Yale Parenting Center
Making Families Stronger May 2016

From Alan Kazdin

Annoying Behaviors and How to Get Rid of Them

You love your children and often enjoy their lively and silly presence.  Sometimes, however, they can exhibit annoying behaviors.   If you could only get rid of some of these irritating habits, maybe life would be a little easier at home. 

Contrary to what most people think, the child is not being manipulative, mean, or anything quite like that.  Oppositional and annoying behaviors emerge as a part of normal development for many children.  They usually drop out as the child get's older.  However, how others (especially parents) react and respond to these behaviors when they happen can cause an increase in them. 

Reprimands, threats, other punishments are not very likely to change annoying behaviors.  One comment we are all guilty of using, "If I told you once, I have told you a thousand times."  We hear that a lot, and we know from research that the statement and any verbal reminder does not change annoying behavior. 

So then, what to do?   We at the Yale Parenting Center hope that this newsletter provides some practical answers to that question. 


For Parents

Help!  My Child Is Annoying!

Most children (and adults!) exhibit annoying behaviors from time to time.  It gets difficult when these annoying behaviors begin to happen more frequently.  Many parents don't know how to deal with these types of behaviors because they are just so aggravating.  What parents usually do is reprimand, lecture, or use punishment to try to get these behaviors to decrease.  These techniques don't often help and the annoying behavior continues or even increases.  In this newsletter we will give you some strategies to decrease mild annoying behaviors such as:
  • whining
  • complaining
  • making noises
  • talking too loudly
  • bad table manners
  • interrupting
  • teasing
  • pleading
If your child exhibits some of these behaviors, choose one to focus on eliminating at a time.  Try out the techniques below on that one behavior to see the best results.

Pay Attention!

The most effective way to reduce annoying behaviors is to give attention to their positive opposites.  The positive opposite is the behavior you want instead of the annoying behavior.  For example, if your child whines, the positive opposite would be speaking in a calm or normal tone of voice.   If you pay attention whenever your child asks for something in a calm or normal tone, you will see it happen more.  Your attention is that powerful!  You can pay attention by making eye contact, talking to your child, praising, or using touch like a high five or a hug. 

Here is a great Slate article with more information on this topic!

Using Planned Ignoring

Planned ignoring can be an effective tool to decrease annoying behaviors.  Many parents tell us they have tried ignoring, but have found that it does not work.  Ignoring should be done in a specific way in order to decrease the annoying behavior.  To use ignoring you would not look at the child or talk to the child during the annoying behavior.  The key is to be sure to quickly switch and give your child positive attention when the annoying behavior stops or when the positive behavior happens. 

Professional Interest

Basic Parent Management Training Webinar for Professionals

The next live online training for professionals is scheduled for July.  Sign up now while there are still spots available!

Registration and more information here

Therapy Myths

Myth:  The therapist should focus on and problem solve what the parent is doing wrong in order to change it.

When working with parents of children with behavioral difficulties, you may want to hash out some things that the parent is doing wrong and try to fix those things.  A better way to help is to find some things that the parent is doing well and work on strengthening those.  For example, if a parent is sometimes praising a child for good behaviors, that is something to focus on.  Let the parent know how great this is, practice effective praise in sessions with him or her, and work on increasing this praise at home.  This is how you will create change for the whole family!

Need more help working with parents? 
Check out our training options here!

Need a Good Referral Source?

Look no further!  The Yale Parenting Center is conducting a free project for parents of children with behavioral difficulties here in Connecticut.

Click here for more information.

What's Happening at the Center

Exciting New Project

Is your child struggling with behavioral difficulties?

We are now open for enrollment in our new study at the Yale Parenting Center!  

Who? Connecticut parents with children 6-12 years old.
Have a child with behavioral problems.

What? A 6-session evidence-based program for the parents or caregivers of children who are struggling with behavioral difficulties will be provided at no cost.

Where? Yale University in New Haven.

How do I know if I am eligible for this study?  You are welcome to call our office at 203-432-9993 or email our intake coordinator at susan.jordan@yale.edu

Click here for more information


Dr. Kazdin was recently interviewed by The Atlantic for an excellent article on parenting. 

Read the full article here

Dear YPC,

I am hoping you can help me with my child's whining.  She is seven years old and she whines all of the time.  When she wants something or doesn't get her way, she goes right to whining.  This behavior can last for what seems like hours and is so annoying.  Now, her younger brother is even starting to pick up this behavior.  I have tried to ignore it, but it just seems to get worse and then I end up yelling at her.  Help!
Sincerely, Linda

Dear Linda,
Thank you so much for writing to us, we would be happy to help.  The most important thing you can do to start to decrease the whining is to strengthen the behavior you want to instead.  Focus on giving positive attention to your daughter whenever she asks for something in a normal tone or accepts a disappointment calmly.  You want to do this any time she she succeeds, even if its something she usually accepts or handles well. Praise her, talk to her, look at her or give her a hug when she does this.  You can even prompt her to ask for what she wants calmly, and then pay attention if she does. 
If possible, whenever you can, try to remove your attention when she whines.  Look away, walk away, try not to respond when she whines and wait for her to calm down before you say anything.  Avoid punishment for whining as well. 
Give these techniques a try and let us know how it goes!

Yale Yale Parenting Center
314 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
T 203 432.9993
F 203 432.5225
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