2 min video
5 min read

How to ignore irritating behaviours effectively

- Children often misbehave because they want attention. Try a selective ignoring approach to get them to stop.

Things you can try

  1. Make sure your child is not unsafe, hurting themselves or another person or damaging property

    In any situation where your child or others are at risk, you must react immediately and deal with their behaviour. The approach this page talks about is not for those situations.

  2. If your child is safe but annoying - prepare to try selective ignoring

    Often, we can be quick to tell our children off or even nag or shout at them. This doesn’t correct their behaviour and usually makes us, and them, feel bad. They may even do it more because they want attention and even an irritated parent is better than nothing! But if you can selectively ignore the bad behaviour, it will decrease over time.

  3. Pick one annoying behaviour and tell your child what you are going to do about it

    Working on one thing at a time makes things clearer for the child. It's also easier for you to focus and get used to how it feels.

    It's important to be clear about your expectations, so your child understands what they need to change.

    For example, you might say: "When you're whining, I'm not going to talk to you or answer you. As soon as you talk to me in a normal voice, I'll give you my attention". Once you have explained, then start to ignore the behaviour right away.

  4. Keep calmly ignoring the behaviour when it happens

    This is not the same as ignoring your child. Be aware of them as you focus on staying calm. By paying attention calmly, you can notice their behaviour changes - and react. You also give them a model of using self-control in the face of strong feelings.

  5. Notice when the behaviour stops and praise your child

    As soon as they stop the unwanted behaviour, you need to be quick to praise them for the behaviour that you do want.

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