How to Use Ignoring

child crying in shopping cart in supermarket

Attention from parents is very rewarding for children. Attention can be both positive and negative. Positive attention refers to things you do to let your child know you like something she did. Negative attention happens when you give your child attention for something you don’t like. If your child keeps tugging at your shirt and calling your name, you may tell her to “Stop!” In this example, you have given your child attention. You may find yourself giving attention to negative behaviors more than positive behaviors because you are rushed or in a hurry. But, for children, negative attention from you is still attention. Ignoring works because it takes away attention from the behaviors you want to decrease. Your child learns that she will not receive attention for misbehaving.

What Is Ignoring?

Do not be fooled by the term ignoring. It is a very active process for the parent. Think of ignoring as the opposite of paying attention. When you ignore your child, you do not neglect him or stand by while he misbehaves. Instead, you take all your attention away from your child and his behavior. Ignoring usually helps stop behaviors that your child is using to get your attention. This includes behaviors like throwing tantrums, whining, and interrupting. When you are ignoring, you do not look at your child or talk to him. Ignore all protests or excuses to get your attention. The goal is to decrease behaviors you do not like or you want your child to stop.

Why Should I Ignore My Child’s Misbehavior?

Ignoring can help you reduce your child’s misbehavior. Remember that children love attention. Negative attention like screaming or yelling can be rewarding to a child. This is true especially if you were not paying attention to your child before the misbehavior started. By giving your child attention during tantrums, you may accidentally reward the behavior and increase the chance it will happen again. When you ignore some misbehaviors, you can make it less likely your child will do the behavior again.

What Misbehaviors Should I Ignore?

Ignoring is usually most effective for behaviors like whining, crying when nothing is physically wrong or hurting, and tantrums. These misbehaviors are often done for attention. If parents, friends, family, or other caregivers consistently ignore these behaviors, they will eventually stop.

Your child may also misbehave in ways that are not meant for attention and put him in danger. Dangerous and destructive behaviors should not be ignored. For example, if your child is hurting herself, hurting others, or destroying objects, she should not be ignored. These misbehaviors should be stopped immediately. Other discipline and consequences such as time-out should be used. Click here for more information on other discipline and consequences and time-out.

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Page last reviewed: October 2, 2017