Ignoring Behavior Can Stop It In Its Tracks

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by Nicole on March 7, 2011 · 3 comments

in Behavior

You know how frustrating it is when your child starts to push those buttons. Eventually you get to a point where you start yelling, scolding, and losing your temper. What you may not realize is that this attention, even though it is negative, is fueling the behavior. Sometimes, ignoring is the best way to deal with it, even though it can be a hard tactic to get used to executing, especially when it is your child.

If you are going to ignore your child’s behavior, you must simply not acknowledge it. You actually do not talk to, look at, or acknowledge your child until the actions end. When it is over, you recognize the child, but do not comment on what they did. The child needs to know that you are not ignoring him, but rather the actions he was performing. This takes away the attention, which was previously reinforcing the bad acts.

Choose your times carefully. There are some actions that you do not want to ignore. For example, if your child is doing something that could harm himself or those around him, you cannot ignore the behavior. For instance, a toddler that is hitting his head on a hard floor should not be ignored because he could be injured. Also, be prepared for this to take a while. This tactic rarely elicits an immediate response, and often causes an escalation until the child realizes you are not going to respond. You also need to ensure that no one around you is going to recognize the acts you are trying to ignore. Doing so will cause the technique to fail.

Ignoring behavior that you wish to stop is hard, and requires a lot of discipline on your part, but the end result, eliminating the behavior, is well worth the investment of time and energy.

About Nicole

Nicole Harms is a freelance writer and a busy mom to two preschool daughters. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Maranatha Baptist Bible College, but after four years in the classroom she turned in the chalk for the virtual pen. When not researching or writing she is busy chasing her two daughters around or traveling.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

RJ March 7, 2011 at 9:27 am

This was an interesting read. But I’m a bit confused. Way back in the day about half a century ago, it was all the rage to parent by paying attention to unwanted behavior and ignoring the unwanted stuff. This resulted in kids being left alone to cry themselves to sleep, for instance. I haven’t seen this as an option for quite awhile, and am concerned if the strategy is making a comeback. Fast forward about a dozen years, and think about if you’d like your teenagers to ignore you if you’re doing/saying something they don’t like? Is this really a strategy we want to model? Just wondering…



Angie March 7, 2011 at 5:28 pm

I will say sometimes this is the best thing that you can do. Other times they need to be talked to. Like if they are hurting someone or going to get hurt themselves. That should never be ignored.


Karen March 8, 2011 at 2:38 am

I agree to this, if kids are already behind the line you lose your temper. Whenever my daughter is having a tantrums and she just keeps crying for something she like but not actually good for her, sometimes I act like I don’t really hear it so she would stop.


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