he? Honesty results in being scolded, so might as well not tell the truth, or not say anything at all. You encourage the son’s behavior of lying, deception, and he learns that sometimes honesty can result in negative consequences instead. You’ve conditioned him to not act in good faith, as there may be negative outcomes. This can cause a severe impact on his integrity when he grows up.
Parents, when your children have drug usage behavior, I can understand that a lot of you might feel shameful or feel that you haven’t raised your children right. But you really cannot blame this on yourselves, and you cannot blame the children either. Parents may feel guilty themselves and harbor these negative feelings, but they end up channeling it towards their children instead. Like said, doing so only makes your children behave less ethically. What needs to happen is for you to reward your son for being honest, and find the underlying cause of why there was drug usage in the first place.
In fact, let me elaborate this a little further. What parents should be doing is encouraging them to continue being honest, and reward them with sympathy and kindness, but parents have to let them know that this encouragement is for them for having the courage to being honest, and warn them about their drug usage.
In a similar example, students have a lot of pressure getting good grades. Especially in Asian cultures, it seems that parents give them a lot of pressure, and they have this thinking that if their children do not do well in Elementary, they wouldn’t get to go to a good High School, they wouldn’t get to go to a good college, then they wouldn’t get a good job etc. etc. This is a slippery slope thinking; things may not be as bad as you would imagine.
I want to talk about this pressure because this pressure may encourage students to a) cheat on their tests and b) discourage them in the proper way of learning. Students who are pressured by their parents to get good grades may forfeit active learning (forming connections with new materials, which generally takes time) to cramming and forced memorization. The latter methods are no good in retaining information for the long haul… just think of all the subjects you’ve forgotten about already! Students benefit much, much more greatly and become much smarter if they engage in active learning. This can become applicable in the long run in college and in jobs and in life. Active learning usually takes time and because students face such time pressures with the many subjects they are to be tested on, and faced with the pressure to get good grades because of parents, they take the cramming methods instead, which is useful for short term situations, but a failure in the long run.
And why do students engage in this behavior? Like said, students get pressure from parents. If they don’t do well, they may get reprimanded. Therefore, students get scared and engage in cramming methods instead. The parents’ pressure has conditioned them to learn in a way that only benefits short term, but is harmful for long term.
Another way parents unknowingly condition their children is by always justifying their behaviors through “wanting the best for their children.” Another example would clarify what I mean. Ever seen those parents who do the laundry for their children, who do the room cleaning for their children, and sometimes even do their homework for their children? Or sometimes parents may say that they want to give more money allowance because they want what’s best for their children. What ends up happening sometimes is that the children may become spoiled and carry a “princess” attitude. Parents often justify it as they want to take care of their children, but actually their emotions have blinded them to see the long term consequences.
If parents don’t do this and do that for their children, they may feel guilty. See, parents are not doing it for their children, they are actually doing it for themselves, to alleviate their negative emotions. With that said, they use the excuse that they are doing it for their children because it’s “socially acceptable” (now of course we don’t consciously think that we are being greedy with our own emotions, again it’s the subconscious at work). But sometimes, parents need to contain their emotions and condition their children the right way so that they are able to become independent individuals. Parents need to ask themselves, are they really doing this for the children, or are they doing this to relieve themselves of the guilt and worry? Don’t be blinded by your emotions as you can condition your children the wrong way.
Of course, with this post I’ve only talked about conditioning for parents as I feel these conditioning situations are often overlooked and neglected. In fact, parents often enter the world of parenthood without much knowledge or learning. It’s like asking a student to take a test without any preparation. And it’s so important parents know how to condition their children correctly because their habits can become long term habits.
There are many ways in which we are conditioned everyday, what are some other conditioning situations you can think of?