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Handling an Attention-Seeking Child

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How to Ignore
When you ignore misbehaviors, you are giving no attention. Because attention is rewarding to children, withholding attention can be an effective punishment. Withholding attention can weaken a misbehavior. When your child misbehaves to get your attention, ignore the misbehavior. Ignore your child's inappropriate demands for attention. You will weaken those demands and extinguish the misbehavior.

Some parents find this hard to believe; they think that if a child is misbehaving, he must be punished. This is not true. Ignoring demands for attention is the best cure. When you ignore consistently, you will teach your child that these misbehaviors are not paid off with attention. Temper tantrums need an audience. Take the audience away, and there is no point to having a tantrum. Do not forget to redirect. Teach children appropriate ways to get attention. "My ears do not listen to whining. Please ask in a soft voice."

When to Ignore
Ignoring does not mean ignoring the problem. It means ignoring demands for negative attention. There are many misbehaviors that you should not ignore. Some misbehaviors should be punished. Deciding when to ignore or when to punish is not easy, and there are no exact rules. It takes timing and judgment. When your child misbehaves to get attention, ignore it. If your child does not stop in two or three minutes, give him a reminder. Tell your child, "I do not respond to whining. When you stop, we'll talk." Wait another minute or two. If he still does not stop, then tell your child to stop or he will be punished: "Stop now, or you will go to time-out."

If you get angry or let your child push your buttons, you lose. If you must use a punishment, dispense the punishment without anger. If you get angry, then your child has succeeded in getting the negative attention that he was after. If you feel yourself getting angry, walk away. Cool off. If you give in, you will be providing your child with an attention payoff. You will be rewarding a misbehavior.

Do not take good behavior for granted: give your children positive attention when they are behaving. Ignore demands for attention such as teasing and whining; giving in to these demands encourages children to misbehave to get attention. Understanding these ideas is easy, but practicing them is difficult. You are worth it. Make the commitment. Your children are worth it, too.



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From How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too!. Copyright � Sal Severe, 2000. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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