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Ignoring Behavior

Many parents don't realize that even scolding and yelling are forms of attention. Children would rather have unpleasant attention than no attention at all. Therefore, when you get angry and punish children you may actually be teaching them to do the exact things you don't want them to do.

Ignoring behavior is simply pretending that the behavior is not occurring. The parent does not look at, talk to or respond to the child until the inappropriate behavior ends.

There are three basic guidelines for ignoring:

  • Give the child no recognition when exhibiting unacceptable behavior. Don't have eye contact, physical contact, or in any way acknowledge the child.
  • Be consistent with your approach. Ignoring once, and paying attention the next time, will likely increase the intensity of the behavior. The child will think he or she must escalate the behavior in order for you to respond. Expect the intensity of the behavior to increase before it decreases.
  • Recognize the child as soon as the unacceptable behavior stops. Ignoring must always be combined with supporting and encouraging positive behaviors.

Points to remember:

  • There are situations where ignoring would NOT be appropriate (behaviors that could harm the child, others or property, and those that are not motivated by the desire to create a reaction).
  • Ignoring is difficult.
  • Ignoring does not always render immediate results.
  • Other adults and children in the family (and community) may continue to recognize the behavior, jeopardizing the success of the technique.

Content used with permission from the Child Welfare League of America,





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This content was last modified on: 09/08/2008

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