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obligation is poison

Posts: 1981
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Travis, what you mention as learned behaviour is also called positive reinforcement, with positive meaning "+ " or addition, so behavior reinforced by addition of a pleasant result.

It means we learn by getting a desired outcome.
And this is ...addictive!
As long as you are addicted to several things and that they are healthy, no problem with addiction per se!!!

Now.... obligation.
The child plays and love it, but cold and rain will have to insist quite a lot before he is obliged to put his jacket! He has to stop the addictive behaviour only when he is obliged.
Negative reinforcement is "-" or substraction, meaning a behaviour is reinforced by removing an unpleasant thing.

Please note that + and - mean plus and minus, and this has been unduely translated by positive and negative, with a connotation of good and bad that were not meant originally.
Addiction and obligation are the 2 poles that teach us adapted behaviors, bringing us either something pleasant, or the removal of something unpleasant!

The problem with those 2 words is that they have both been tinted by emotional issues. When you lack the right addictions and pleasures in your life, you might fall into not healthy addictions. If you had to escape from nasty unpleasant events, then you see obligation as worse than what it is, and you generalise you refusal to all sort of obligations. You would even end up taking a cold because you do not even want to surrender to the rain!

All this is about learning behaviours, and we learn through the consequences of our behaviours. When we talk about scowling for example, this is NOT for doing anything. This is meant to STOP a behaviour, or at least diminished it.

The problem in differenciating them is seen in the tantrum throwing example. The child and the mother. The child is trying to get a pleasant outcome by repeating a behaviour, and the mother is either going to let it go because it is also easier for her! The child gets the candy, and the mother gets the silent child... Obligation is also what does a baby when crying, because the mother has to find how to make go away the unpleasant consequence of the pain of the baby. Now you can see the very small difference for not subtle persons: in one case you learn how to stop what is unpleasant, and in another case, you just want to stop the behaviour, and you learn nothing.

The tip to sort out what is what is to be clear about who is teaching or being taught!

In the shop, either the child is teaching the mother the behavior of buying him a treat, or the mother can try to use the hope for a treat to teach some nice behaviour to her child! With the baby.... let time to the baby to grow. THEY have to teach their mothers to be quick at finding out why they cry, because it is necessary to their survival. Knowing to put your jumper and then learning the opportune behaviour to always have one in your bag is also about survival, or not getting sick. Some bad educators might have pervaded this wonderful behaviour, but we have to get it back on line as a sane tool of learning.

Then I can say that obligation is one of the essence of life... the other being addiction... And both words need to be rehabilitated, unless you are a linguist able to make all the population adopt news words! I would already be so happy if people could realize the terrible mistake that is being done in education when talking about positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement and such...
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Location: Saskatchewan, Canada
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Wow, this hits home on several levels. I'm so buried in obligations right now that I feel sick. Thank you Paul and everyone for posting and helping put things in perspective.
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