My grandson is 4 years old. This summer, his mom was away on a much needed backpacking trip and I had him for 6 days in my home. He's a bundle of energy. He talks non-stop about all kinds of interesting things like vortex, dinosaurs and sea creatures. He never stops moving. When he’s with me, he’s typically a very happy boy but occasionally, like all kids, he melts down.
One afternoon, for any or no reason at all, he got very angry and started crying and screaming. I gently picked him up and took him into another room. I looked him in the eye and said, “I love you and I’m going to let you be upset here in this room by yourself. I’m going to be in the other room and I’m going to ignore you until you’re done. When you’re done being upset, you can let me know.”
I walked away and got busy doing something in the kitchen. I could hear him screaming and stomping around in the living room but I did not go back. I left him alone to work it out. When he was done with his tantrum, he called to me, “Grandma, I’m done.” I went in, gave him a hug and we went outside, grabbed the garden hose and he watered the yard--and the cat.
A few weeks later, I went to see him. As he sat in my lap, he looked into my eyes and said, “Grandma, I love you. You ‘nore me.” I was puzzled. I asked, “What?”
He repeated, “You ‘nore me when I’m being bad. I love you.”
It took me a minute but I got it--”Grandma, you IGNORE me when I’m being bad.”
I laughed out loud. How awesome is that? This little 4 year old gets that being left alone to deal with his upset WORKS.
I didn’t go back into the room and try to reason things out. I didn’t threaten him with consequences for his tantrum. I didn’t yell at him to be quiet. I left him alone. I didn't shame him for his behavior. He experienced that as love.
Months later, he continues to tell me the same thing, “I love you. You ‘nore me”. It confirms for me that giving him lots of love and attention when he is happy and content is better than giving him lots of attention when he’s in a bad place.