Taking Control

Helping Children Follow Their Medical Treatment Program:
Guidelines for Parents of Children with Rheumatic Diseases

Adapted and published with permission from Michael A. Rapoff, PhD of the University of Kansas Medical Center, author of "Helping Children Follow their Medical Treatment Program: Guidelines for Parents of Children with Rheumatic Diseases"

Ignoring Minor Negative Reactions

Children, like adults, complain when they have to do things they don’t particularly like to do. Complaints (such as whining or crying) when asked to do something can be very "trying" over a period of time. They have a way of wearing anyone down. However, complaints which are at least followed closely by cooperation can be effectively ignored and will diminish over time. For example, if your child starts to complain when asked to do her exercises, you can be sympathetic ("I know you don’t like to do the exercises, but they are helping you.") but insist that your child follow up on what’s to be done. If she continues to complain, ignore these complaints as long as your child continues to do what is asked of her. Don’t fall into the trap of debating and arguing with your child.

Most parents have had the experience of asking their child to do something and the child cries or complains but ends up doing it while continuing to complain. If parents are firm but don’t lose their temper, most children will do what they are asked to (with some complaints sandwiched in) and the incident is over. However, if you get into a lengthy debate with your child, this can grow into a full blown conflict with everyone upset. Many parents have had the experience of debating with a three-foot high child and wondered at some point during the debate how they ever got into the silly situation to begin with.

Ignoring minor complaints is most effective when combined with positive feedback for cooperating. Even though your child continues to complain, but does it less often or not as loudly, this is improvement and should be rewarded. With older children, you can also inform them that you don’t want to argue and walk away. You may be followed for a time but keep busy and give your child the chance to do what you asked her to do.

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