Reinforcement is a vast and natural part of everyone’s life. It is immediate, positively, or negatively affecting the learner’s reaction, or the external environment, to a specific action (Alberto & Troutman, 2013). In the education of children, this model is a critical stage, but it often occurs unconsciously. Thus, a particular case was examined, and three behaviors and corresponding goals for their improvement were identified to explore this topic in more detail and expand knowledge.
The subject of the study is N, a ten-year-old boy who is in the fifth grade at a new school. He enjoys baseball, and swimming, loves baking, reads above average, and appreciates books, for instance, Percy Jackson and Lightning Thief. He makes many mistakes in his writing and has great difficulty in math. N has a good sense of humor, but he can be irritable at the same time. It is important to note that he has a medical diagnosis of childhood bipolar disorder. He takes daily medication for his bipolar disorder and has started taking new pills. Recently, N has become unmanageable, as evidenced by his disruptive behavior at school. His teachers tried to find reinforcement methods, but they did not work.
Three Behavioral Patterns
It is necessary to recognize the main reasons for N’s difficulties in interacting with others to identify the main patterns discussed in the paper. As mentioned earlier, N has a medical diagnosis of bipolar disorder. It is an illness characterized by constant mood swings: from depressed to overly energetic (Tsarkov & Petlovanyi, 2016). Therefore, the goals will be to peacefully identify the actual cause of the behavior, teach N to express his feelings differently, and change the communication style of parents and teachers.
Another important fact that will help determine the following pattern of behavior is that N is afraid of new people and may become quiet in such situations. Nevertheless, parents and teachers persuade him to do it, which can aggravate the problem: N’s behavior can reach the previous model of behavior – the aggressor, or he can become withdrawn into himself. The latter can be seen as a second model of behavior: invisible. The goal here will be to identify the cause of the behavior through observation, conversation, and psychological tests. It is essential to understand what situations N wants to become invisible and what the trigger is.
The concluding point in determining the final behavioral pattern is N’s academic performance. Sometimes, pupils may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which makes it difficult for them to control their behavior, to concentrate on one task (Gwernan-Jones et al., 2016). Thus, the goals will be to increase N’s attention to complicated subjects, select new methods of presenting information, and consider individualized instruction.
Next, an important step would be to formulate objectives according to the goals identified earlier. The first one concerns the aggressive phase of the mood swings that the child experiences continually. It was suggested that the teachers and parents should change their behavior and explain to N the other ways of being emotional. Thus, the first objective is to encourage dialogue between teachers, parents, and the child by organizing after-school conversations after aggressive outbreaks. Additionally, the positive change would be fixed by gifts. The child would acquire peaceful resolution skills of his problems; the criteria for success are minor or no emotional outbreaks during a month.
The other behavior that worried parents and teachers of N was that of being invisible. As was highlighted, this mode of behavior is linked to the feeling of discomfort and being abandoned. The objective, then, would be to form the ability to express the feeling of loneliness in the child. The aim is to produce a communication apparatus in a child and understand that he is not forgotten and loved. The success would be achieved when the child would begin to initiate conversations to explain his mood to his parents, teachers, or psychologist.
Finally, the academic performance in several disciplines was low due to deficit hyperactivity disorder N. The child struggles with mathematics and writing tasks since they demand concentration. In this case, the objective would be to enhance the child’s involvement in the mentioned task, increase his interest, and change the task so that N could do them. Namely, the tasks can be subdivided into smaller ones, and better presentation for them is necessary. The success would be obtained when the child begins to complete his mathematics tasks and write in long sentences in three months.
It is appropriate to organize precisely the mechanism of data collection. For the first and second objectives (which are similar in that they relate to mood swings), detailed observation and documentation of emotional changes should be done. Namely, teachers and parents should note the emerging unstable behavior and describe the conditions preliminary to it and the responses to their actions towards the behavior. It helps track the changes; also, the cases of peaceful conversations should be noted as signs of success.
For the third objective, the evaluation results of the tasks for tasks that produce difficulty should be noted. The parents should record the time that N devotes to the tasks and the time when he becomes distracted. It would be useful for developing tasks that are not too monotonous. As the child would enhance their skills, it can be seen through the marks in mathematics and writing assignments in three months.
Reinforcement Methods and Schedule
It is vital not to confuse reinforcement with punishment: earlier, the boy’s teachers scolded him; as a result, this did not lead to a positive change. Reinforcement is any influence, appearance, or disappearance, that increases the probability of a behavioral reaction (Alberto & Troutman, 2013). Additionally, it is essential to pay attention not only to the negative but also to use positive reinforcement. All these ways correlate with goals, and they will also help N understand that his behavior is unacceptable and should not be repeated in the future (Hardy & McLeod, 2020). Regarding the reinforcement schedule, in N’s case, it would be appropriate to consider a continuous option, as this would help create a strong link between the behavior and the response.
The schedule of reinforcement should be compliant with the objectives and data collection procedures. Then, for the first objective, the interpretation of the notes related to aggressive behavior should be made every week. A month is expected to be the point of successful results when the child would not show signs of aggression. The second objective is similar in notes’ interpretation, but the result is expected to be completed in two months. For the third objective, monthly reviews of the content of the task should be done according to the timely evaluations of tasks’ completion. The result is likely to be shown in three months.
The child’s formation as a person is a complex process influenced by various factors. Most parents want to instill in their children beneficial habits, teach them to take care of themselves, and behave correctly in society. In the case of N, comprehensive and harmonious development is possible under conditions of specially organized influence, which are the processes of reinforcement. It is essential to look for alternative ways to solve the issue, control reactions and adapt to the situation.
Alberto, P., & Troutman, A. C. (2013). Applied behavior analysis for teachers. Pearson.
Gwernan-Jones, R., Moore, D. A., Cooper, P., Russell, A. E., Richardson, M., Rogers, M., Thompson-Coon, J., Stein, K., Ford T. J., & Garside, R. (2016). A systematic review and synthesis of qualitative research: The influence of school context on symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 21(1), 83-100. Web.
Hardy, J. K., & McLeod, R. H. (2020). Using positive reinforcement with young children. Beyond Behavior, 29(2), 95-107. Web.
Tsarkov, A., & Petlovanyi, P. (2016). Bipolar disorder in child psychiatric practice: A case report. Medical Journal of Zambia, 43(1), 41-46. Web.