Ignoring

Every time Pari throws up a tantrum, I try to analyse what could have triggered it. I try to calm her down, expecting her to tell me straight away what the problem is. This approach would have been considered open-minded and mature if the person throwing the tantrum was an adult and not a 4-year-old.

But since we’re dealing with a child, my plea to speak up always falls on deaf ears and my child chooses to change gears, turning up her volume and aggression a notch higher. This is when panic slowly embraces me. I frantically run through a check-list in my mind as to what all could be disturbing my child. Based on my best guess I try to feed or put Pari to sleep. No prizes for guessing that it NEVER works.

What follows is, Pari’s crying and yelling and obstinate behavior stays put. She now pushes a concrete demand before me (like she wants a bar of Dairy Milk or a new toy or wants to watch cartoonat an odd hour, etc.). Mind you this behavior is most often triggered at times when I am pressed for time owing to work commitments or am in the middle of stepping out of the house and the like.

“It’s impossible to protect your kids against disappointment in life.”
― Nicholas Sparks

Trying to salvage the situation, upon insistence of my parents I used to disapprovingly, annoyed, beating up myself for doing it, cave in and let Pari be at peace with what she wanted. My parents would assure me that this way at least the child would stop crying, there’ll be peace in the house and I could carry on with whatever I was doing.  The second Pari would get what she wanted, she’d be quiet, smiling and her chirpy self again. This way I might buy time but such chaotic episodes of bad behavior repeated at an alarming frequency.

What was the outcome?

Pari’s stubborness was getting worse by the day with well-practiced tactics. My parents were glad that their precious grand-child was happy and smiling and they were not required to discipline her because theoretically they were in Pari’s good books for making me yield to all her demands. The only person that was left guilty, disquieted, hurt and often sleepless about my child’s worsening tantrums was me.

During this phase, there were occasions when we had gone to attend a wedding or were outside shopping when Pari chose to throw a tantrum for a toy or the like. No matter how much distraction, comforting, cajoling I tried, but she refused to budge. The glares from strangers and questions from people we knew, were making my family edgy over Pari’s meltdown. My ability to discipline my child or rather of being an authority figure was being crudely questioned, that’s when my father pushed me over-the-edge and in a stern voice asked me to oblige and let Pari have whatever she wanted because “log kya sochenge” (what will people think).

“The battle you are going through is not fueled by the words or actions of others; it is fueled by the mind that gives it importance.”
― Shannon L. Alder

The mayhem continued many days, my frustration levels were at their peak and I was transformed into a fire-breathing dragon. Losing my temper at the drop of a hat, irritable and resorting to yelling often. That’s when the Almighty decided I had had enough.

One winter afternoon, I had to step out for some important work while Pari was taking a nap post-lunch.  After an hour, when I got back home and was parking my scooter I could hear Pari throwing a tantrum. My immediate reaction would have been to rush inside, but that day something stopped me. I wanted to see how my parents would tackle the situation. Pari was insisting that my mother give her the pearl necklace to play that she (my mother) had worn to the wedding the night before.

My mum on the other hand was calmly sitting in the living room, reading her magazine. Pari was evidently agitated by her composure but my mum refused to budge. She neither let her expression change, nor raised her glance above the book. Pari was obviously feeling the heat because of the cold treatment she was getting. She raced to her grand-father, but today, surprisingly, my father just told her “what you’re asking for is wrong. Go talk to your grandma”. Pari was as shocked as me. I felt my feet turn cold as if I was cemented to the floor in the veranda. In less than five minutes, Pari was quiet, she had picked up her Lego set and sat to play as if nothing had happened.

That’s when I stepped in. I casually asked mum if Pari was up, did she trouble them to which my mother said, Pari has been playing like a good girl since she woke up.

That was the wake up call for me.

Ignoring - The ERa I Lived In

I had found the cure to the daily hue and cry. Ignoring.

I had to arm myself with as much information I could gather, put together strong self-control and be patient like my mother had been that fateful afternoon to make things work. The opportunity to test my new-found strategy came soon. This time Pari wanted to color all of the brand- new picture book. I knew it would follow ruining the book, trying to tear a page or two and that would trigger me to yell away like there’s no tomorrow. When she first asked me, I stayed put to what I was doing, but in my mind a stop-watch had started ticking.

With every millisecond Pari’s agitation, screaming and tears were threatening to wash away my new-found resolve. My head felt as it would burst any moment because I could hear my father constantly pressing down on me to let Pari have what she wanted because it was his time to sleep. I bit my tongue hard but kept doing whatever I was doing. After 15 eternally long minutes there was drop dead silence. Pari was exhausted and clearly shocked. My father had gone back to his room, angry at my (seemingly) irresponsible behavior. It took me 5 minutes to return to normal breathing, that’s when I walked up to Pari and asked her if she’d like me to read her a story from the new book. She looked at my face and gently nodded a yes.

I smiled. A warm, gentle smile happy with the achievement of not having shouted or lost my temper and have finally been able to control bad behavior in my child.There has been no looking back since. Ignoring when backed by positive reinforcement after the storm of the tantrum settles down can work wonders.

What have I learnt along the way?

  1. Most tantrums thrown by pre-primary children are for attention seeking. However one needs to carefully rule out hunger, fatigue, anxiety or sickness. Having a clear view of the relevance or futility of misbehavior by the child helps decide whether ignoring is the best intervention or not.
  2. When a tantrum is strictly to attract attention, ignoring works best. But to make it have a successful impact, everyone in the family must be on the same page. I had to take a stand and let my parents know that they had to stop intervening to let me discipline Pari effectively.
  3. Giving in at times will ensure failure of the strategy to ignore. You have to stand your ground and make it look effortless for results to show. Being consistent is important.
  4. Patience is the key. Being a parent of an obstinate child who can go hungry for a full day to have things done her way is no mean feat. In the past, there have been times, when I’d tear up but Pari wouldn’t give up. Today things are different. I have grown nerves of steel. I keep counting till 500 if need be, waiting patiently for Pari to finally calm down. Slowly, I’m beginning to see positive changes.
  5. Swallow the bitter pill of social discomfort. Having a child cry loudly, rolling on the floor of a toy shop, screaming away for a hairband other child is wearing at the wedding can be pretty embarrassing. At these times ignoring our embarrassment and discomfort and continuing to ignore is crucial. The perseverance and patience will pay off.
  6. Testing boundaries of allowance is a normal growth phenomenon. Our children learn by testing waters, learning to use the knowledge to evolve as experienced, intelligent individuals who are autonomous decision makers. But it is us, the parents who have to teach them the limits and appropriate boundaries where they should go.
  7. Ignoring helps build a respectful and caring relationship with the child.
  8. Proper implementation can help achieve effective, lasting results in controlling misbehavior.
  9. It works with children with whom time-out fails (like Pari) while giving them an opportunity to self-reflect and independently correct behavior.

* This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge 2016. My theme is Parenting.

Please find my other posts here.

68 thoughts on “Ignoring

  1. If i may add another point: see once a kid has thrown a tantrum and calmed down, they do feel a little bad themselves – i feel its ok to give them a way out and say – were you cryinf coz u were hungry, or sleepy or mama was not listening to you.

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    1. Such a valuable point!I must remember this for next time. I remember ignoring my daughter’s tantrum once and when she calmed down I jokingly asked her ” what was that?” and she very embarrassingly answered,” I was grumpy, wasn’t I?” :-). From what you’ve said, I now think perhaps I should have just said, it’s ok rather than making her feel even more embarrassed.Good point.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @NuttieNatters
      That’s a very important point that you made Nuttie 🙂
      My approach is little different. Once the episode is over, we both have calmed down, I distract her by taking her along to a different location like our garden where we walk, play and basically move on like nothing happened.
      It is only later in the day or at bedtime when Pari broaches the topic herself (which she always does because I talk about all events of the day except the meltdown) that I talk to her about what all could have caused it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly a good post stating the importance of ignoring, i applied this word much more while i was teaching 30-40 kids at a time and it really works to be on track yourself and to keep them on track.

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    1. It’s true Shalini. Disciplining children can be very tricky and tedious at the same time. While we need to employ variety of methods, we also need to find ways to avoid arguments or resorting to yelling and losing our peace of mind with ignoring.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s a real battle sometimes, isn’t it. Being a parent is the hardest and most important job in the world. We learned very quickly to ignore tantrums,and consequently our children were generally well behaved, particularly in public. Not perfect. We still had some incidents, including one I remember with my daughter. She wanted an ice cream and I said no and all hell broke loose. I remember her looking at me like she was demon possessed, like she wanted to kill me, but I ignored her and it never happened again. Well done on making this important parenting breakthrough. Good luck with the next challenge.

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    1. So glad you’d learned this important technique of ignoring early on as parents. It saves a lot of grief, anger and hurt in the long run. I’ve had my fair share of those, that’s why I value this newly learnt lesson even more.
      Thank you David for sharing your experience 🙂

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  4. Interesting ME! I am pleased for you that you’ve now found a way to respond to Pari’s tantrums by ignoring them and letting her calm down when she is ready .

    Bambi is generally calm and we have not experienced that many meltdowns but the rare few meltdowns that she has had I did not know how to handle them and thus chose to ignore by leaving her alone and allowing her to calm her down by herself.

    I’d be interested to hear what your other readers will have to say about this topic. Thanks for writing about this topic and sharing it with us.

    Wanting another child’s hairband 🙂 :-). Sorry to laugh at your agony but that reminds me of the time when Bambi had had a meltdown for she thought I ate all the food in the house 🙂 🙂 and there was nothing left for her Daddy 🙂 🙂 [this was on a day when my husband was coming home late and so I chose to have my dinner early and on my own]. That’s how unreasonable the tantrums can be!

    Thanks also for sharing your learning around this aspect of parenting. Good read and useful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know Truly Happy, the one thing a kid throwing tantrum absolutely hates is being told how frivolous his/ her demand is. I’ve done that, burnt my hands and learnt my lesson for life. Usually the best way is to not go and talk about the object they fancy because they’re in no mood to listen like an angry boss on a Monday morning 😉

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  5. Oh man! Such strategies with a child but I’m sure they are the best. Raising a child is no little task and reading your posts also tells me how much thoughtfulness goes behind it. Good one!

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    1. Come to think of it Parul, parenting teaches us ways of life that we never thought existed. It’s mostly failures and tears but the lessons learnt through them change us and our perspectives like few other things in life can.
      Thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Absolutely well put! You have handled the situation really well. Sometimes ignoring unwarranted demands and pleas is the best form of response. Better that than raising a ‘spoilt-brat’ that the society will happily tag! Again an insightful piece by you that is sure to help many young parents!
    @KalaRavi16 from
    Relax-N-Rave

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    1. Frequent meltdowns by the child are often enough to drive any sane adult crazy. I was beginning to feel the heat and was desperately looking for a fix to it. So this lesson of ignoring and saving the peace of minds for everyone came as a life-saver. The biggest issue is not tackling the behavioral problems early on can become part of a child’s personality, making them pay for those all their lives.
      Thank you so much Kala ❤

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  7. Vishal K

    Nice to see that you’ve taken up the A-Z challenge, ME.

    Yes, feigned ignorance is a good way to show children that they cannot get away with everything. We often feel obligated to respond to a child’s temper because we feel like they don’t understand what we said. The truth is that they do. And yet, they test and see what they can get away with.

    My friend has an autism treatment centre, and the main thing that she teaches parents of affected children is the 45-second rule. Parents often keep shooting a barrage of instructions to children with autism thinking that they don’t understand. However, the kids do understand. They simply take more time to act. So parents are made to wait for up to 45 seconds before repeating an instruction.

    I suggest parents try the same with all children. If they have instructed a child, or if the child doesn’t show why he/she is upset, give them up to 45 seconds. During such periods, as you suggest, planned ignorance while keeping a subtle eye on what they do is the best option. Short term pains for long term gains.

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    1. Thank you Vishal, it’s the first time I have taken up any blogging challenge 🙂
      You’ve hit the nail on the head with that insightful comment. It is so-so true that kids observe everything, hear and even remember all said and done for a long time. That’s why taking a step back to watch our words and actions before going ballistic is the only wise thing to do.

      Thank you so much for sharing that valuable example because I’m sure it’ll help many parents in a positive way 🙂

      Like

  8. Ufffff this kids , they do so much of drama …but its their habit.
    Appreciate the way you try to tackle her, and yes ignoring works as s benefit.

    And dear stay calm, you are so much tensed relating to her, this is not good, set her free, leave her to responsibilities and other activities.

    @dixita011 from
    Cafenined words

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    1. Kids have a natural tendency to seek attention when they aren’t showered with it, because that’s how it is right from the day they were born.
      I am not stressed out dear, it’s just the repetitive emotional meltdowns can be pretty exhausting for any parent and one is forever looking for concrete solutions to everyone’s benefit.
      Thank you Dixita 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, girl. I have respect for you for tackling this situation so efficiently. I completely agree with you. I have seen kids throwing tantrums and the parents easily give in, esp when they have guests at home. I can understand how hard it is for you to see your kid in tears. But you are doing the right thing and it is for Pari’s good. I simply loved how you poured out your heart. ❤

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    1. Thank you so much dear for seeing my point of view 🙂
      Like it is rightly said “No gains without pains” so for the larger good of the children, one has to make small sacrifices and adjustments in the start.

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  10. Smita

    What you are saying makes absolute sense. And I know how difficult it is to follow the mantras that you have mentioned in the end of the post but well who said parenting is easy 😀

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    1. Easy is the word I’ve scratched out of my dictionary and replaced it with a second possible there, because everything (no matter how weird) has double the possibility of happening in a household with a child.
      I’ve learnt to ignore that hard way, but the effort is so worth it that I don’t mind the drill one bit 🙂

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  11. Brilliant Post, how much I relate to all of them, probably because I too am a mom…and I must admit, ignoring is what I resort to, too but I have taken a little longer to realize this 🙂

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    1. Hi5 Roma 🙂
      I too learnt it pretty late but in parenting it is never too late because our children are forever on a learning spree just like we are as parents. Right?

      Like

  12. Rajlakshmi

    Thank God you found a solution… I have a three year old cousin who would cry at the drop of a hat. For every single thing… I can feel how angry and frustrated you must have been… Gosh so much patience is required! Kudos to you 🙂

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    1. Starting from the proverbial ‘terrible-twos’ kids can be pretty much all over the place with their emotional meltdowns. And like your rightly mentioned Rajlakshmi, the stress does take a toll on the parents.
      Thank you dear 🙂

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  13. RamyaRao

    I know that must have been really a very diifcukt situation for you. But well done. Thanks for sharing your learning and experiences. Loved it!

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  14. wow! this is really a helpful post! 🙂 Especially this part: “Having a clear view of the relevance or futility of misbehavior by the child helps decide whether ignoring is the best intervention or not.”

    Thank you for sharing your parenting journey, Era!

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  15. inquisitivegeet

    You know your blog is so going to help me when I’ll be a parent. The patience with which you handle Pari and the number thoughts that run behind your mind, trying to understand everything calmly, is really impressive.

    Cheers
    Geets

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  16. Well sometimes the best way to solve a problem is just to keep quiet isn’t it? I think it is not just children but even with adults- if we ignore people when their demands are unreasonable, I think they would just keep quiet. It has happened sometimes before with me.
    I liked this post of yours especially for the way you have written your heart out. I understand that it would be painful for a mother to say no to her child. But sometimes things have to be that way, isn’t it?

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    1. You are so right Reema.
      Learning to ignore situations / people whom we can’t control is often the best we can do in a situation. With Pari I struggled to adopt this because the temptation to correct or cajole her is always greater than the patience to let her be.
      But I learnt my lesson the hard way 🙂

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  17. 2 AM Writer

    Such a fantastic and mature post. I mean, it doesn’t come easily for a parent to decide to not give into the child tantrum, I often see parent being pressured by someone or the other to comply and to discipline their own child becomes a family drama.

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    1. Things do get difficult in the presence of guests or when you are socially pressed to give in to your child’s demands with the notion “she’s just a 4 year old, what harm can giving into her demands ever do?”
      Though the reality is quite the contrary for the parent who has to tackle such meltdowns on a daily basis.
      Thank you dear 🙂

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  18. This post really makes a lot of sense. The only experience I’ve had with younger kids is at school. When I used to have prefect duties and all. I couldn’t bear to see children crying, and because of this, they used to be screaming in glee all over the classroom!
    But it really is challenging. Knowing when to ignore and when not to. Phew!

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  19. I have seen parents doing the ignoring part in long distance journeys in trains. I do agree, it does cause the other passengers some discomfort initially but later the child’s behavior takes a drastic U-turn and the child becomes really cooperative and good with parents and other co-passengers.
    Though in flight, the child is at discomfort due to ear blocking so I really could never make much note of it!

    I do really wish that it works perfectly for you and I also really hope your parents support you!

    Cheers,
    Srivi – AtoZChallenge
    I for Inspiration | Twitter

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    1. You’re spot on Srivi in your observations of child behavior in trains and in flights. This is why before blindly implementing ignoring one needs to establish if the child is hungry, tired, anxious or sick.
      Thank you so much for the wonderful wishes ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Stephen 🙂
      I’d just say, I’m learning the ropes of being a parent and there’s still a long way to go before I can claim I can handle Pari 😀

      Like

  20. Shilpa Garg

    I so agree with all the pointers you shared. Everybody in the family should be on same page regarding upbringing of kids. A bit of difference of opinion and kids know how to encash that gap. And ignoring their tantrums work, always! It creates some scenes but it’s good in the long run.

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  21. Phew that sounds stressful. I am not a parent but I will keep this in mind for the future. Also, not react or judge parents (I usually don’t coz I know it is tough) when kids throw tantrums in public.

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  22. Brilliant post! I have heard that ignoring works, from a couple of other friends too. But it is really a test to our patience. Once we overcome that, all’s well. I tend to freak out when our nephew at home gets all unruly and misbehaving. Time to learn my lesson.

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    1. It is very tough to keep that mask on that you are not being affected by the yelling, crying and at times even screaming or rolling on the floor, especially when it happens outside the confines of our home. But if all the adults in the family stay united, you’ll see the child see it soon that these tricks don’t work.
      Thank you Arch 🙂

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  23. Very useful post for parents and also for teachers, its disciplining children positively. It is also called “Time out” you just ignore and give leave them alone for a while, and they will keep trying to get what they want… and gradually give up. Loved all the examples and thanks for sharing your personal experience… I am sure this will be helpful to a lot of parents dealing with kids.

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  24. The issue with my daughter when given a time out is, she sulks endlessly, gets in a destructive tantrum mode. That’s why ignoring her misendeavours can be a tough call. But gradually, I’m finding my way about making ignoring work.
    Thank you so much G Angela 🙂

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