Classical conditioning may have worked with canines and other semi-advanced species, but I'm starting to doubt its effectiveness with children.
You would think, for example, that after falling off the dishwasher door three times in five minutes, a two year old child would stop opening and climbing onto the thing. That after pulling the elastic out of the other kid's hair every day for two weeks and getting forcefully shoved backwards onto her behind, every day, she would clue in that her hair pulling behavior results in the pain and humiliation of getting shoved.
My favorite is the child obsessed with the baby gym. Every day, several times a day, she climbs into the baby gym and after thirty seconds of sheer joy at playing baby, she starts complaining that she is stuck.
"Well get out, then."
"Why are you in there again?"
At which point, someone takes pity on her and lifts her out.
Ten minutes later the scene is repeated. I decided to leave her in the thing. Pretty soon she's crying. Piteously. I let her out.
Ten minutes later, "Claire! DO NOT climb into that!"
Now it's immediate. In, cry to get out.
"Claire! You cannot climb into the baby's toy. You're breaking it.
Do you want to paint?"
Moments later, again, "I'm stuck."
"Claire! What am I going to do with you?!"
"Maybe you should spank her bum."
"Is that what you need Claire? A spank on your bum?"
"WAAAAA! Kimber spank my bum!!!!"
[I am so not allowed to threaten, let alone do, such a thing.]
Her big sister comes in, hearing the fuss. "Why did you spank my sister's bum?"
"She was being naughty."
"She didn't spank her bum."
Hey! Don't blow my cover here, maybe we could instill a little fear in the rest of them. (Or bring down Child Protective Services on our heads.) Not that pain seems to be much of a deterrent . . . Who knows. Maybe that's why spanking doesn't work terribly well as a disciplinary tool–children just aren't as easily conditioned as canines. All that bothersome thinking and free will gets in the way.