Dear Dr. Yael,
I really enjoy your column and agree with your suggestion that we can encourage positive behavior in children by modeling it for them. I believe that when you give children zero attention when they are misbehaving, you are showing them a type of rejection. It is as if you are saying that there is only one way to do things, and if you do it another way, we can just ignore you. One should never tune other people out. Often, kids don’t know how to express things like frustration. When a teacher shows that he or she cares, a child will be willing to listen.
In addition, teachers need to keep their eyes and ears open to what their students are saying and experiencing. Circumstances at home can make a huge difference in a child’s behavior – and ignoring what is happening will not help him or her get through the difficult times.
Creating successful interactions with children is about teaching them how you want them to act and giving them love. By teaching kids how to be loving and affectionate, we are helping them be good and happy people.
Please help teachers and parents realize that it isn’t healthy to ignore children. When children misbehave, we must understand why it’s happening and what need is waiting to be fulfilled.
While it is true that children misbehave for a reason and that we must try to give them the attention they need, I do believe that negative behavior can be ignored – as long as positive behavior is focused on. When teachers are told to ignore negative behavior, they are not being told to ignore the child; rather, as I said, they should be looking for anything positive they can focus on and compliment so it will be reinforced. Furthermore, if teachers can try to understand the reason behind a behavior, there is a greater chance they can help the student diminish it much quicker.
While strict behaviorists would agree with completely ignoring a student if the student’s function of behavior is to gain attention, most psychologists take into account the student’s emotional well-being and will try to target the behavior without making the student feel bad about himself/herself. Both would agree that giving attention to behavior you want to see will help the student make a change.
The more attention and love that you give to children, the more confidence they will have. Even when children have a hard time when a new baby is born, it’s important to try to remember that they are likely jealous and need more love and attention to help them get through this challenging period. This doesn’t mean that you should accept bad behavior; rather it’s helpful to remember where this bad behavior is likely coming from and that an extra dose of love and affection can help. As they say, the most unlovable child needs the most love. Yes, it is difficult to truly love that challenging non-cooperative oppositional child. However, in reality that child is crying out and begging for attention. Often the cycle is hard to break. The child is very difficult and oppositional and does not respond to general requests or discipline. Suddenly all the books that you read and the techniques that worked beautifully with all your other children just does not seem to work anymore. The cycle breeds negativity and the average parent, who is really trying very hard, suddenly finds him or herself screaming and even hitting when that is not how he or she wanted to react. What is so sad about this cycle is that sometimes it produces a child who becomes a drug addict or off the derech or both.
I beg my readers to try to learn positive techniques. Be loving, but firm, with clear expectations. Give your children special cozy time and try to listen to their feelings. Parenting is a balancing act. One must build a child’s self-esteem, present opportunities and chores that are age-appropriate and then specifically praise when you see even some of those chores done. Remember, positive energy leads to positive behavior.
Thank you for writing. Hatzlocha!