Conditioned Response

There is a dog in my home town that barks at every passing train. As many trains as there are going through town, you would think that the dog would finally quit barking. But I suppose that he thinks he is being successful. Every time a train infringes on his territory, he barks at it. And every time he barks at a train, it goes away–every single time. The dog feels that he is rewarded for his behavior, so he keeps barking.

I see at least two applications for this story.

First is a lesson for parents. Many children continue to throw tantrums because they have been rewarded for doing so. When they cry long enough and loud enough, their parents give in and give them anything they want. They have learned from experience that it pays to raise a fuss.

Church leaders can also learn from this example. Many church members continue to be loud, belligerent and rebellious because this has enabled them to get their way. When leaders cave in to childish tantrums, immature people are rewarded for their misbehavior. When this occurs, leaders can only expect a repeat performance sometime in the future.

So, if you are leading a family or a church, just remember—don’t reward bad behavior!

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”—2 Timothy 4:2.

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