Ignoring your child during a tantrum may be doing him a favor in the long run.

How Does It Affect Children When Their Parents Ignore Them?

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Refusing to pay attention to your little one under any circumstances may sound too much like neglect to some loving and dedicated moms. "I can't ignore my child because that would be emotional abuse," you may think. In truth, ignoring your toddler or preschooler may be the best thing you can do for your little one when he's acting like a rowdy rebel. Looking the other way under when your young child is being unreasonable can teach her that misbehaving is a waste of time and energy and may encourage her to stop such unbecoming antics.

Snubbing Has Its Place

Discovering she is powerless to get a rise out of Mom will, with any luck, dissuade a misbehaving preschooler or toddler from repeating the same unwanted behavior in the future. Just make sure to keep a sly eye on your little one to make sure she's safe. Telling your young child that you won't pay any attention to him until he stops throwing toys around, whining or whatever negative behavior you want stopped will help him understand that it's his negative actions that have prompted you to ignore him and your momentary disregard is not a random act of neglect on your part. Tell other family members that Johnny can rejoin the dinner table or game once he calms down.

Looking the Other Way When Siblings Squabble

Jealously is most common underlying cause of fights between brothers and sisters, according to the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. Young siblings may be more than willing to a call a truce when it's obvious their bickering is falling on deaf ears. Ignoring disagreements among siblings, unless of course they turn into an outright battle that may cause physical harm to one or both children, helps teach your toddlers and preschoolers to iron out conflicts on their own. Kids simply aren't as motivated to get into a fight when there's no audience or referee on the scene to appreciate their dramatics.

Promoting Independence

Less can be more when it comes to doing right by your kids, according to stay-at-home mother of three Jill Smokler, who's also known as “Scary Mommy." Smokler says refusing to coddle or hover over her children, which includes one preschooler, has turned them into self-sufficient, creative thinkers. Dr. Sharon Hirsch, chief of adolescent and child psychiatry at the University of Chicago Hospitals agrees with Smokler. Hirsch told CBS news in Chicago in November 2011 that the notion of taking a step back as a parent is valid.


Ignoring your toddler or preschooler should not be confused with child abuse, which encompasses several forms of severe mistreatment, including physical neglect and abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse, explains HealthChildren.org, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Choosing specific moments to ignore your tot as an act of tough love in an honest attempt to improve bad behavior or to help stop sibling fights can be an effective behavioral change method. Remember to shower your little one with attention when she's behaving well.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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