You Can Use Operant Conditioning On Your Toddler Without Being A Schmuck

please do not use on your baby.

please do not use on your baby.

If you associate dog training with the Barbara Woodhouse type of training, then you’re probably appalled by the concept behind this blog.

Don’t worry.

I’m not that kind of trainer.

Instead of force-based tactics, I use positive reinforcement and occasionally negative punishment, which are psychobabble terms for rewarding good behaviour and taking the reward away for bad behaviour.

It’s all part of operant conditioning, and that’s what I use to train dogs and babies alike.

Much of modern dog training comes from the science of operant conditioning, also known as “using subtle mind games to change people’s behavior.”

The principles behind operant conditioning are simple.

Basically, since every living thing goes through life trying to get what they want while avoiding what they don’t want, we can use this to manipulate them. If you’ve ever given a dog a treat for sitting, or handed your child a cookie when she said please, you have engaged in operant conditioning.

The big name in this field is B.F. Skinner who was this guy in the 50s who wrote a LOT of books and research papers on the subject.rat-maze-cheese

He trained pigeons to play ping pong, rats to press levers, gave them superstitious beliefs, and did all kinds of other crazy stuff.

He also watched his children very closely and tried to theorize about how operant conditioning affected their learning and behavior as they grew up.

If that sounds a little strange, you should know this:

When I first took a behavior modification class in university, my text book’s examples on how to apply the principles of behavior modification almost exclusively referenced… humans.

It talked about how to get kids to behave in the classroom, how to train autistic adults out of bashing their heads against the floor, and how to train yourself into finishing your research paper. Nary a mention of a rat to be found.


A big name in modern dog training is Karen Pryor, the former dolphin trainer who wrote a book called Don’t Shoot The Dog, which describes in detail not only how to apply operant conditioning to animals other than dolphins, but also to your guests, coworkers, father in law, and even your spouse!

Since you can’t FORCE a dolphin to do anything, her methods are strictly positive, and they work great on all species.

This is the kind of trainer I am.

It is also the kind of parent I am.

So don’t feel bad if you try out some of my dog training techniques on your toddler.

They’re already being used on humans by teachers and care workers and sneaky dolphin trainers all over the country.

I promise, I won’t recommend any choke chains or rolled up newspapers.

…For dogs OR children.


One thought on “You Can Use Operant Conditioning On Your Toddler Without Being A Schmuck

  1. Pingback: Eliminating Disobedience |

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