I Finally Saw the Error of My Ways, but not How They Expected Me To . . .

When I was a young girl, my brother, sister, and I had to do a lot of work helping our disabled grandmother.  From a very early age we cut her grass, did her laundry at the laundromat, waged war against the critters invading her home, and did all of her shopping.  During those years of grocery shopping, I started a bad habit of taking a five-finger-discount on a candy bar once in a while.  I would choose a delicious one and go to the back of the store somewhere and eat it right there.  This was obviously before the days of having a camera on every aisle.  After a few successes, it was difficult to stop, but one day my luck ran out.  Grandma discovered a candy wrapper in my coat pocket and confronted me.  With sobs and tears, I confessed.  That’s when three rounds of (nociceptive and verbal) positive punishment (spanking and yelling) began.  Grandma got me first.  When Mom picked me up at Grandma’s, I got round two and when Dad got home, I got round three.  They each had a preferred utensil for adding the stimulus (the pain) to my sad little environment (my rear).  Grandma’s was a board labeled, “Heat for the seat.  Apply when needed.”  Mom’s was her hand and Dad’s was his belt.  Well, it worked because those stimuli sessions did result in a change in my behavior.  My probability of sneaking a Snicker’s was zero – – – for a while.  During the three months or so that it took my behind to cool down, I didn’t even dare look at the candy racks.  Eventually, the lure of my past successes forced me into a life of crime again, but this time I vowed to be smarter.  My avoidance behavior was to simply not be so careless with my wrappers again.  Being a more careful criminal was negatively reinforced by me still getting my Reese’s reinforcers and avoiding the pesky punishers. That’s when my guardian angel stepped in and took matters into her own hands before I graduated from my gateway drug (stealing chocolate) to something even more destructive.  I had just lifted a nice, thick Chunky Bar and snuck away to a quiet corner of the store.  I opened its smooth, silvery wrapper and found it full of little holes and teeming with ants!  It’s a good thing I didn’t scream and blow my cover.  That little bit of positive punishment (ants) suppressed my behavior for good.  I was cured; and it saved me from a life that could have perhaps gone down a much different path.

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