Ignoring Your Child Shouldn't Be a Form of Discipline

Employing indifference by ignoring your child is a behavior that can harm them deeply and hurt their feelings. Learn more.
Ignoring Your Child Shouldn't Be a Form of Discipline

Last update: 08 March, 2023

Being a parent implies having great patience and empathy in order to correct children with love and respect. However, punishing them is still one of the most used methods to try to teach them an immediate lesson. And although there are many types of reprimands, ignoring your children by not talking to them creates great emotional wounds.

In the path of children’s education, it’s normal for children to make mistakes, and we must guide them to try to give the best of themselves. But in order to change bad attitudes, it’s essential to use dialogue as a mediating tool. Because walking away from the problem and simply ignoring your child doesn’t leave any positive lesson, and transmits wrong messages.

Why is ignoring your child in order to teach them a lesson dangerous?

All parents react in different ways when their little ones exceed the limits of the home and correcting their behavior becomes necessary. And while it’s very true that using words lightly as labels or making value judgments can affect children’s emotional well-being, when silence is used as punishment, it can be even more detrimental.

A girl who's crying while her father yells at her.
When you ignore or change your attitude toward your children without first having had a chance to talk and improve things is a big parental mistake.

Indifference, lack of affection, and abrupt attitude changes can be very confusing, painful, and even demeaning for most children. Moreover, when used as an automatic response to children’s problems, it’s an attitude that inevitably deteriorates children’s relationship with their parents.

Avoiding problems doesn’t magically solve them. It only pushes them away momentarily until they reappear because they haven’t been solved. And positive parenting also means having uncomfortable, but necessary, conversations that will allow children to respectfully understand their mistakes and try to correct them.

What causes you to punish children by ignoring them?

When emotions are running high, stepping away for a couple of minutes can be a great idea to calm down a bit before talking to your children. However, when problems are never discussed, but rather distance is used as a method of punishment, children feel unprotected and emotionally affected.

These are some of the consequences of punishing children by not talking to them.

1. Ignoring your child generates low confidence and self-esteem

The basis of emotional security and self-esteem in children lies in the love and care they receive from early childhood. This implies educating them with respect even when they’re in the wrong in order to understand that they shouldn’t overstep certain boundaries.

A sad child.
Providing emotional security from early childhood is one of the primary tasks of parents in order to cultivate good self-esteem in their children.

For this reason, when parents ignore their children and avoid the feedback that comes from dialogue, this will affect their little one’s self-image and the bond they have with you. Children need their parents’ guidance and wisdom, not their emotional abandonment.

2. It produces tension and fear of abandonment

When parents don’t know how to react to the failures of their little ones and simply change their attitude toward them, it’s a very immature decision not to face responsibilities. Although it may seem like an easy way out, it produces great tension and the fear of abandonment in children.

Not only because they don’t know how to decipher the volatile behavior of their parents, but also because they don’t know how to recover their love and affection. This can trigger future mental disorders such as anxiety and stress. It can even generate a great need to please the people around them in order to avoid any kind of altercation.

3. It doesn’t send any positive lesson

No child comes with a manual under the arm that teaches them magically how to behave. And the role of parents as role models for our children is demonstrated in how we react to stressful situations. Because, no matter how stressful they may be, they’re opportunities to teach life lessons that will guide our little ones forever.

For these and other reasons, effective communication and active listening are necessary to be able to speak with empathy. It’s useless to avoid the problem and hide it under the shadow of indifference. It’s better to talk things over calmly and explain to children the consequences of all their actions.

What alternatives are there to ignoring your child?

If you want to use positive parenting with your children, it’s very important to fill yourself with emotional intelligence and know how to face the trials that arise along the way with maturity. For this reason, instead of punishing your child, the first thing you can do is prevent inappropriate behavior. Some children can be more impulsive than others and it’s necessary to calm them down.

On the other hand, it’s also crucial to establish limits at home that must be respected in order to avoid direct consequences. These norms and rules allow children to have a behavioral basis to move freely and respectfully in the world. So, when they exceed them, use dialogue and apply the appropriate consequences.

Finally, be an example for your children. If you don’t want your children to replicate your behavior in the future and prefer to ignore you rather than talk to you, try to be a good parent to them. Be aware of your great influence and never use any kind of violence when correcting children.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Jeta, P. M. P. A. (1998). El desarrollo emocional infantil (0-6 años): Pautas de educación. In Ponencia presentada en el congreso de Madrid. España. Recuperado de: http://www.waece.org/biblioteca/pdfs/d069.pdf
  • Salguero, J. M., Fernández-Berrocal, P., Ruiz-Aranda, D., Castillo, R., & Palomera, R. (2015). Inteligencia emocional y ajuste psicosocial en la adolescencia: El papel de la percepción emocional. European journal of education and psychology4(2). Disponible en: https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/1293/129322659005.pdf
  • Sánchez-Núñez MT, García-Rubio N, Fernández-Berrocal P, Latorre JM. (2020). Emotional Intelligence and Mental Health in the Family: The Influence of Emotional Intelligence Perceived by Parents and Children. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Aug 27;17(17):6255. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17176255. PMID: 32867380; PMCID: PMC7503667. Disponible en: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32867380/

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.