Stay and Play: Planned Ignoring

Have you ever felt that you are too negative and nagging in your approach to managing your toddler's behaviour? One strategy is to be more selective about the behaviour you address. Catching your child doing the correct thing can be more effective than disciplining bad behaviour.

The key to shaping your child's behaviour is to reward them with lots of attention when they're behaving well, and withholding attention when they're not. 'Planned ignoring' means paying no attention to a child when they are misbehaving; neither looking at, nor talking to them while they behave that way.

If your child is bouncing up and down in their seat while you're having a family m`eal, for example, try ignoring them until they stop; then say, 'I love it when you sit still on your chair at dinner. Why don't you tell us what you did at school today?'.

Here are some tips for using planned ignoring:

Don't look at your child or say anything while they're misbehaving. Glances, smiles or even frowns can be rewarding. Saying 'I am ignoring you!' is not ignoring, either. Where it's safe and practical, walk away from your child while they're behaving badly.

Prioritise Timing

Start ignoring when the behaviour starts. Stop ignoring when the behaviour has been stopped for a while. This might mean 20 seconds of ignoring for a toddler and a few minutes of ignoring for older children.

Distract Yourself

Plan some ways of distracting yourself if you think you'll find it hard to ignore your child. You could put on some music, count in your head or plan your shopping list. Some simple breathing exercises can also help you feel in control and stay calm.

Reward What's Good

Consistently pay attention to the behaviour you want to see, instead of the behaviour you're ignoring.

Why not pass this article on to family and friends, and browse the photographs of recent Stay and Play sessions?

Now in its third year, Stay and Play is a free service provided by BSJ for children under three years old. The twice-weekly sessions provide an opportunity for children to experience our specialist Foundation Stage environment, and for parents to chat with each other and the teacher. It is held every Tuesday and Thursday during term time, from 1.00pm to 2.30pm.

There is no need to enrol in advance; just turn up at the start of one of the sessions. For more information, email