Monthly Archives: June 2016

Why Children Behave the Way They Do: Article 3C By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

Article 3C: When Punishment and Corrective Consequences Don’t Work By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

You may be thinking right now of how you have repeatedly punished or corrected your children for certain things that they do, but somehow they keep right on doing those things anyway. How can that happen? I really don’t know the details as to what forms of punishment and correction you use and what behaviors you choose to punish, but I can offer you a few educated guesses.

First of all, there may be a good chance that your child will simply not get caught misbehaving. Children are usually very aware of what behaviors are likely to bring punishment, but they are also very aware of how likely they are to get caught at them. Of course, if they don’t get caught, they don’t get punished. It’s as simple as that.

“O.K.,” you may be saying, “but what about those things he does right under my nose? He knows I’ll notice it and punish him for it, but that doesn’t seem to stop him. How do you explain that?” That brings me to my second educated guess.

Certain behaviors may have both positive and negative consequences. If younger brother has been teasing older brother unmercifully all day long, older brother might suddenly find it very positive to land a few punches on him. Even though older brother knows you will punish his fighting, the sheer delight of revenging himself on his younger tormenter, as well as the benefits to his peace of mind for having brought that teasing to a halt, may be well worth the cost of enduring any corrective consequences his parents hand out to him. In other words, if a behavior continues to occur, despite the fact it is often and perhaps severely corrected, there are probably some powerful rewards serving to maintain that behavior.

Let’s look at yet another example of how this works. Little Darlene feels that she hasn’t been getting enough parental attention these days. She has tried hard to please her parents, but it seems that they just never notice when she is behaving appropriately. It won’t take her long, however, to figure out that misbehavior will get her all the parental attention she can handle. Since negative attention is often better than no attention at all, it won’t be surprising if Darlene soon becomes a consistent behavior problem. All this because no one took the time to reward her good behavior with positive forms of attention.

You see, kids want their parents to notice them, and, in the long run, most of them would rather be corrected than ignored altogether. Clinic files are filled with cases of children who simply wanted parental attention and resorted to unacceptable means to get it. Many parents don’t realize that they have the power to improve relationships with their children simply by effectively giving them attention.

With information from this Series of Articles, the next step is to be sure that you are giving children as much attention as possible in loving and consistent ways.

All of the Parent Training Programs that CICC offers show you numerous ways of conveying positive and consistant attention, all of which will reduce the need to use corrective consequences. The Programs also provide many ways of using corrective consequences which do not involve the use of physical force, i.e., non-violent corrective consequences.

CCP-EBP-LNBE Handbooks 3Across

Click here to learn more about and how to obtain the Instructor Kit of each Program or just the Parent Handbook of each Program.

Why Children Behave the Way They Do: Article 3B By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

Article 3B: When a Positive Consequence Is Not Positive By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

One word of caution is in order before we leave the topic of positive consequences. One man’s meat may well be another man’s poison. Let’s take the case of the well-meaning but unliberated husband as an example. Lately, it seems that his wife has been getting up early on weekends to cook him up a scrumptious breakfast, and boy, does he like that behavior! Knowing full well that this behavior is more likely to continue if it’s rewarded, hubby figures that he’d better get on the stick and do something nice for his wife in return. So he decides to take her out to a hockey game. Bad choice – this is not a positive consequence to her: she hates hockey. A big hug and a kiss after breakfast not only would have been a bit more appropriate, but also would have gone a lot further toward inspiring his wife to keep on cooking those great breakfasts for him.

The Concept of Punishment and Corrective Consequences

John Doe has a plane to catch. Because he’s afraid he might be late, he decides to hurry. Tooling around the highway at well over 90 miles per hour, a number of interesting things can happen to John Doe.

He might make it to the airport in time to catch his flight. No problem. All is well. Driving too fast has produced the positive consequence of catching his flight.

The arresting officer might be in a pretty good mood. Nevertheless, the siren, the flashing red light, and the brief lecture on traffic safety scare the hell out of John Doe, and on top of everything he misses his plane. In this instance, driving too fast has not paid off; it’s been punished and corrected.

The arresting officer might have had a spat with his wife, and now he’s in an ugly mood. Consequently, John Doe ends up with a ticket and a court appointment before he can say, “But, Officer –“John will lose $125 and a day of work – and of course, he also misses his plane. Again, the behavior of driving too fast has been punished and corrected.

John Doe has a bone-jarring collision with a 6-ton truck. For sure, he will miss his plane and he’ll probably miss tomorrow as well. To say that his driving too fast has been punished and corrected in this instance would be an understatement.

We have just looked at four possible consequences for driving fast. The first was positive; the other three were punishing and negative. Such punishment and negativity are the opposites of positive consequences.

Whereas having a positive consequence follow a behavior makes it more likely to occur again, a behavior that is followed by a punishing, negative consequence is less likely to recur in the future, i.e., it is “corrected” in the sense of being less likely to happen again. Thus, punishments or negative consequences are considered to be corrective in nature.

Also, just as positive consequences come in a wide assortment of shapes and sizes, so to do corrective consequences. Our beleaguered John Doe was scared, scolded, delayed, fined, and physically injured for speeding. As a result, he will probably think twice before driving so fast again, at least in the immediate future.

Now think for a moment or two about some of the ways children receive a negative or corrective consequences for their misdeeds. Some are scolded; some are shook or spanked; some lose privileges; some forfeit their allowances; some are hollered at or berated; some are sent to their rooms. There is a multitude of ways to correct behavior, yet there is one common theme. Corrective consequences are intended to decrease the chances that the misbehavior will happen again.

The use of spanking and other physically punishing corrective consequences are special instances that deserve extensive consideration and discussion as they constitute physical violence against children. Such a discussion is contained in a prior series of articles on why We Must Stop Hitting Our Children!. Click here to find that series.

The next and last article in this current Series will deal with when punishment and corrective consequences do not work.

Why Children Behave the Way They Do: Article 3A By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

Article 3A: Learning-Through-Consequences By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

Behavior is also shaped by its consequences. This simple commonsense statement tells you a great deal of what you need to know about human behavior. What does it mean? Simply this: If you do something, be it going to a party, kissing your spouse, or even scratching your nose, whatever happens to you as a consequence (or result) of that behavior will determine how likely you will be to behave that way again in the future. There’s a great deal of scientific research backing up this statement, and understanding it is the key to understanding human behavior. Behavior is shaped by its consequences. Remember that: it’s important.

Pos & Neg Consequences

The Concept of Positive Consequences

Knowing that behavior is shaped by its consequences, we can now go one step further. If you behave a certain way and something good happens to you as a result, you will be more likely to do that same thing again. A trained porpoise, for example, knows that if he jumps through a hoop, his trainer will reward him with a fish dinner.

Sure, you probably wouldn’t jump through any hoops for just a mouthful of raw fish, but take a minute or two here to think about all the things you do in your daily life, and then see if you can figure out the various positive consequences you get which make doing those things worthwhile. We go to work, for example, because we get paid for that behavior. We ask a question, and the answer is our reward. We say nice things to people so they’ll like us. The list is virtually endless. Let’s take a closer look, however, at an example of how a child’s behavior is affected by positive consequences.

Michael is an eager-to-please four year old who has spent his entire afternoon working on a finger-painting to give to his dad when he comes home from work. When Dad rewards Michael’s effort with a big smile, a hug, or lots of praise, chances are that Michael not only feels pretty good about himself, but he’s already looking forward to making his dad more nice presents in the future. How long do you think Michael would continue to do nice things like this for his dad if all he got was a perfunctory “Oh, that’s nice” as his reward? Probably not too long. Once the positive consequences which serve to maintain a behavior stop coming in, that behavior is not likely to occur again. In short, if you want to see more of a particular behavior from someone, make sure that he feels he’s been amply rewarded for that behavior.

Why Children Behave the Way They Do: Article 2B By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

Article 2B: The Five Modeling Effects By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

Bandura further discovered that there are five types of effects that models can have on children, which showed that what can be learned from models not only includes new patterns of behavior, but also standards against which children can judge themselves and their abilities, their competencies in problem solving and conceptualization, and internal rules for creating behaviors. The five effects of models are:

1. Models Teach New Behavior

This is the modeling effect where children learn entirely new patterns of behaviors that were not previously part of their repertoire, such as learning how to dress themselves or how to ask questions in a polite manner, how to say unusual words like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” or how to hit a baseball.

2. Models Strengthen or Weaken the Use of Prohibited Behaviors

Here the actions of models serve to weaken or strengthen those behaviors that they already possess and which they have learned are prohibited, such as when a model’s use of swearing does not result in any adverse effects to the model and thereby weakens a child’s inhibition to swear. Another instance would be when a model is punished for some action, like speaking when they were supposed to be quiet, which increases the child’s own reluctance to engage in the same or similar actions. Another example would be a child observing an older sibling taking some money from the purse of their mother and thereby being less inhibited in doing so himself.

3. Models Encourage the Use of Already Learned Behaviors

Here the actions of the model serve as social prompts for previously learned behaviors that have not been inhibited but haven’t been used because of insufficient inducements. This prompting effect of models can facilitate children behaving altruistically, volunteering their services, delaying or seeking gratification, showing affection, selecting certain foods and apparel, conversing on particular topics, being inquisitive or passive, thinking creatively or conventionally, or engaging in other acceptable forms of action.

4. Models Change How Objects and Situations Are Used and Appreciated

In this type of influence, the behavior of models serves to direct the child’s attention to particular objects or settings that the model favors. Examples here would include where the aggressive model in the previously mentioned study drew the children’s attention to using a mallet to strike dolls, or when children observe parents eating in bed and get the idea that a bedroom can serve as a kitchen or dining room, and begin eating in their own beds.

5. Models Arouse Similar Feelings

This type of modeling effect takes place where the modeling of some action involves a display of or expression of emotion and the child reacts in similar emotional ways. An example would be seeing a parent cry when being spoken to harshly by someone else like another parent, and the child herself feeling sad and humiliated. Another example would be a child observing another model elated over receiving a gift, and feeling uplifted also.

In terms of what determines whether or not a child follows the examples of models, Bandura found that one of the most important determinants was what happens to the model for engaging in the behaviors. If the consequences to the model are positive, the model is more likely to be followed. If the consequences to the model are negative, then the model is less likely to be emulated. Similarly, if the consequences to the child for engaging in the behavior learned from models are positive or negative, these personal consequences also influence whether models are actually followed.

Another major determinant of whether the behavior of models will be copied or reproduced is the importance and status of the model in the eyes of the child. The more important the model is to the child, the more likely the child is to copy and be influenced by the model. This, of course, helps to explain why parents are such powerful models.

Thus, for better or worse, children learn a great deal from simply observing the actions of the significant models in their lives. What they observe sets the stage for much of what they actually do and say.

This type of learning can produce some of the greatest joys of parenthood when parents recognize their finer qualities being modeled and repeated by their children. It can also create some of the biggest challenges and problems of parenthood, as children repeat their parents less desirable qualities and habits.

Doing everything possible to model the qualities and behaviors that you want your children to develop and learn is the most profound implication of this type of learning. If you want your children to behave in a certain manner, behave that way yourself. Or, in other words, a good way to shape desirable child behavior is to be sure your behavior is in good shape.

Why Children Behave the Way They Do: Article 2A By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

Article 2A: Dr. Bandura’s Work Regarding Modeling By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

The research and theory of Dr. Albert Bandura of Stanford University is most instructive. His conception of psychological modeling or observational learning is powerful and multi-dimensional. Drawing on his own research with children, Dr. Bandura has come to conclude that

“most human behavior is learned by observation through modeling. By observing others, one forms rules of behavior, and on future occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action. Because people can learn approximately what to do through modeling before they perform any behavior, they are spared the costs of faulty effort. The capacity to learn by observation enables people to expand their knowledge and skills on the basis of information exhibited and authored by others. Much social learning is fostered by observing the actual performances of others and the consequences for them.”


Bandura has noted that for observational learning to occur, the individual must attend to the behavior of a model, be able to retain the information that is observed, and both be able to reproduce the observed behavior and be motivated to do so.


In his classic modeling studies with children, Bandura and his co-workers demonstrated that children whose attention was riveted on adult models who engaged in very aggressive behavior, which the children themselves were quite capable of doing (hitting a large doll with a mallet, for example), clearly learned or retained the aggressive behavior simply by observing it.


Difference between Learning and Performing

However, and this is very important, how much of the aggressive behavior they actually engaged in themselves at a later time depended on what subsequently happened to the model and on what was in it for the children if they engaged in the behavior. If they observed that the model seemed to enjoy or get some reward for engaging in the behavior, and/or if the child received some personal reward from engaging in the model behavior, the child was much more likely to repeat or copy the behavior at a later time.

Learning vs Performance

By showing that different factors were involved in acquiring and engaging in modeled behavior, Bandura was able to demonstrate the difference between learning and performing modeled behavior. This important distinction should serve to alert parents to the likelihood that their children will repeat the behaviors they model if the parents themselves seem to get something out of it (enjoyment, relief, satisfaction, etc.) and that the behavior may be repeated far in the future. This type of knowledge can help parents realize the power of the examples they set, as well as the power of other models in their children’s environment (siblings, peers, teachers, etc.) to influence children’s behavior and functioning.

Why Children Behave the Way They Do: A Series of Articles To Better Educate All Parents By Kerby T. Alvy Ph.D.

Article 1: Introduction to Series by Kerby T. Alvy, Ph.D.

This series of 6 articles (1, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B and 3C) is intended to provide parents with a basic understanding of why their children act as they do. By having this understanding they are in a more knowledgeable position to help their children behave in ways that are consistent with their family values.

The series is based on the results of numerous scientific research studies from the fields of child development and learning theory.


These results, and the principles of learning that they reflect, apply to all parents and all children. They apply to parents and children from different cultural, ethnic and social backgrounds. They apply to the behavior of children of any age, from infancy through adolescence.

Thus, the ideas and information contained in these 6 articles are relevant to everyone who is involved in the awesome task of raising children, and to those committed and humanitarian people who choose to work with and help children and parents.

To parents themselves, these ideas and principles are likely to be new, assuming they have not been fortunate enough to have taken child development courses. To those who work with children and parents, who are likely to already have taken child development courses, these articles will probably serve as a summary review.

The articles are based on the powerful and simple notion that children learn a great deal through two very important and interrelated processes, Learning-Through-Modeling-the-Behavior-of-Other-People (Articles 2A and 2B) and Learning-Through-The-Consequences-of-Their-Own-Behavior (Articles 3A, 3B and 3C). Each article elaborates on these processes to provide in total a fairly comprehensive appreciation of what every parent should know.

The New Power of Positive Parenting Now Available for Digital Download!

The NP of Positive Parenting_3886

This popular book has been made easier to share with family, friends and colleagues through a new Digital Download version.

Click here to obtain the downloadable or the regular version.

Written by Dr. Alvy, this easy-to-read guidebook brings to parents 16 standards against which they can evaluate and improve how they are raising their children. The guidelines address numerous child rearing challenges and issues, and they are based on the latest research on effective parenting and upon the recommendations of parenting authorities.

The guidebook includes numerous practical examples of how best to relate to children of all ages and how to build a relationship where children are supported in reaching their full potential.

The guidelines address matters such as how best to express love and appreciation, how to set family rules, how to avoid using physical punishment and other destructive practices. Also addressed are how to manage children’s use of technology and the media, and how to keep them off drugs. The parenting skills that are taught are from a variety of modern parenting programs, including Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.), Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP), The New Confident Parenting Program, the Effective Black Parenting Program, and the Los Ninos Bien Educados Program.

Interviews with parents who have read the guidebook indicate that they were engaging or not engaging in the following behaviors and activities:

• Kissing and hugging children more often.

• Yelling at them less.

• Spanking less, if not stopping spanking altogether.

• Reminding their children more often about family rules.

• Praising good behavior more often.

• Looking at and praising their children’s art and writing more often.

• Giving instructions in a clear and firm voice more often.

• Reading to their children more often and telling them stories.

• Getting books or visiting the library to learn about different cultures.

• Learning more about parenting and child development.

• Taking parenting classes to become better parents.

• Getting more rest, relaxation and exercise for themselves.


• “It gave me perfect guidelines for raising my children to be healthy and confident.”

• “It helped me to realize what I am doing wrong and what I am doing right.”

• “It made me realize that children are a reflection of what they see at home.”

• “it explains and then gives examples! Easy to read with steps and guides to each problem.”

• “Great ideas! Great book to guide you.”

• “Everyone should have one in their house!”

The vast majority of parents who were interviewed several months after having received the guidebook commented that they were seeing many positive changes in their children’s behavior and feelings as a result of their using what they learned from the book.

Click here to obtain the downloadable or the regular version.

The Soulful Parent Book Now Available for Digital Download!

The Soulful Parent Book Now Available for Digital Download

The Soulful Parent_3880

The Soulful Parent: Raising Healthy, Happy and Successful African American Children has been made easier to share with family, friends and colleagues through a new Digital Download version.

The Soulful Parent book contains 50 interviews with parents, grandparents and instructors who have made extensive use of the parenting skills and ideas that are taught in CICC’s Effective Black Parenting Program. It includes vivid descriptions of the features of the program that were most influential and how their use improved the quality of relationships to African American children.

Click here to obtain your downloadable copy.

This is the book’s Table of Contents:

The Soulful Parent_Table of Contents Pg 1

The Soulful Parent_Table of Contents Pg 2

The Soulful Parent_Table of Contents Pg 3