Layla’s Lesson: “The Dance of Parental Inaction-Reaction”

Our mornings start with Layla.

This 35 pound black Corgi/Border Collie/Australian Shepard Mix (that means 6 inch legs with  7 inch long hair and a “royal tussie” that struts with the DNA from Queens) jumps on our bed, crawls between us and begins to “nose into us.”  If we are slow to respond, she licks any exposed facial parts: ears, nose, etc.  Of course we have NOT demanded any other morning NON-greeting.  We have TRAINED her for this morning routine.  We TRAINED her because we did NOT stop her from going through this obnoxious morning routine.  You can come to your own conclusions as to how much we like or don’t like this awakening routine.

(On our collective behalf:  if my husband or I really don’t want a wet nose or have to rub a belly, we simple say, “Good Night Layla.”  She stops and crawls to end of the bed and “naps” until there is a signal on our part for “time to get up.”  Then Layla returns with the entire morning routine fully established, including all four feet in the air, waiting for her belly to be rubbed.)

All of this to ask a simple question:  How have you TRAINED your child by ignoring his actions?

Typically, parents unwittingly TRAIN their child by first ignoring the negative behavior (usually in the attention-seeking realm), and then finally giving in and giving a REACTION to the behavior.  This TRAINS the child to first engage the parent through poor behavior (whining, begging, hitting, temper tantrums, etc) to be able to expect the reward of PARENTAL ATTENTION.  The parent either “gives in and gives the begged for item; or, scolds and enters into a power struggle with the child.  Either Response from the parent is rewarding to the child, as they gain the parent’s attention.  Both responses give the wrong lesson.

 A  “dance” is perfected between child and parent.  A dance of behaviors and rewards, that is unrewarding for both child and parent.

The way to prevent this type of lesson becoming the “norm” in the family, is to stick to the REFRIGERATOR RULES:



Nice to Be Around

(and at about age 5)


When your child starts into an attention-seeking “dance,” look at your child and in a calm, parental voice say, “I will be pleased to talk to you when you are “nice to be around.”  IF your child tries to engage you by physical-seeking attention (hitting, kicking, pinching, etc.) STOP this behavior immediately!  Keep the child from hurting you and then say in a calm voice, “I will be pleased to talk with ou when you are Respectful and Nice to be around.”  Then walk away and resume your activity; knowing that as soon as your child is Respectful and Nice to be around–you will IMMEDIATELY give your child your FULL ATTENTION.

Life’s Lessons do not have to be difficult to learn.  Undoing poorly learned lessons takes a little time and CONSISTENCY, but can be done. 

So here are HUGS to the children and parents who have new DANCES to learn.   And to all those families who are using Respectful, Responsible, Nice to be Around . . .and Resourceful as their basic SONG to dance to.


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