Ignore the behavior…not the kid!


Sometimes the best thing you can do to get rid of or change a behavior is to simply ignore it.  However, this can be a fairly daunting task sometimes.  But, here is the good news:

You can ignore a behavior, but not ignore the kid and it still be an effective way to get rid of some junky behavior

Lets start here:

Lets say your little one is acting like a clown making weird noises you know she is clearly making to get your attention (if you don’t know…she probably is).  This has been going on too long, so you say, “NO! Stop those noises.  That is RUDE!” and she laughs…

WHOOPS: You just paid attention to the behavior and probably have made it more likely to happen again.

So next time comes around when she is making those noises and you think ignoring it will be the right thing to do.  You hang in there for a while, but it gets worse.  It gets louder.  Now she is actually dancing right in front of you as you try to pay attention to anything else but her.  You can’t take it anymore.  You give up and say “Sit DOWN and STOP IT!”  She either laughs and runs away or gets upset and whimpers as she sits.  Neither is what you really wanted.

Here is where many parents get in the black hole of ignoring and where a lot of parents feel like ignoring is not a powerful or effective tool.

Paying attention to the child, but ignoring the behavior?  Here is how…

Pay attention to her without paying attention to the behavior.  Don’t say anything about the behavior, act as if it was not occurring at all…ignore it, but don’t ignore her. Try a little misdirection:  Lets try this again:

DANCING QUEEN: (Dancing in front of you with fingers pulling her mouth to her ears while making noises that remind you of a siren at the fire station)

YOU: “I love your shoes, what color are those?” or “Did you see what dad put on the front porch?” or “Tell me what you did with your best friend yesterday?” or “Can you grab me your magazine right there by the TV?”

If she replies, keep talking.  Engage with her.  You are now teaching her you will pay attention to her, but not directly to the behavior.  You have the best of both worlds: you have attended to her so she will not escalate her craziness to get your attention and you have ignored a behavior you don’t really want her to use to access your attention.  Things are good.

If she does not reply, ask other questions, things she will be like to talk about.  This is not a demand, but a way to get her to engage with you so you can attend to her appropriate behavior rather than simply ignoring the junk

If she continues to chirp like a bird or sing the “beans are good for your heart” song, just let her know you want to talk to her about her new gymnastics routine when she is ready.  Then do what you can to get out of her visual area and continue ignoring.

Just remember…ignore the behavior, not the kid.


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