When children are around water they are not thoughtfully scanning the environment for feedback from authority figures.
Lifeguarding: I have a soft voice and don’t yell worth a bean. So I got the loudest whistle made and I would just whistle, point at errantly behaving child, then point to the spot next to me, and then once they came over we could talk about appropriate behavior and what the punishment would be if warning was not heeded. I was initially viewed as the mean lifeguard, but I had learned babysitting that if you start out nice, then any ground you take back when they abuse your trust is considered almost a betrayal of the relationship. If you start out strict, then any ground you give is considered a favor. So I decided to start out strict.
Three strikes and you were out of my pool (we had two pools) so for the rest of the day they could not swim in any pool I was guarding. This punishment worked because if their friends wanted to swim in my pool, they were separated from the reinforcer of companionship. It took about two weeks before kids knew not to mess around in my pool. The other lifeguards got the problem kids until they started implementing my rule in their pool too. Then the kid was really out of luck if consistently acting in a dangerous manner.
We were basically the neighborhood’s babysitters with little to no parental backup. During my breaks I would teach the kids to do tricks and improve their swimming skills, and we really ended the summers having so much fun. I think that spending time with the kids was a reinforcer to them for good behavior in the pool and confidence in improved skills. There was an escape from punishment, because they could see which guard was at which pool and if I was there, they knew what the consequences would be and could decide not to produce punishment worthy behavior. This is escape or avoidance, because they could be in the pool when shifts changed and I showed up, or they could decide to avoid my pool altogether if they saw me already there.
Consistent conditioning was available because constant vigilance is the whole purpose of a lifeguard. There was no variable rate of punishment. But there was variable reinforcement of attention focused on them and their skills, I didn’t spend every break with the kids. This increased and strengthened our positive interactions.