The more powerful your face is, the more powerful your back can be
This is a statement I use pretty frequently with parents and I think it deserves a little more explanation. I have talked about it a little in previous posts about ignoring, attention seekers and several thoughts of the day, but I wanted to talk about this specifically and all the things I mean when I say it. Let me break it down, then I will explain.
The more powerful your face = the more powerful, frequent and consistent your positive attention is towards your kid’s appropriate behavior
…the more powerful your back can be = the more effective ignoring will be in reducing the likelihood of inappropriate or undesirable behavior
Attention can be a powerful reinforcer
This is huge for so many parents. Your kids want, need, and desire your attention. They will get it one way or the other. This is a good thing. Your kids want to be around you, they want you to pay attention to them. It is valuable to them. Very cool.
You get what you pay for (you get what behaviors you pay attention to)
The bad news about this is if you are not giving your kids ample attention for the good stuff (even though some of the good stuff can be a bit annoying at times…I get it), they WILL get your attention in some other way.
They will engage in behavior that will REQUIRE your attention. Loud noises, screaming siblings, crashes in the bathroom, pulling on your pants leg, dancing around you singing some weird song from “Yo Gabba Gabba.” You can only handle so much of that, so you attend…whoops.
Many times, parents who experience trouble from their kids (especially older kids who have just experienced the divided attention that comes with the “new addition” of a little brother or sister) simply need to focus on spending more undivided attention with the older child. Front loading the attention with special outings, 1:1 time can be essential and really helpful to keep that child’s “cup filled.”
Ignoring can also be a powerful tool
Yes, it can be. If your kid is freaking out, sticking gummy bears in her nose, or saying “I pooted, I pooted” and looking at you when doing it, it is totally cool to ignore that. They are likely doing it for the effect: your shock response, a laugh, a conversation about “nice words,” getting you off the phone, etc. Ignoring a behavior that is an attention seeker can be a very effective way to reduce the likelihood of the behavior again.
Please watch this video for the effect. You will regret not looking at this. Please!
Here are the problems you need to be aware of
1. If you ignore your kid too much, you are going to have problems. If you ignore everything (exaggeration, but you get it), ignoring the inappropriate or undesirable behavior will not look any different to them. Their experiences with your response to appropriate behavior and inappropriate behavior will be the same. This sucks, so be careful.
2. Escalations can and will occur. If you ignore the smaller stuff, your kid might get louder, go longer, and get more and more annoying to you to the point where you break down and react or when things get dangerous and out of control so you have to respond. This gets worse and worse if you attend less and less to the appropriate behavior. Go back to #1 if you have this problem.
Learn from your experiences here.
If you frequently find yourself having to pull away from what you are doing to pay attention to some craziness or you feel like your kid is always after you…they likely are telling you to spend more 1:1 time with them.
Don’t be oversold on this “ignore inappropriate behavior” thing. It is hard to do and has some pretty tough side effects if you are not in a position to do it well. Pay attention to the good stuff. Be effortful towards this. The more you do this, the more ignoring the other stuff will work.
Be sure to check out the posts I linked to for more on this.