Recently I have noticed my 3-year-old son using more and more “bait” with his dad and me. By that I mean that he says and does things for the sole purpose of getting a reaction from us. The tricky part is deciding which things require a response (e.g., a consequence), and which things we are better off ignoring or even treating with humor.
In either case, however, I have finally figured out the importance of keeping my emotions out of my response to his behaviors. For reasons that I cannot, as an adult, comprehend, when he senses the slightest annoyance in our response to him, that is is payoff (reward) for his behavior.
I am a pretty strict parent, so it took a long time for me to realize that there are some things that I am better off ignoring. For example, we tell him to wash his hands. A few minutes later, we realize he is sitting on the bathroom floor (waiting to see what our response will be). We decide to ignore it, since it’s not hurting anyone and since we know he’s just waiting for us to react. Eventually, he washes his hands, and peace has reigned in our home.
If you are a parent — what things do your kids use as “bait”? Or, if you’re not a parent, what have you observed regarding this topic?