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When it’s OK to ignore your children

By Allyson Reynolds

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Dec. 16 2013 3:47 p.m. MST

I actually think there are times when the best thing you can do for your children is to simply ignore them.

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As deliberate mothers, we would never dream of ignoring our children. We’re all about looking them in the eye, validating their feelings, and helping them feel important and heard. Right?

Tonight as I was working on this post, I had one child on the bed next to me asking for homework help, another child telling me all the details of tonight’s orchestra concert, and another child insisting I smell their breath and guess what they ate. This is everyday life with kids that every mother can relate to, and as a deliberate mother, I definitely try to give my children as much time and attention as I think they need (and that I can muster). However, sometimes I wonder if I can give them too much of a good thing.

Yes, sometimes I wonder if deliberate mothers aren’t a little too susceptible to becoming “helicopter parents” and getting “mommy burnout” as they try to do/be/give all that they can for the “sake” of their children. (In many cases, this isn’t good for the mothers or their children.)

While I agree that it’s absolutely vital to acknowledge and validate a child’s feelings, I actually think there are times when the best thing you can do for them is to simply ignore them. No, I don’t mean literally pretending they don’t exist, but I do mean not giving another thought to what they are saying or doing in the name of doing what you know is right. So in my humble opinion, the following are times when it is OK to ignore your children:

  1. When your baby is crying so hard and so long that you think you might hurt them. (Ignore, shut the door and walk away. Ask a friend, family member or neighbor to watch your baby so you can take a break if necessary.)
  2. When your toddler is screaming and flailing because you put their shoes on the “wrong” way. (Ignore, don’t yell or belittle.)
  3. When your preschooler is having a tantrum at the grocery store because you didn’t buy the box of Cocoa Puffs. (Ignore, don’t give in and buy them.)
  4. When your school-age child says they can’t go to school/do their homework/practice their instrument/do their chores because they aren’t feeling well — and they were just running around the house like a ninny. (Ignore and insist they do their responsibilities.)
  5. When your tween tells you they hate you because you wouldn’t let them (fill in the blank) like all their friends. (Ignore and know they really do love you for having boundaries.)
  6. When your teenager says they don’t want you to check them out of school for lunch on their birthday or tuck them in at night. Really. (Ignore and do it anyway. They need it, and they like it.)
  7. When your young adult is guilt tripping you for not letting them come home and live with you for free because they can’t find a job. (Wow! And you thought a crying baby was hard! Ignore and stick your guns. They need to find a job or work for you to help pay expenses.)

Ignoring your children is hard for a variety of reasons and at every stage of motherhood. No one ever wants to hear crying, whining, complaining, insults, manipulation or words of rebellion from one of their children. It’s natural to want to make them “happy” and immediately solve their “problems” by doing whatever it is they say they want. It’s much harder to be the bad guy and do for them what you know they need.

But as hard as it is to ignore all of the above, it may be even harder to ignore the voices in your own head telling you that you’re wrong, you’re not going to follow through, it’s not worth it or you’re just plain mean. Hang in there and ignore the voices, Mom! Because the truth is, the “mean” mom who ignores her children is often the best mom of all.

QUESTION: When do you think it’s OK to ignore your children?

CHALLENGE: Work on your ability to ignore your children when you know it is good for them!

Allyson Reynolds is the co-founder of Power of Moms and a blogger for Motherhood Matters.

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