To Ignore or Not to Ignore

Ignoring. It is quite interesting to see how polarized the opinion is about this common behavior strategy. People either hate it, love it, or use it incorrectly. Does it really work? How do you use it?, and does it work for any type of behavior? Read on.

Ignoring is, as most behavior tools, not a one-fits-all strategy. We have to first analyze the situation. Planned ignoring (when you decide to deliberately not respond to another person’s behavior) is a behavior technique that has been used successfully by many parents, teachers and caregivers. It is also a commonly used strategy used in the behavior analysis field with positive results.

What behaviors should I ignore?

The technical answer is, any undesirable behavior that has the function of getting attention. Sure, we all engage in attention seeking behaviors. We all like some amount of attention from others. The problem comes when your child engages in a problem behavior in order to get attention. Tantrums, screaming, whining and bickering are a few examples.

How do you know that the behavior is for attention?
You’ll know what the function of a behavior is by what a person is getting out of the behavior. Is your child getting something he wanted (access), getting out of something (escape) or a reaction from you? (attention). What does your child get at the end of this situation? if the answer is, “A reaction from me” whether is a good one or bad, then this behavior is a good candidate for planned ignoring.

What behaviors are NOT good to ignore?

Not all behaviors are good to ignore. Here are a few examples of behavior that you should not ignore:
-Behaviors that might put your child or others in danger. even if a behavior has the function of getting attention, if the behavior might put him or her in danger, act! Safety first.
-Behaviors that might have the function of escaping a task. if, for example, a child is doing a tantrum when it’s time to do homework, ignoring might be counterproductive. If you were to ignore this behavior, you might be allowing for escape from work, and that brings on itself a whole other set of problem behaviors that we will leave for another blog post. Stay tuned!
-When your child is trying to get your attention with good behaviors. Ignoring doesn’t work alone. while its useful to ignore problem attention-seeking behaviors, it is also important for them to learn that they can get your attention with appropriate behaviors. remember to teach what not to do but also what to do instead.

Is Ignoring easy?

No. Heck no. in my opinion, its the most difficult of all behavior strategies. Trying not to react when a child is screaming, whining or crying is something that takes time and practice.Ive also seen many parents talking to another person while their child is whining on the floor and the parents tells the other person, “I am ignoring Tommy” That is NOT ignoring. Ignoring is acting as if the behavior that your child is engaged in doesn’t affect you. you can even look bored, engage in another activity or simply do nothing. Do not give up! It is important to make sure that everyone at home or at school are also ignoring the behavior. otherwise, plan ignoring will not work. It is also important to prepare for the extinction burst. And what is that? Simple. it just means that once you start ignoring a behavior, it will increase. a lot. What???? yes, it will get bad before it gets better. But dont worry, The extinction Burt will disappear as soon as it appeared, as long as you consistently ignore.

It is not easy, I will not lie. But the benefits are great. by ignoring problem attention seeking behaviors and paying attention to good behaviors, you are shaping your child’s behavior and teaching them the best way to interact with others, as well as avoid consequences.

Contact Us

Have questions for us? Please get in touch with us!