When Do You Ignore Your Kid?

When Do You Ignore Your Kid?

Hearing this parenting tip was like an epiphany to me: If your kid asks you the same question a hundred times in a row, you don’t have to answer a hundred times. Just say “That’s my final answer,” and ignore the other 99.

Photo by Brian Evans.

Catherine Pearlman, a parenting coach with a background in social work, has written a book embracing the idea of turning your back to your kid’s annoying behaviour. The title: Ignore It. Her theory is the same one we use to train animals: only reward the behaviour you want to see again. Even a negative interaction, she says — like yelling at your kid — can be a reward in their mind. So you ignore the behaviour you want to stop.

But this approach requires careful judgement. If your kid is hurt or upset, you certainly don’t ignore them. Even when the whining is purely to gain attention, some kids will escalate their attention-getting behaviour past your ability to stand by stone-faced.

And you can’t ignore your child all the time, because every kid needs their parents’ love and attention. (Pearlman’s solution is to turn your back on whining, but be ready to spring into action, offering grudge-free snacks or hugs, the second the whining stops.)

So I ask you, wise parents: When do you ignore your kid? Do you give an announcement beforehand, like I do? And how do you judge whether ignoring them is working or not?

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