Prevention Strategy #9: Ignore Minor Incidents

This is the first of two strategies that is way underused. Sometimes parents and educators think that they must intervene in every situation which is simply not true. “Adults who work with young children need to develop tolerance for a certain amount of noise, clutter and attention seeking behaviour. As long as children’s activities are not infringing on the rights of others, it is often best to ‘take a breath’, rather than to speak.”1 If you consistently ignore attention-seeking behaviors, they typically stop.

Can and Can’t Ignore

What types of behaviors can parents and school staff ignore? Attention seeking behaviors, such as: whining, interrupting, petty arguments, making disruptive sounds, pouting, and sulking. Behaviors that don’t infringe on others. What behaviors can’t parents and educators ignore: dangerous and destructive behaviors, bullying, hurting self, hurting others, or damaging property.

How to Ignore

  • Temporarily stop paying attention to your child or student.
  • “This means no eye contact, no talking, and no physical touch.
  • Look the other way, pretend you don’t hear him and act as though his behavior doesn’t annoy you.”2
  • When the behavior stops, pay attention to student.

Correct Response

Child: Makes silly sounds.

Adult: Temporarily stops paying attention to child. No eye contact, no talking, no physical touch.

Child: Stops making sounds

Adult: Pay attention to child. Look at child, use eye contact and say, “Hey, it’s good to see you today,” or some other friendly recognition.

Which of your children’s or student’s behaviors can you ignore?



  1. Guiding Children’s Behavior. Island Health. August 2014.
  2. Morin, LCSW Amy, Reduce Attention-Seeking Behaviors by Ignoring.
  3. Image: Ignore Point []

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