Stop Ignoring, Start Interpreting for Better Discipline

Guess what? The nagging and yelling aren’t working. Learn how to keep words to a minimum, nix harsh punishments, and develop a more positive approach to navigating ADHD with your child.  

Like all kids, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) sometimes make bad choices regarding their own behavior. No surprise there. But to make matters worse, parents could often use a few parenting tips themselves, and err in the way they discipline misbehavior. Instead of using firm, compassionate discipline, they move into what I call the ignore –nag-yell-punish cycle.  

First, the parent pretends not to notice the child’s bad behavior, hoping that it will go away on its own. Of course, this seldom works, so next the parent tries to urge the child not to do such and such. Next, the parent starts yelling and scolding. When this doesn’t produce the desired result, the parent becomes extremely angry and imposes harsh punishments. I think of this fourth stage as the parent’s temper tantrum.  

This four-part strategy (if you could call it that) isn’t just ineffective. It makes life needlessly unpleasant for every member of the family. 

How can you avoid it? As with any other pitfall, simply being aware of it will help you steer clear of it. At the first sign of starting on the wrong path, you can stop what you’re doing and make a conscious decision to try something else. Take an honest look at how you respond when your children misbehave. What specific situations are likely to cause you to go down this path? How far down the path do you typically proceed? How often? 

Let’s examine the ignore-nag-yell-punish strategy more closely to see why it doesn’t work – and come up with some strategies that do. 

Why Ignoring Doesn’t Work 

By ignoring your child’s misbehavior, you send the message that you neither condone nor support his misbehavior. At least that’s the message you hope to send.  

In fact, your child may read your silence as “I won’t give you my attention or concern” or even “I reject you.” That can wound a child. On the other hand, your child may assume that your silence means that you approve of his behavior or will at least tolerate it. “Mom hasn’t said I can’t do this,” he thinks, “so it must be OK.” 

Even if your child correctly interprets the message that you’re trying to send by ignoring him, he has no idea what you want him to do instead. In other words, ignoring your child doesn’t define better behavior or provide guidance about how your child should behave next time.  

Instead of ignoring him when he does something you disapprove of, I recommend another “i-word”: interrupting. That is, quickly move people or objects so that your child is unable to misbehave. 

For example, if your children start quarreling over a toy, you might say, “Alex, sit over there. Maria, stand here. I’ll take this and put it up here.” Similarly, if your teen comes for supper with dirty hands, immediately take his plate off the table and silently point to his hands if you feel the need to tell your child what you expect of him, tell him once, very clearly. Then stop talking.  

Don’t Be a Nag 

Why is it important to keep words to a minimum when disciplining your child? Because, as I often remind parents, words are like tires. Each time they rotate against the pavement, they lose tread and become less efficient at starting, stopping, and steering. If you spin words out endlessly, they’ll become less efficient at starting, stopping, and steering your child. Eventually, your words will have no “traction” at all – as tires will eventually become bald. 

If the chatterbox parent is ineffective, so is the parent who barks orders like a drill sergeant. To break the yelling habit, tell yourself that you won’t open your mouth until you’re calm enough to speak at a normal volume and in a cordial tone. Often, all it takes to calm down is to spend a few minutes alone – something as simple as excusing yourself to get a glass of water may do the trick. 

Taking time to cool off will also help you avoid the last and most counterproductive element of ignore-nag-yell-punish. 

Punishment vs. Undoing and Redoing 

Parents often assume that by punishing a misbehaving child, they’re helping to build the child’s conscience. Not so. In most cases, harsh punishments, like spanking, simply encourage a child to become sneaky to not get caught next time.  

A better approach is to impose consequences that are appropriate to the offense and respectful of your child. Ideally, the consequence you impose for a particular misbehavior will involve undoing or redoing the situation. The consequence for carelessly spilling milk for example, might be that your child cleans up the mess (undoing), and, then pours another glass and sets it in a safer place (redoing). No need to blame or yell. No need to impose harsh punishments (for example, withholding food).  

If you’re careful to recognize your first steps down the ignore-nag-yell-punish path – and to substitute the strategies I’ve described – you’ll find yourself on a different path, one that leads to a better relationship with your child. It’s a trip I highly recommend.  

What to Do When Consequences Don’t Work

Very often consequences are just punishments in disguise, or at the very least, unpleasant power plays that take away a child’s sense of capability, well-being and trust. Instead of helping and inviting cooperation, consequences are more often than not used in a way that chips away at your relationship with your child. 

If chosen well, sometime consequences can help your child learn and make better behavior choices. The wrong kind of consequences just don’t motivate children to behave well. Your child might actually feel discouraged or so frustrated that their behavior gets worse instead of better. 

Things to try when no consequence seems to work: 

1. Know that you are not alone: 

This isn’t really something to try, but something that’s just a relief to know.  There are many parents who are struggling to find an effective consequence for their child.  You are not alone.  Strong-willed children are a joy and a challenge to raise.  One of those challenges is finding something that does work for your child. 

If you have a child with anxiety, depression, or trauma they may not respond as well to consequences.  We recommend you try the ideas below.  If you continue to not see change, seek a competent professional to help you and your family. 

 
2. Customize consequences to your specific child. 

Discipline is not a one size fits all. Each child is born with different strengths, weaknesses, temperaments, and motivations.  Therefore, you will need to customize your approach with each child.  The process of customizing does include some trial and error.  That can feel really frustrating and take some time.  However, if you stick with the process, you will eventually find something that works. 

When testing out different consequences, you need to try it CONSISTENTLY and for at least a couple of weeks before you adjust and try something different. 

 
3. Try some rewards, but not the typical reward you’re thinking of. 

Sometimes when we’re working on extinguishing negative behaviors, we get too focused on ONLY negative behaviors. If a child feels like their parents don’t see any good in them, it can lead to more negative behaviors.  Our kids need us to tell them what they are doing well.  Do a quick self-evaluation.  Are you pointing out at least 5-10 things each of your kids do well each day? 

4. Try at home play therapy to help your child feel more connected to you. 

Children generally behave better when they feel connected to their parents.   At home play therapy is a heavily researched way to connect deeply and quickly with our kids of ALL ages. 

It helps your child feel special to you and SEEN by you.  It also helps your child feel safe showing you what’s important to them.  That creates a special bond between you and the child. 

Play therapy also helps parents.  During the play therapy session, you get to just enjoy your child.  You don’t have to tell them what to do or what not to do.  You aren’t focused on their negative behavior.  Rather, you just get to see how beautiful they are.  It’s also kind of relaxing.  Grown-ups don’t take a lot of time to just relax and be in the present.  This allows you to do just that. 

5. Learn about more options 

Know that there is something that works for each child you just might not have found it yet.  You may need some extra tools from a professional or from another parent you trust. 

Imagine that you are trying to build a house using only a screw driver.  That would be a challenging experience.  It would be easier if you had a screw driver, a hammer, a saw, etc.  The same is true of parenting.  You may be working really hard at trying to find a consequence that works, but you may need someone to give you some additional tools, tools you’ve never thought of before.  Needing additional tools doesn’t make you a bad parent.  In fact, we think that seeking out tools makes you a great parent!  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tool belt full of options? 

6. Think about what motivates your child. 

Some consequences don’t work because they are too small and the child doesn’t care about it.  On the other hand, some consequences don’t work because they are so extreme that the child loses hope and motivation.  The best consequences are big enough to motivate the child to not misbehave, but small enough that the child isn’t in trouble all the time. 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog 

Learn How to Break the Ignore-Nag-Punish-Yell Cycle

There are good ways to discipline a child with ADHD. Nagging, yelling, and punishing are not among them. 

Parenting a child with ADHD can challenge a parent’s patience — and good judgment. Just like all kids sometimes make bad choices regarding their own behavior, parents can make bad decisions disciplining this misbehavior. Instead of using firm and compassionate approaches, parents of kids with ADHD are often driven into the ignore-nag-yell-punish cycle. Sound familiar? Try these child discipline strategies to break that cycle once and for all. 

💟 Do: Get Involved, Quickly 

Quickly move people or objects to prevent bad behavior. For example, if your children start quarreling over a toy, you might say, “Alex, sit over there. Maria, stand here. I’ll take this and put it up here.” Similarly, if your child comes in from outside for supper and refuses to wash his hands before eating, immediately take his plate off the table and silently point to his hands. 

💟 Don’t: Ignore Your Child’s Misbehavior 

You should respond to your child’s behavior, when it’s good and bad. Otherwise, your child may read your silence as “I won’t give you my attention or concern” or even “I reject you.” She might also assume that your silence means you approve of what she is doing — even when you don’t. 

💟 Do: Be Brief 

Keep your words to a minimum when disciplining. Some of the best parenting advice that can be given is summed up in the following statement: The fewer words you use to discipline your child with ADHD, the more effective (and heard) they will be. Tell your child once, very clearly, what you expect of him. Then stop talking. 

💟Don’t: Be a Chatterbox 

It’s important that you don’t go on and on about what your child is doing wrong. Words are like tires: Each time they rotate against the pavement, they lose tread, and become less efficient at starting, stopping, and steering. Eventually, they will have no “traction” at all — as tires will eventually become bald. 

💟 Do: Keep Calm 

Don’t let your own anger get the best of you. Tell yourself that you won’t open your mouth until you’re calm enough to speak at a normal volume and in a cordial tone. To calm down, spend a few minutes alone — something as simple as excusing yourself to get a glass of water may do the trick. 

💟 Don’t: Shout 

Try not to bark orders like a drill sergeant. Yelling shows a child that you, the almighty parent, have lost control. Shouting also opens up the door to your child to return the favor and to yell back. 

💟 Do: Punish Fairly 

Use appropriate punishment when responding to a misbehavior. The consequence for spilling milk might be that your child cleans up the mess, and then pours another glass and sets it in a safer place on the table. No reason to blame or yell at him, or even withhold food from him. 

💟 Don’t: Overdo It 

It’s important that you don’t go overboard with punishment. In most cases, harsh punishments, like spanking, encourage children with ADHD to become sneaky so as not to get caught next time. They may even cause your child to doubt your love for him — something you want to avoid at all costs. 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog