What Behaviors Can You Ignore?

Posted February 5, 2016 by

What Behaviors Can You Ignore?

When my son was three years old, I carried him to the car every morning with bare feet. In the freezing cold, in the rain, in the snow.

Before this started, putting on shoes to leave the house was a screaming battle. One morning I thought, why am I fighting this? I scooped up my barefoot son and walked out the front door. He stopped crying. When we got to daycare, the socks and shoes went on, no problem.

This was a huge lesson for me. Letting go of one thing made our lives much easier. Are there behaviors – as annoying and frustrating as they may be – that you can choose to ignore?

Allowing your child to get away with behavior you don’t like can feel like failure. But as a parent, remember this: You don’t have to fix everything, and parenting is not about perfection.

“If you’re seeking perfection as a parent, that’s not realistic. But if you’re aiming to be a better mom or dad, that’s really good enough.” – Janet Lehman, co-creator of The Total Transformation

If the list of behaviors you want to “fix” feels overwhelming, it can be very freeing to let go of a few issues. This allows you to concentrate on giving consequences for the big stuff; giving fewer consequences makes them more effective.

I encourage you to take a step back and think about what would happen if you chose to ignore certain behaviors. What is crucial and what is an irritant?

Here are some questions to think about:

  • What would happen if you ignored this behavior?
  • Do you need to focus on this?
  • Where else could you spend this energy?
  • If the neighbor’s child were doing this, how would you feel?

When you find yourself wanting to correct every concerning behavior no matter the size, take a moment to prioritize. You will be effective when you concentrate on the most important issues. The others? Take a deep breath and – for now – let go.

Wishing you the best this week,

Rebecca W., Empowering Parents Coach


Rebecca Wolfenden is a loving Momma to her son and a dedicated 1-on-1 Coach. She earned her degree in Social Work from West Virginia University and has been with Empowering Parents since 2011. Rebecca has experience working with children and families in home settings and schools, and has extensive practice working with people of all ages who have survived significant emotional and physical trauma.

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  1. Lindsay (Edit) Report

    It’s so easy to get caught up in a cycle of authoritarianism. I might become angry at my young son for repeatedly tormenting his younger brother, and once I’m in that negative mood, the things that I might have had a sense of patience or humor about before – like picking up a mess on the floor or putting on shoes – suddenly become things I am yelling about. When that inevitably breeds resentment and resistance in the son, I get pulled into a power struggle and find myself picking on every infraction and saying stuff like “because I told you so, that’s why!”

    That is not who I want to be as a parent. I wrote the “questions to think about” on a piece of paper and hung it up over the kitchen table (the setting for many an unintentional power struggle). I learned the magic of ignoring the small stuff a long time ago (goes for marriage too!) but definitely need the occasional reminder! Now if I can only get a handle on the big stuff that puts me in a yelling mood in the first place…

  2. ness (Edit) Report

    Thank you! As a mother I feel that my son is so frustrating i wanted to give up already…
    I realized now that I should love him back and let go of the things that I wanted him to do..

    • 2kidsmom (Edit) Report

      Any advice for a single mom, I’m so frustrated and helpless, my son is in 11th grade, he has a very bad behavior issues for disrespectful, talkbaak, annoying, liar, refuses go to school at all and see doctors or counselors, he always has sleep problems, he is awake at night time and sleep in the morning til 2-3 pm. He prescripted with sleeping pills or bought from counter pill and it all not useful for him. The only things he enjoy are, sleep sleep sleep and play laptop. We always have argued and conflicted about return laptop on time and I ended it up to call the Crisis Services for help. He is not listen and communicate with me at all. I try to posted my last chance in here, to hope someone can care and help.

      • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

        I’m sorry to hear about the challenging behaviors you are facing with your son, and I’m glad that you’re here reaching out for support. I’m glad to hear that you have tried working with local supports, such as counselors and doctors, to help you address your son’s sleeping problems, and I encourage you to continue to do so. Sometimes, when you are facing numerous issues, it can be useful to prioritize and to pick only one or two to focus on at once. This can help you to be more effective and consistent in your responses, as well as preventing you from becoming overwhelmed. You might find some additional tips in In Over Your Head? How to Improve Your Child’s Behavior and Regain Control as a Parent. I hear how much you’re struggling right now, and I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.

  3. Lisa (Edit) Report

    Our 23 yr old is living at home with us and is only working part time. He lives in front of his computer and says he is working on getting a full time job. He has no skills nor a college degree. He washes his hands non-stop and leaves soap up to the top of the sink all the time. We need help.

    • Empowering Parents Coach Rebecca Wolfenden, 1-on-1 Coach Report

      We hear from many parents who describe similar challenges with their young adult living at home, so you are not alone. Something that can be useful is to talk with your son during a calm time about specific expectations for his behavior while he is living in your home. After all, there’s a difference between “You need to work more” and “You need to be working 40 hours per week by April 1, or there will be a consequence.” Once you have determined your house rules, it can be useful to write up a living agreement with your son which outlines your expectations, and how he will be held accountable if he is not meeting them. I recognize how tough this can be, and I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are going for you and your son. Take care.

  4. Marion Hume (Edit) Report

    As a teacher, I work with teenagers with behavioral issues. Sometimes, I do need to step back and assess what the child’s difficulty is the most outstanding first and work on that one first. Thanks for the info!!

  5. Sharon (Edit) Report

    I find it hard to ignore some stuff with my 16 year old . Example I come in from work & all breakfast cereals / omelette pan stuff is still left out – dirty dishes on worktop
    I want to get started on preparing dinner . .. but then I need to clean up before I even get started .. I feel my frustration starting to bubble
    If I ask I get the reply … I will later !
    So unless I loose the cool I end up cleaning up b4 dinner & then again after !

  6. Stepmom (Edit) Report

    The list of my stepdaughter’s behavior that need to be fixed is absolutely overwhelming, but how do you ignore behaviors when there are other children in the home who would be punished for the same thing? I have two biological children (8 and 11) who feel my stepdaughter gets away with everything already because she ignores punishments. She simply doesn’t care if things are taken away and there is nothing more to take away. I know we have to dial things back since what we’re doing isn’t working, but my kids will absolutely revolt if we do that. They think things are so unfair since they see their stepsister not doing chores and not doing homework and treating them terribly and then shrugging off any repercussions. 

    And I don’t want them to start having behavior problems too. For example, on Sunday my stepdaughter was screaming at her father using obscenity after obscenity while my 8 year old son was in the room. There was no way we could let her get away with that and have my son think he can talk like that without being severely punished. I keep thinking, “If my kids learn this behavior from her, I am the worst parent ever to allow them to be exposed to this.”

  7. beth_life_ (Edit) Report

    I always asked myself when my kids were little if this behavior as a teen or adult would be OK. If it wouldn’t, then I wouldn’t ignore the behavior. Sorry, but the pressure is real on parents of small children cause it is really hard to reign them in later.

  8. Frustrated (Edit) Report

    My 11 year old son has me half crazy. He’s hot and cold between being lovable and disrespectful. He tries to manipulate me and turns everything around so I am the bad guy. Started this morning outside warming up for his basketball game. I am constantly threatening him that I will take his laptop, xbox, tablet and then hour later he’s nice again. We have been having this problem for months. I am going to follow through with punishment after his game today. I want to give him everything and I don’t ask for much, but he can’t stop himself with his mumbling comments and disrespectful ways. UGH!!

  9. Dr Lon S Aucker (Edit) Report

    I did just such a thing . . . . . I have four children, ages 42, 43, 48 & 50. The two kids in the middle disrespected me.
    I divorced them. They are now in my will, to receive ten dollars each, and nothing more. My problem is solved.

  10. 2nicemom (Edit) Report

    For so long when my son was younger I allowed him to surround himself with his friends at my home because I was more comfortable knowing where he was and with whom.  But now he is going on 23 and now have moved back home and he is upset with the fact that I do not want his grown friends coming over to my house everyday, sitting up under him playing video games.  I truly think that adults do not need to be up under each other everyday.  You should have jobs and other responsibilities at this age.  So I am standing my ground, but I feel like he is being inconsiderate because other families including his dad will not allow him to have company at all over his house and I am just asking not everyday or all the time.  But he is trying to make me feel like I am being unreasonable.

  11. Melissa (Edit) Report

    Any advice for a mom that I going thru adult children not making their way and the stress as a parent who loves them can experience. My 23 yr old lost a girlfriend and a of the friends associated with that relationship and is miserable, he cannot seem to get out of the slump…it pains me to see this and I want souch for him to be happy. .
    Also my eldest is going thru yet another job change and I am worried he is going to lose his apartment with his girlfriend.
    What do we do besides love them and see them going through these life lessons. .

    • rwolfenden Report

      You are right
      that watching your kids struggle is a stressful experience for parents. 
      It can feel even more difficult when your kids are adults, and facing
      real-world adult challenges.  Something to keep in mind is that your role
      as a parent becomes more like a consultant when your kids become adults. 
      So, you can offer them advice, or refer them to local resources if they ask for
      help (for information about supports and services available in your community,
      try contacting the http://www.211.org/ at
      1-800-273-6222).  Otherwise, it’s really about taking care of yourself,
      and allowing them to figure things out for themselves. Thank you for writing
      in, and I wish you and your family all the best moving forward.

  12. ChristineD (Edit) Report

    Would you ignore disrespect and disruption in the classroom to the point of referral and detention?  Yelling out obscenities?  Slamming things in the house?  Destroying property?

  13. masecdante (Edit) Report

    Growing up makes us develop behavious that are dangerous and some from others.

    The come that time with we have to do what one of my favorite preachers said detoxification.



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