Discipline Your Teen with Selective Ignoring

Avoid Accidentally Reinforcing Misbehavior with Attention

Ignoring certain behaviors can be an effective tool for parents to discipline teens. Gary John Norman / Getty Images

Selective ignoring be a very effective discipline technique. However, it needs to be used in a purposeful manner and should only be applied to certain behaviors.

Selective ignoring means to act as if you don’t notice certain behaviors. Attention-seeking behaviors that are meant to gain any type of attention, even if it’s negative, respond well to ignoring.

Ignoring specific behaviors can reduce power struggles.

Instead of engaging in an argument, ignoring the behavior can make it go away quickly. It can also help your teen learn more socially appropriate ways to gain the attention of others.

Read More: 8 Discipline Techniques for Teens

Types of Behaviors to Ignore

Ignoring can be a great first line of defense when your teen behaves obnoxiously or is acting out to get your attention. Singing loudly or burping on purpose, for example, are often meant to gain attention, even if it’s negative.

Ignoring behaviors that are meant to shock you can also be effective. If your teen swears in an attempt to get your reaction, ignoring may be the best reaction in that moment.

Whining is another behavior that can be ignored. Although it’s annoying to listen to, paying attention to it encourages it to continue.

Ignore facial expressions such as eye rolling as well. Engaging in an argument about it won’t help the situation.

Also, ignore minor back talk. The more you respond to it, the more likely the argument is to continue.

Read More: How to Respond When Your Teen Talks Back

Behaviors You Shouldn’t Ignore

If your teen breaks an established rule, don’t ignore it. There should be an active consequence if your child doesn’t follow the rules.

Also, don’t ignore any potentially dangerous situations. If your teen is doing something potentially harmful or unsafe, pay attention to it.

If your teen’s behavior results from a lack of skills, don’t continue ignoring it. Instead, teach your child new skills. For example, if your teen exhibits annoying behaviors because he isn’t sure how to make friends or gain positive attention, help him learn new social skills.

Ways to Make Ignoring Effective

Ignoring will only be effective if you have a healthy relationship with your teen. You’ll need to give your teen plenty of positive attention for good behavior on a daily basis. Otherwise, your teen won’t care that you ignore him, or worse yet, he might not even notice that you’re purposefully ignoring him.

Read More: 10 Ways to Spend Quality Time with Your Teen

When you ignore your teen’s misbehavior, avoid making eye contact. Instead, turn away and act as though you don’t see or hear what is happening.

As soon as the misbehavior stops, give your teen positive attention again.

Make it clear that you aren’t ignoring your child but instead, it’s the behavior you are choosing to ignore. Provide positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior to continue.

Behaviors sometimes get worse before they get better. For example, if your teen is trying to get your attention by whining, and you ignore it, the whining may get worse at first. Teens will try increasing the behavior to see if they can manage to get your attention.

If you give in and give attention, even if it’s negative, you may accidentally reinforce that behavior. Therefore, it’s important to follow through with ignoring once you’ve started.

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