In previous lessons we covered laying the foundation for building good relationships with your children, and also setting and sticking to boundaries and household rules.
Children are hard-wired to push against those boundaries again and again, and to get angry when we don’t give them what they want.
Our children often behave in ways that we don’t want and that are less than ideal. In order to not end up having battles over every little thing, sometimes we have to decide what behaviour we can ignore.
We often say to a child who is having trouble with another child at school ‘if you ignore him, eventually he will get bored with annoying you and go away’ – sometimes we need to use this technique with our children too!
Of course, there is some behaviour that we really cannot ignore – if your child is hurting themselves, you or someone else, or if they are destroying your house, then we need to deal with this, and use the boundaries and consequences we covered in our earlier video.
Children who have Autism spectrum conditions also do not respond well to ignoring, so we would not advise using this with them, or with children who have experienced trauma such as abuse.
However, there are many things that children do that can be dealt with by ignoring, which is a great tool to use!
For example, when children are whining at you, that they want something. As we have said in other sessions, what is it that you want them to do instead?
So be really specific; say “stop whining please; speak to me in your polite voice and I will answer you”.
If they continue to whine you can then say to the child “Now i am going to ignore your whining until you speak to me politely”.
Make it clear that you are not ignoring the child themselves, but you are ignoring the behaviour they are showing.
It is really difficult to ignore your child; sometimes they will make you laugh, sometimes they will make you angry. Sometimes we need to physically show that we are ignoring their behaviour by turning away from them, not giving them eye contact and getting on with something else. You may need to repeat what and why you ignoring again.
Stick to your guns and don’t give in! Eventually they will stop and ask you politely, and then you must praise them, specifically, for that, saying “thank you for speaking to me politely, now what is that you would like?’
This gives you an opportunity to praise that child, and gives the child the opportunity to learn how to change their behaviour and what to do instead.
Pick your battles
When we are dealing with a child who is whining on and on and on we can feel extremely angry!
Sometimes it is easier to walk away and avoid getting into an argument. It’s ok to say to your children “actually I am now getting angry so I am going to go away to calm down”.
It’s good for them to see us modelling a healthy way of dealing with our angry feelings, they need to know that it is okay to be angry, but it’s how we deal with it that matters. Children learn by copying how we behave, and seeing us make good choices in difficult circumstances.
But how do we stay calm?
If you give in JUST ONCE to the whining for a biscuit you will end up having the same confrontation every night with your child, because if they win that battle once they know you will eventually give in next time so long as they go on and on at you. Similarly, sometimes they will persist simply to get attention from you. If you get angry they know they can get a reaction, even if it is not a positive one!
So the thing to do is to learn how to stay calm with your child.
Pick your battles. We can’t tackle everything all the time, so choose in advance which behaviours you most want to deal with. This will be easier to manage if you are only tackling the one behaviour that drives you most mad.
It’s important to learn how to stay calm because sometimes when we are ignoring behaviour, their behaviour gets worse before it gets better.
Breathing is really important. We try 7-11 breathing;
Breathe in for the count of 7
Hold your breath for the count of 3
Breathe out for the count of 11
This enables your body to calm down and gives you something to concentrate on (and helps you to ignore the annoying behaviour)
Thirdly, focus on Positive Thoughts: You will probably be thinking “He always goes on about the biscuit” “he never shuts up whining” “he’s driving me mad” but if you are thinking things like that it is very hard to remain calm.
But if we think of the long term goals and we say to ourselves:
“I am teaching my child not to whine. I am going to stay calm. I am not ignoring him, I am ignoring the behaviour. I am teaching him the skill to speak to people politely. Yes it might be annoying but he will stop eventually and I can get through this. “
Children can read our moods; if you are getting angry they are going to perceive that and keep going.
But if you project calmness they are actually learning the life skill from you of how to stay calm when people are being annoying. This is a skill they can use for the rest of their lives; at school, at work, with friends, with family and with relationships.
We know this is hard and we don’t get it right all the time. If you have a bad day, don’t worry, try again tomorrow and be kind to yourself, parenting can be one of the hardest jobs in the world!