Dr. Karan Sood, The Ketan K Foundation, Hospice Care & Palliative Care, Non Profit Organisation

The way by which parents can modify their mircobehaviour in handling their children and have a concrete plan of action is called psychoparenting and is based on the principles of operant conditioning.

The virtue of today’s child is hidden in the values of electrical gadgets and new age technology. In contrast to the generation where the child grew up naturally, playing outdoors and constantly in the shadow of their parents, more with values than possessions; today we see the new age of development. It seems that there is a chunk of lifetime that has been taken out from this generation and fast forwarded to a point where there is no longer a distinction, a distinction where we could label a child as innocent. They seem immaturely mature.

The world seems fast, very fast but this is not the natural process. The consequence of manmade shortcuts and time saving techniques has led to a change in chemistry of human behaviour. Everyone wants to get things done fast, at the expense of quantum behavioural changes. This micro-behavioural change in the parents is a worrying cause for the accelerated development of this new generation.

Today, every kid wants to work on an Ipad, Iphone or a Macbook. Well the world is getting online and we all need to learn, but this is very different. Three year old wanting a tab to himself, so that he can read and learn!!! I would rather stick with the old style books which give a better output from children. No wonder the incidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is on the rise. There is an ever increasing exposure, which is not required for their tender age. Partly the parents are helping, you can call it pampering but my view is that this is negative psychoparenting.

The brain is a reward centre (Papez circuit and NAC pathway) and simply put, the human behaviour can be explained in two ways albiet, classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

For example, in classical conditioning: a child receives injection (stimulus) which induces pain and fear (response). Eventually, the sights and sounds of the hospital alone elicit fear. Note that the triggering stimulus occurs before the response.

In operant conditioning: a child is asked to do his homework (response) in return for which he will be allowed to play for two hours (reinforcement / response). Here the reinforcement / stimulus occurs after the response.

The basis of psychoparenting is based on the concept of operant conditioning and can be easily inculcated in daily life by just learning about the stimulus or reinforcements. The key to microbehavioural modification in parents is a sense where they identify what is wrong with their child and is it appropriate for them to rectify it at the earliest.

The earlier the intervention the better the chances that it is going to have a leeser consequence on the later part of their life. Let’s just say, the child has a habbit of stealing money to play video games, you must identify and rectify this at the earliest. There is a chance that this could develop as a personality trait and pathologically affect your child’s global development.

Maybe the child develops normally. But you cannot take a chance, can you? A situation like this will be solved by most parents with the help of punishment, but is that the only way? Let’s see what all stimuli we can apply or remove and in doing that, does the behaviour increase or stop?

Let us say for example:

  1. Stimulus is added and behaviour stops: This will be Punishment.

For example: Physical punishment of a child will suppress naughty behavior.

  1. Stimulus is removed and behaviour stops: This will be Extinction.

For example:  Ignore the child when he throws temper tantrums.

  1. Stimulus is added and behaviour increases: This will be Positive Reinforcement.

For example: Increased play time leads to increased work from the child.

  1. Stimulus is removed and behaviour increases: This will be Negative Reinforcement.

For example: A child learns that he can stop his parents’ nagging by cleaning up his room.

All this can be used in the correction of your child’s behaviour and yes there needs to be a mix and match. The way by which parents can modify their mircobehaviour in handling their children and have a concrete plan of action is called psychoparenting and is based on the principles of operant conditioning. The stimulus and response are to be paired and graded as per the relevant situations.

This strategy is helpful in takling the child of modern generation where technology is a necessity for the parents and the children cannot be denied because the consequences of both provision and refraining are not understood by the loving parents.

There is not enough evidence that shows that there is an increase in intelligent quotient in children who are equipped with technology at an earlier age. The school which was a hub for learning is now a sanctum of materialistic possessions and every kid wants what the other kids have. In this fast pacing life where parents do not have enough parent-kid time, this act of provision is costing a childhood to their children.

To put it in nutshell: the children in the modern era are unfazed by the learning that is actually required by them, rather they are equipped by their parents with tools and gadgets which are hampering the sequential chronological development of their children and this reflective in their long term behaviour and parental bonding. The right stimulus has to graded in every individual child to get the right response.  A break has to be applied at one point so that your child’s development does not go stray!

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