Ignoring problem behaviour
Sometimes parents run into trouble because they give too much attention to particular behaviour or give in to all their children’s demands.
The problem is that, while we want to encourage good behaviour, we can unwittingly encourage bad behaviour as well.
Ignoring problem behaviour
Sometimes it is best to ignore bad behaviour because, from a child’s point of view, attention is attention, whether it is positive or negative.
This technique will work in many situations including tantrums, sibling squabbles, and bad behaviour at bedtime. There are a few situations where this approach may not work, mainly when your child or another could get hurt.
For example, if sibling squabbles are aggressive and someone is at risk of getting hurt, you might consider another way of dealing with them.
The beauty of this strategy is that it is relatively easy to implement once you have correctly identified what is maintaining the problem behaviour, and it does not involve you punishing your child.
However there are a few factors you should be aware of if you are thinking of using this method.
Research has been able to demonstrate what happens to behaviour when you use this strategy. When you start using it, the problem behaviour usually increases.
This could be seen as your child’s way of checking out what is happening; whenever he cried in the past, you gave in and gave him a treat.
So when you don’t do so this time, he will think to himself, “Maybe she didn’t see me crying, so I’ll just cry a little louder.” This is short-lived, and over the next while the behaviour gradually decreases to zero.
However, later, the behaviour might recur for no apparent reason. It is important at this stage not to give up and think the strategy has failed.
This is not the case — you just have to be careful to continue to ignore the behaviour and it will die away very quickly.
• Identify all sources of attention, eg, does your child get attention from other children in the form of laughs, etc?
• Make sure everyone who is likely to give into the demands sticks with the procedure, eg, babysitters, childminders, relatives.
• Give this procedure time.
• Keep it up, even during short-lived increases in the problem behaviour.
• Think of the behaviour you want to see and make sure you are giving attention or treats in response to that behaviour.
Like all strategies designed to manage your child’s behaviour, you have to be consistent and persist with it before you will see any changes.
If your children are displaying this problem behaviour in order to get your attention or get their demands met, this approach, once implemented consistently and adopted by everyone, will work to significantly decrease the problem behaviour.
Don’t forget that as you are ignoring the problem behaviour, you must give attention to the more appropriate behaviour; in this way, you are teaching your child how to behave and get the attention he needs from you.
For more information visit www.RollerCoaster.ie, Ireland’s no 1 website for parents.