The Distraction Method

airplane - using the distraction method in parentingA comment was posted in the forum last week on using the distraction method to combat tantrums.  I have used this method a few times before on my own children; mostly when disciplining would make matters worse for everyone around such as on an airplane.  While flying thousands of feet up in the air in a confined area with no escape for anyone, I wouldn’t suggest trying out new disciplining techniques, I would just try to minimize screaming and crying by being well prepared beforehand with snacks, games, and whatever else will help my child remain calm in the confined space.

In other situations however, I would rather be loving and direct and say “no” rather than try to distract.  The reason is, as psychologist Foster W. Cline explains, the second year of life for a child is about learning how to accept the word “no” for an answer without us as parents explaining the reasons behind it.  Later on we can explain why as their level of understanding increases.  But children should be taught how to accept “no” for an answer without throwing a fit when they are young.  If they do throw a fit, they are welcome to do it in their room where it doesn’t bother anyone else.  When my little boy starts throwing a fit I usually say, in an empathetic and loving way, “Oh, it looks like your tired.  Let’s have you lay down in your room for a few minutes.”  Or I will say, “When you whine it tells me you are tired.  Let’s have you relax in your room for a little while until you feel better.”  He often will respond by stopping crying and by saying “I’m not tired,” and then he runs off to play so he doesn’t go to his room.

As we condition our children to believe we will do what we say we will do, by always following through, our words become powerful.  And we can do this effectively without using anger, threats, or repeated warnings.  In fact we can only do this effectively by NOT using anger, threats, and repeated warnings.  We say what we will do once in a serious, but kind way, and then we follow through.


Shiloh Lundahl, LCSW Child and Family Therapist Gilbert and Mesa ArizonaShiloh Lundahl, LCSW, is a child and family therapist in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona.  He is the founder of Parent Arizona and Counseling Services and is part of the Arizona Family Institute.

He provides parenting classes using the Love and Logic curriculumclasses for parents of children with ADHDstep-parenting classes, and advanced trainings for foster and adoptive parents.  He also provides in-home therapy in Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Chandler, and Tempe, Arizona.

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