angry little girl with arms crossedCertain toddler and preschooler behaviors are grating. They can make you grit your teeth, snap, admonish, and scold. But sometimes, even a bit of negative recognition of unwanted behaviors can be enough to encourage your child to continue them. When your child throws a tantrum, for instance, and immediately gets your attention, it may lead to more, and longer, tantrums in the future. Strategically ignoring certain behaviors may be the key to extinguishing them!

Whining. You know the familiar sound of your child whining. “Mooooom. Can we please stay at the playground longer?” “Whyyyy can’t I have more?” “Daaaaad, I want more TV!” Pretend that you’ve developed a superpower that allows you to completely tune out words when they are being whined at you repeatedly. Your child will eventually get the message that after you’ve said “no” once, whining isn’t going to get them anywhere.

Tantrums. Tantrums are like hurricanes. You have to ride them out. There is no way to reason with a child who is having a tantrum, because her emotions have completed overwhelmed her.  The tantrum is actually natural, and helps her to release her energy. As difficult as it seems, simply walking away during a tantrum can be the best way to ensure that it runs for a shorter duration.

Repeating something they shouldn’t have heard in the first place. Many parents have been there. An adult utters a word or phrase not meant for little ears, and the next thing you know, your toddler is repeating that word or phrase aloud. In this case, ignore your little one, and he’ll grow bored of the word when it doesn’t receive a response. Admonishing him and telling him not to use it may only encourage him to use it more when he is seeking attention.

That loud scream or squeal that’s just for attention. You know the one. When you and your partner are having a conversation, and your child decides that she needs to be heard, she may let out a loud scream for effect.  It usually works, surprising the adults in the room so that all eyes are on her. Practice your ability to tune out this particular scream or squeal, and your child will stop using it as it becomes less effective.

Rude behavior. Some families don’t mind a little potty humor and rude noises on occasion. But if you do mind that behavior, the best way to stop it is by ignoring it. Laughter, of course, will encourage it, but even a negative reaction might earn some repeat behavior in the future!

Of course, if your child is hurt, has genuine questions or needs, or is truly upset over something that you can help him or her with, immediately respond and help to resolve the issue. But when kids act in a rude manner simply to vent or attract attention, the best strategy may be to turn a blind eye!