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The Importance of Ignoring Inconsequential Behavior in Adolescents and Children

If you’re a parent, teacher or interact with children and adolescents in any way, learning to ignore inconsequential behavior is an essential skill. You may have heard the phrase, “Pick your battles”. Ignoring inconsequential behavior is one way of “picking your battles” with your kids or students. Age-typical or inconsequential behavior is behavior that may be diffucult to ignore at first and maybe even frustating but is not harmful or destructive. Parents and teachers should seek to ignore age-typical/inconsequential behavior as often as possible. Let’s explore the importance of this skill a little deeper.

While behaviors have to be addressed (or not addressed) these is a decision to be made on a case-by-case basis. Its important to take a moment to pause and consider if the behavior is harmful or important enough to illicit correction and warrant your attention.[CS1] How do you recognize what behaviors to ignore? What sorts of behaviors are inconsequential and age-typical, and which are consequential and need an immediate consequence?

Consequential behavior may damage, hurt, endanger and even destroy. When consequential behavior occurs, it’s may be a good time to step in and take action to stop the behavior through redirection or otherwise. For the most part these behavior need inmediate consequences and/or manipulation of antecedents (events that trigger these behavior) to be managed successfully.

On the other hand, inconsequential behaviors are age-typical behaviors. As a caregiver at home or teacher in a classroom, you’ll likely be able to identify a handful of inconsequential behaviors children and adolescents engage in every day. Mild sibling rivalry, whining or crying when there’s nothing physically wrong, talking back, tapping a pencil, clicking a pen and all the jitters, noises, sighing and yawning are some behaviors that come to mind.For teenagers, being mouthy or sarcastic is also occasionally typical.

Make a conscious decision to identify which behaviors are worth pointing out and which are better to disregard. More often than not, appropriate behavior goes unnoticed while harmless typical-age inappropriate behaviors are pointed out. Instead of spending time and accidently reinforcing (with attention) inconsequential behavior, channel it into attempting to recognize appropriate behavior[CS2] . As long as the behavior is not, self-injurious, aggression, damaging the environment or impeding the class’ ability to learn, consider ignoring it.

It may seem counterintuitive to ignore a child’s whining or complaining but the child will learn with time they won’t be given attention for inappropriate behavior. Research shows that most inconsequential behaviors go away within 30 seconds when left alone. On the other hand, when you feed the individual’s behavior with attention, it’s likely to make it worse. Because attention is rewarding for most children, negative and positive attention can be a powerful tool for caretakers to wield. When a child performs a desired behavior, positive attention can reinforce and make more probable the occurrence of the behavior in the near future. But when a child is yelled at immediately after he whines, they automatically receives attention. Caregivers might think of it as negative attention, without realizing that it is still attention. Something the child was probably looking for when he started whining.

How can inconsequential behavior be ignored? Ignoring is an active choice. Instead of standing idly by your child while they have a tantrum, enage in other activities, leave the room instead. A child picking mismatched clothing or wearing the same sweater a few days in a row is far less important than your relationship with your child. Engaging in a back and forth with your child over these kind of minimal issues can damage your relationship with your child. In the case of adolescents, they are likely to feel attacked, nitpicked and judged, making them far less likely to open up to you.

If the behaviors you’re dealing with are consequential, substantial and challenging, Bright Start Possibility can help. Are you a parent or teacher looking for more advice on handling challenging behaviors? Bright Start Possibility in Miami, Florida is proud to offer ABA Therapy, Parent Teacher Training and Social Skills Training. We specialize in providing in-home ABA therapy for kids with developmental disabilities with challenging behaviors. Call us today at 888-527-8037.

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