Despite all that we have learned about human behavior in the last fifty years, it is surprising how much the process of reinforcement is still overlooked. For example, developmental psychologists like Mary Rothbart have been making enormous progress on understanding the development of self-regulation.
But developmentalists still tend to think more in terms of some sort of natural emergence of a behavior than in terms of the way that the environment shapes behavior. I think that makes it harder to see the practical steps we can take help children learn self-regulation. So here is a description of the shaping of self-regulation behaviors through reinforcement.
Georgia Layton, is the Director of the Early Education Preschool, which provides classrooms for children with developmental disabilities as well as typically developing children. (She is also my wife!)
I recently asked her to explain to me how she helps children develop the behaviors that developmental psychologists like Mary Rothbart have come to call effortful control, and more generally, self-regulation. The patience, subtlety, and precision of the process makes me fearful that I cannot describe it clearly. But here goes.