Little Behavior Problems You Shouldn’t Ignore

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Interrupting When You’re Talking

Why you shouldn’t ignore it: Your child may be incredibly excited to tell you something or ask a question, but allowing her to butt in to your conversations doesn’t teach her how to be considerate of others or occupy herself when you’re busy. “As a result, she’ll think that she’s entitled to other people’s attention and won’t be able to tolerate frustration,” says psychologist Jerry Wyckoff, Ph.D., coauthor of Getting Your Child From No to Yes.

How to stop it: The next time you’re about to make a call or visit with a friend, tell your child that she needs to be quiet and not interrupt you. Then settle her into an activity or let her play with a special toy that you keep tucked away. If she tugs on your arm while you’re talking, point to a chair or stair and tell her quietly to sit there until you’re finished. Afterward, let her know that she won’t get what she’s asking for when she interrupts you.

Pretending Not to Hear You

Why you shouldn’t ignore it: Telling your child two, three, even four times to do something she doesn’t want to do, such as get into the car or pick up her toys, sends the message that it’s okay to disregard you and that she–not you–is running the show. “Reminding your child again and again just trains her to wait for the next reminder rather than to pay attention to you the first time you tell her something,” says psychologist Kevin Leman, Ph.D., author of First-Time Mom: Getting Off on the Right Foot — From Birth to First Grade. “Tuning you out is a power play, and if you allow the behavior to continue, your child is likely to become defiant and controlling.”

How to stop it: Instead of talking to your child from across the room, walk over to her and tell her what she needs to do. Have her look at you when you’re speaking and respond by saying, “Okay, Mommy.” Touching her shoulder, saying her name, and turning off the TV can also help get her attention. If she doesn’t get moving, impose a consequence.

Having a Little Attitude

Why you shouldn’t ignore it: You may not think your child is going to roll her eyes or use a snippy tone until she’s a preteen, but sassy behavior often starts when preschoolers mimic older kids to test their parents’ reaction. “Some parents ignore it because they think it’s a passing phase, but if you don’t confront it, you may find yourself with a disrespectful third-grader who has a hard time making and keeping friends and getting along with teachers and other adults,” Dr. Borba says.

How to stop it: Make your child aware of her behavior. Tell her, for example, “When you roll your eyes like that, it seems as if you don’t like what I’m saying.” The idea isn’t to make your child feel bad but to show her how she looks or sounds. If the behavior continues, you can refuse to interact and walk away. Say, “My ears don’t hear you when you speak to me that way. When you’re ready to talk nicely, I’ll listen.”

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