Don't Ignore Your Whining Kid at Check-Out, Experts Now Say

I don't know about you but when my son was little and carrying on about something, the advice was to ignore him.

Now we're learning that just may not be the way to do it.

According to a new study, parents who intentionally ignore children’s negative emotions may actually increase their children’s expressions of anger, aggression, and disproportionate emotional behaviors, reports.

Oh boy.

Ignoring children’s emotional outbursts is a strategy commonly employed by parents with a wide range of psychological know-how, drawing on their intuition, family tradition, modeling, or simple desperation.  

"For whatever reason, the folks who are developing questionnaires to assess these kinds of behaviors didn’t focus on ignoring responses,” notes Scott P. Mirabile, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland at the web site.

Here's what researchers found: If a child is begging for candy in the checkout aisle and starts to cry, a complete ignorer of everything doesn’t look at the child and keeps putting objects on the belt. A parent who just ignores the emotion might say: “We have candy at home,” or “Let’s wait ‘til we get out of here and then talk about it.” That parent is engaging the child, but not discussing or naming the emotion. Both strategies stand in contrast to a parent who says: “I understand you’re upset now, but this candy isn’t good for you. Let’s go home and have some fruit.” This response labels the child’s feeling and offers a solution as well.
In addition,researchers found that parents’ ignoring is not only a response to children’s poor emotional behavior, but also may be a cause of it! For example, children may perceive ignoring as a non-response, think a parent is failing to notice their emotion, and so turn up the intensity of their behavior.

“There could certainly be a process whereby a child starts off turning the volume up, and when that doesn’t get them anything after weeks or months or years, they could start to suppress instead. And so both of those possibilities – amping up the negative mood changes AND suppressing the negative mood changes – could be true … That might seem like a good thing, but maybe their suppressing and suppressing isn’t as good as understanding and dealing constructively with their emotion,” Mirabile suggests.

I've been fortunate.  My son, now 14, was hardly ever a child who carried on like this.  Of course, I gave him everything he wanted!  Well, almost everything.


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