The basics: Systematic ignoring is deliberately withholding your attention from a child while she engages in a specific difficult behaviour. It means not looking at her, and not talking to her, while she behaves in that particular way. Attention from a parent is a particularly powerful reward for children. This is because of the strong attachment and bond that exists between children and parents. Parental attention is so powerful that it sometimes makes little difference what kind of attention it is. From a child‘s point of view, negative attention is better than no attention at all. Negative forms of attention such as scolding, yelling or even smacking can be rewarding to a child.
Why use systematic ignoring? Every day, all day, your child is learning how to attract your attention. You might as well use your attention to help your child develop appropriate behaviour. That is, behaviour you believe is important for her to learn and is consistent with your values as a family. It costs nothing, and involves relatively little effort on your part. But be prepared – behaviour that is ignored often gets worse before it gets better. You should consider this when deciding whether to use systematic ignoring as a behaviour tool.
How to use systematic ignoring: Here are some tips for successfully using systematic ignoring.
When you ignore, it is important to completely ignore. Do not look at your child or say anything while the behaviour is occurring. Subtle glances, smiles or even frowns can be rewarding. Saying, I am ignoring you!‘ is no longer ignoring. Where it‘s safe and practical, walk away from your child while he is behaving badly. Start ignoring when the behaviour starts. Stop ignoring when the behaviour has been stopped for a while. If ignoring a behaviour is going to be difficult for you, plan some ways of distracting yourself, or keeping yourself busy while you ignore. Some simple exercises to help you feel in control and stay calm might also help. Systematically pay attention to the behaviour you want to see instead of the behaviour you are ignoring. This makes systematic ignoring far more effective.
Should I tell my child that I am going to ignore the behaviour? You just need to weigh up the usefulness of telling your child which behaviour is being ignored (so she understands) with the possibility that even that level of attention might be rewarding. For example, ‗I will not answer you while you continue to speak like that‘. This might be appropriate in some circumstances.
Before you use systematic ignoring: Ignoring is not always the best option for dealing with behaviour you wish to discourage. Before deciding to ignore behaviour, ask yourself:
Is this behaviour rewarded by your attention? If the behaviour is being rewarded by someone else‘s attention – for example, siblings or friends – it won‘t make any difference if you ignore it.
Should you ignore the behaviour? Behaviour that is dangerous to your child or that hurts others or damages property cannot be ignored. Sometimes behaviour might be simply too disruptive or loud to ignore.
Can you ignore the behaviour if it gets worse? If you feel that you cannot ignore the behaviour if it gets worse, it‘s better not to try in the first place.
Can you ignore the behaviour wherever it occurs? If you ignore the behaviour in one place but not another, you just get more of the behaviour in the place you don‘t want it.
Can you ignore the behaviour whenever it occurs? This is crucial. If you ignore sometimes and not at other times, you run the risk of making the behaviour even harder to change.
Will other people ignore the behaviour? Get agreement in your household about what behaviour you will ignore. Sometimes others will find it difficult to understand your use of systematic ignoring and might not be able to do it. Temper tantrums, stomping, making silly noises, whining, arguing and swearing are all behaviours that you might ignore. What you eventually choose to ignore will depend greatly on the behaviour and your own frustration tolerance. Nevertheless, systematic ignoring is a great tool to have in your parenting tool box.
Taken from: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/systematic_ignoring.html.
If you would like to discuss different parenting strategies or you need some specific advice around a behaviour your child is exhibiting, or you would like to attend the next 5 week SCCTC Confident Parenting Course, please speak with Caz or Nikki from Family Services on 5441 7199.
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