Book Reviews Books for Adults Non-fiction Parenting

Ignore It!: How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction by Catherine Pearlman

Ignore It! is THE best parenting book I’ve ever read – it’s helped break the bad cycles of reinforcing bad behavior and missing good behavior that I’d fallen into. Our whole home is so much more peaceful and parenting has become wildly more enjoyable for me. Buying this book is the best $10 you will ever spend.

 

Ignore it!

One of my favorite Gretchen Rubin quotes is “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” (It’s not her original quote, but I learned it from her).

That’s how I felt about Ignore It! by Catherine Pearlman.

I’d picked up a copy at a conference more than a year ago and it sat unopened on my shelf all that time.

Then, when we were packing up our things at our Arizona house, I was choosing a few books to keep out and read until we unbox everything later this year or next, and this one caught my eye.

I started reading it a few days later and plowed through it at lightning speed – it was JUST the thing I needed to help me during the rocky transition that a move always brings.

Ignore It! by Catherine Pearlman

The basic premise of Ignore It! is that much of children’s behavior is attention seeking. If a child wants your attention and can’t get it through good behavior, then they’ll turn to annoying behavior (whining, tantrums, disobedience, etc).

Then when you respond, even if it’s with anger or frustration, you are reinforcing that behavior as a behavior that works to get attention.

Dr. Pearlman talks about how by ignoring that behavior, your child learns that it no longer works and they’ll stop doing it.

Ignore It! in Action

One of the biggest places we’d been struggling in our house for many many weeks was bedtime.

Our girls came out ten million times (especially Star), and I felt like no matter how I handled it (consequences, getting mad, giving extra attention and snuggles), nothing worked.

The only thing that seemed at all to work was when she was so tired that she fell asleep in a few minutes and I didn’t have to deal with it.

Which didn’t exactly seem like a real solution.

So the second day after we moved, with all three of our big girls sharing a room for now, I decided to give it a try since I could tell that if I didn’t do anything, I was going to continue dealing with this every night and it was going to make me lose my mind.

As I read the book, I suddenly understood that I was 100% reinforcing the behavior of coming out of their rooms, calling for me, or behaving terribly. Whether I got mad or came in and loved on them or some other reaction, I was accidentally teaching them that those behaviors were effective for getting me to give them attention.

Which was DEFINITELY not what I intended.

So I decided to give it a try because it was just getting too much to handle.

I tucked them all into bed, told them that I wasn’t coming in again and that they shouldn’t come out, and then went upstairs.

The first night, Star laid on the floor at the bottom of the stairs and screamed for 20 minutes. Once she stopped, I quietly took her back to her room and put her in bed and she was asleep in two minutes.

The next night, there was no screaming, but Star did sit on the stairs and whine for about 5 minutes. When she realized it was doing no good, she went and got back in her bed and went immediately to sleep.

Since then, it’s basically been like magic – my children all get in bed and go to sleep, even with them all in the same room.

I’ve heard Ralphie from Simply on Purpose talking about this (she calls it “ignoring junk behavior”) and believed it, but this book felt like a really helpful manual to walk me through all the steps and give a bunch of examples for children of all ages, from 2 year olds to teenagers.

Ignore It! helped me realize that I was also reinforcing all sorts of other behavior I was REALLY not interested in from my children. Whining, for example, got my attention every dang time. Which meant my children knew instinctively that whining would pull me away from making dinner, looking at my phone, or reading a book.

Hitting a sibling? Same thing. Guaranteed parental attention.

I also really like how Dr. Pearlman talks about the steps – first you ignore, then as you’re ignoring the behavior you don’t want to reinforce, you listen attentively and then reengage as soon as they’ve stopped the behavior you want to get rid of. Then, if necessary, you make repairs (clean up a mess they made in their tantrum, etc) and move on.

The first half of the book talks about ignoring it – the scientific backing and research for it, how to make it work both at home and in public, and how it might get worse before it gets better.

The second half is about positive attention.

Because if you’re just ignoring negative behavior, that’s only half of the puzzle. You need to reinforce the behavior you WANT to see.

For instance, once I started ignoring bad behavior at bedtime, I was very motivated to being super attentive and loving in the morning when they woke up – I snuggle them, we read books, I talk to them during breakfast and it’s actually MUCH easier for me to do so because I’m not drained from dealing with bedtime antics for two or three hours every evening.

It’s encouraged me to watch for the behavior I want (being kind to siblings, helping out, being obedient, speaking in nice voice without whining or baby talk or other annoying things) and give positive reinforcement for it.

Which also has the advantage of reducing bad behavior, just like ignoring bad behavior does.

I feel like I’m finally breaking free of some of the worst cycles of parenting that I was getting stuck in and feels like absolute freedom for me and for my children.

Other parts of the Ignore It! book

There’s also a section about rewards for children (this has been REALLY successful for our family), consequences, and frequently asked questions.

It’s basically the most helpful books I’ve ever read in my parenting experience.

When I talked about it on my stories, I linked to it on Amazon and within 12 hours, it COMPLETELY sold out.

Apparently I’m not the only one who needed help.

The book just restocked today and is available now both on Kindle and in paperback version. Basically the best $10 I can imagine spending.

I feel like these principles have completely changed my parenting life for the better – as the subtitle promises, the behavioral problems have gone WAY down and my happiness with parenting has increased substantially.

I’m also SUPER excited because I got in contact with Dr. Pearlman and she agreed to do an IG Live on Wednesday to answer questions and help troubleshoot for parents along with Ralphie from Simply on Purpose.

If you have a question about how and when to ignore or anything else you’d like answered, leave a comment or shoot me an email and we’ll talk about as many as we can this week.

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28 Comments

  • Reply Katherine Madsen August 20, 2018 at 6:37 am

    I can’t believe it just got restocked this morning because I just bought the last copy! (According to Amazon anyway)

    My question is if you ignore behavior that’s mean to a sibling, how do you make sure that sibling doesn’t think you’re not advocating for them, etc.

    Can’t wait for Wednesday!!!

  • Reply Rebecca August 20, 2018 at 6:44 am

    I have a similiar problem at bedtime. My two girls, 7 and 5 share a room. The 5 year old is never tired and ends up making a bunch of noise, comes out of bed , convinces her sister to play a fun game of jump of the top bunk bed, etc. Eventually the 7 year old comes out saying she can’t sleep. What do I do????? Ps, I got the book from the library and am about 1/3 of the way through.

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw August 20, 2018 at 7:46 am

      This was 1000000000% my girls. I was convinced my 5 year old just was a complete night owl and didn’t need as much sleep, which was somewhat okay when they had their own rooms in Arizona but was killing us all here in Utah where my three big girls are sharing a room. My oldest would cry about not being able to sleep while the two little ones were reading books all night, jumping off the crib, etc, etc.

      After I read the section about rewards in the book, I bought a big pack of gum and told them that every night when they go right to bed with zero talking and no getting out of bed, they could have a piece of gum the next morning. It works like a charm! After one or two days of coming out and not getting reinforcement for that behavior, they’ve all gone right to bed with no fighting, playing, bugging, etc and the fringe benefit is that they’re all getting more sleep so they’re more pleasant and all of their bad behavior has gone down!

  • Reply Anna August 20, 2018 at 6:54 am

    We have been dealing with similar bedtime antics from my 2.5 and 4.5-year-olds for months. This book sounds really helpful. Do you have your stairs gated off? If not, how did you keep Star from just coming to get you? My daughter is constantly coming down to say she has to go potty, needs a book, etc.

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw August 20, 2018 at 7:34 am

      They actually aren’t gated off but as soon as she realized that she wasn’t going to get any attention (good or bad) from coming up, she’s completely stopped. It’s basically the craziest thing ever, because she was coming out SO MANY TIMES before (for an hour or two or three). I didn’t realize that all of my behavior was reinforcing her actions – she had realized that she’d get attention for any of those requests and so she was doing it endlessly.

      Now I make sure she goes to the bathroom before bedtime and then make it clear that we’re done for the night and I won’t be responding to any more requests. We also tell all the girls that they can have a piece of gum the next morning if they don’t talk anymore and don’t come out. Works like a charm.

      • Reply Erin August 20, 2018 at 2:56 pm

        So what would you do when she was talking directly to you? Just ignore completely? Or tell her it’s bedtime and you aren’t going to respond to her? Thanks!

        • Reply Janssen Bradshaw August 21, 2018 at 11:25 am

          She just laid down at the bottom of the stairs and screamed, so she wasn’t directly speaking to me and I just ignored it. But a few other times, one or more of my children have come up (probably just pushing boundaries to see if we were really serious about this) to ask a question or whatever and I’ve just calmly said, “It’s bedtime” and pointed back to their room and then gone back to what I was doing. And I remind them every night when I put them in bed that I won’t be coming in again and that we won’t be engaging.

  • Reply Paige Cassandra Flamm August 20, 2018 at 7:59 am

    I can’t wait to read this book! I was so intrigued when you mentioned it on instastories since “ignoring junk behavior” is basically our number one take away from Ralphie! I can’t wait to read this and dive deeper into the topic!

  • Reply Thais August 20, 2018 at 8:22 am

    Ok. I am on the wait list on overdrive for this…. but tell me…. ignoring hitting a sibling???? What do you do when the sibling that got hit comes crying to you all hurt? My 4yo bit my 5yo yesterday! I was furious as my 5yo comes screaming with a huge angry red bite on her arm! I put the 4yo in time out and she lost her bike ride with daddy that evening. What was I supposed to do instead!?? I’m struggling hard with my girls not listening…. ever. I need all the parenting books.

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw August 20, 2018 at 10:19 am

      We were having the same problem with physical violence and as I read the book, I realized that I had inadvertently trained my children that the NUMBER ONE most effective way for them to get my attention was to hurt a sibling (yikes! That was absolutely NOT what I wanted them to learn).

      What I did that seems to have helped tons is that I don’t really acknowledge the hitting or kicking at all (that child gets zero attention for that attention-seeking behavior) – I redirect with the sibling that got hurt by reading with them or doing something else and my other child calms down super qiuckly and then when they are calm, we talk about that behavior and what to do instead.

      But along with ignoring that behavior, I’m also being really proactive about rewarding GOOD behavior with my attention and it’s dropped down the violence an unbelievable amount.

  • Reply McKenzie August 20, 2018 at 8:41 am

    What age does the book recommend starting ignoring behavior? I have a 6.5 month old, so he is still just a baby, but he already will cry if I put him down until I hold him again, and will wake up crying 3 or 4 times a night wanting to eat and will not go back to bed unless I feed him. I’m so tired and I only have 1 child haha. Does it recommend not starting this process until they are toddlers?

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw August 20, 2018 at 8:51 am

      The book is aimed at 2-18 year olds and is especially about attention-seeking behavior.

    • Reply Tara August 20, 2018 at 7:32 pm

      Hey McKenzie, I’m by no means a parenting expert but I do have a 1 year old, a 2 year old and a 3 year, so I’ve recently been where you are. One of the best baby resources that was shared with me is a website called Precious Little Sleep. The woman who runs it is named Alexis and she has great (and funny) baby advice as relates to sleeping. She has a podcast by the same name I think, and she recently wrote a book too. I used her book constantly (and successfully) at all hours of the night with my last baby (they all wanted to nurse a few times each night. The worst.). I know you’re so tired. I think her stuff might help you. Good luck!

    • Reply Rebecca August 21, 2018 at 8:07 am

      One thing that’s worked for us with babies not being happy unless they’re being held is to get down on their level and play with them without holding them. That way they learn they can be happy outside of mom and dad’s arms.

  • Reply Annie August 20, 2018 at 10:05 am

    WE have lots of safety things with 2 active boys. I don’t think I can ignore but I find myself having bigger reactions (running towards street, climbing on counters etc) or just not letting them go outside or use counter stools. We have tried redirecting but isn’t working quickly or they forget fast. How do you ignore safety issues when they are happening in the moment in an uncontrolled environment ?

  • Reply Jenni August 20, 2018 at 11:22 am

    I can’t wait for the IG Live! I just bought the Kindle version- I actually bought the paperback version but didn’t want to wait so I canceled it and bought it on my Kindle, ha! Anyway. I’m 41% done so this could be covered but I’m struggling with sibling fighting and name-calling. I have a 6 year old daughter, 4 1/2 year old son and a 2 1/2 year old son. My 4 1/2 and 2 1/2 old typically resort to hitting or pushing to get what they want from the other person and my daughter calls my middle son a name which hurts his feelings. I’m fine ignoring behavior directed at me but what about to siblings? The sibling behavior is what we’re really struggling with. Sometimes, everything is great but when it’s not, it really isn’t! Thank you

  • Reply Natalie H August 20, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    I haven’t read the book but it sounds interesting! My question is when one sibling hits the other one and you just ignore it, is there also no punishment for the hitting? I feel like there needs to be some negative consequence for bad behavior.

  • Reply Meg McClung August 20, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    I have a question for the live (or for you if this was in the book) for a specific behavior from my 4 year old. Whenever I sit down to nurse the baby who is almost a year old, my four-year-old son immediately comes up to us and starts messing with the baby. He isn’t unkind (he’s tickling, blowing raspberries, etc) and it’s obviously for attention, but I don’t know how to ignore it when it affects my daughter and her eating so much. And it hurts me when she pulls off every 5 seconds! Any recommendations?

    • Reply Kate August 21, 2018 at 6:58 pm

      Have you tried connecting your attention for the 4yo with being finished feeding the baby? Every time you feed the little one, tell the 4yo you’ll play with him after, but the more he interrupts the feeding, the less time you will have to play. So, he will associate feeding the younger one with focused playtime for him right after.

  • Reply Deanna August 20, 2018 at 8:24 pm

    Question that came up as I was reading the book: what do you do when you are ignoring the bad behavior and the child’s behavior turns from something she/he can control to one that they cannot? IE my kids crying escalates to a point where they have a hard time calming down without parental help/involvement. They have reached the point of no return. In the book she says, “The child who can’t control the behavior isn’t involved in the battle of wills and thus will not know you are even ignoring behavior.” An example: I didn’t negotiate at bedtime. The child was upset and started acting out. I tried to ignore or just send child to bed without engaging. Child became so upset and worked up that they hard time calming down. When do I re-engage? If they are beyond control, do I help them out?

  • Reply Diana August 21, 2018 at 5:16 am

    I am ridiculously excited to read this. Bedtime has been a big struggle for us for YEARS with our oldest, especially since we brought our baby home in March. He’s convinced he can’t go to sleep until we’re upstairs with him which gives us NO child-free time since he’s awake until we go to bed and, somehow, awake as early as us. He started kindergarten last week and everyone kept telling me that the kids are so exhausted at the beginning of the school year and might fall asleep at 7pm. It was the ONE part of sending him to school that I was looking forward to but it has yet to happen. And then other behavior problems since we brought home the baby, definitely attention seeking. I need to read this ASAP. Thank you for the rec and all the advice you’ve been sharing from it on IG!

  • Reply Karen August 21, 2018 at 8:07 am

    Thanks for these specific examples, Janssen! I ordered the book last week and am impatiently waiting for its arrival. I’ve been soaking up everything Ralphie has been teaching recently, but she’s careful to never give examples since it looks different for each family. So for the last 3 months of summer, my 6 and 4 year olds have spent SO much time in time out for hitting, biting, etc. I figured harming was a consequential behavior! But I’m looking more at their intent, which is to get my attention and not actually hurt each other, and ignoring/redirecting. Also, your bedtime success story gives me hope because it’s gotten a little ridiculous with my 4 year old! I find myself feeling panicky and anxious after dinner as their bedtime approaches because I feel like the kids are in control. I keep thinking of a comment on your insta stories that this behavior is related to YOUR reactions and that IS within your control. How empowering! Thank you, thank you!

  • Reply Rebecca August 21, 2018 at 8:16 am

    I have a question for the live! How do you handle a 2 year old kicking you in the gut and crotch as hard as he can the whole time you’re changing his diaper? He does it when he’s not happy about getting his diaper changed (like if we pull him away from a toy because we notice he’s poopy). I can’t really walk away from the bahavior because that’s what he’s hoping for (and I don’t want a nude booty running around that will end up peeing on the carpet or furniture), and pinning down his legs with our legs only works sometimes.

    • Reply Emily C August 22, 2018 at 8:28 am

      Rebecca, I think I would be firm with him about what is and isn’t okay. Kids need to know what’s allowed, and then they need to be reminded. Don’t ask him what he wants, tell him what will happen. “Maximilien, it’s time to change your diaper.” At 2, especially with a boy, just say over and over, “It’s time to change your diaper. We do NOT kick while Mom changes your diaper.” With my kids, I probably would have prolonged the process each time he kicked, as a natural consequence, “The more you kick, the longer it takes Mom to change your diaper” but your mileage may vary.

      Just don’t give up on teaching him what is and isn’t acceptable! You can do it!

      And Janssen, just picked up the collapse of parenting and WHOA. Good book. Generating a lot of great conversations with my 11-year-old, too, as I get his perspective on Dr. Sax’s book.

  • Reply Julie Lorenzen September 12, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    This totally reminds me of the Quimby family’s reaction to Ramona when she takes one bite out of all the apples downstairs. They all decide to ignore her, even when she protests, “I was REALLY bad today!” My daughter and I listened to the book on audio, and she said, “Mom, you know that sometimes I act naught cuz I just want attention like Ramona…” Bingo.

    • Reply Janssen Bradshaw September 13, 2018 at 12:49 pm

      Ha! That is so funny (and I think of that story allllll the time).

  • Reply meghan September 18, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Thanks for the great suggestion! Always can use help in the parenting department

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