Being Purposeful about Purposeful Annoyance

UnknownIt’s been years since I had to address the pleas of a child yelling, “MOM!!! I told him to stop doing that and he won’t stop!!!” These pleas for interference when a sibling violated the sanctity of someone’s personal space were once commonplace, probably daily. Probably multiple times on some days. But for me, those days are gone. Maturity has taken care of the motivation to annoy and the confusion of how to respond.

But I’m guessing that some of you are still living in that place. How do you survive until maturity blossoms?

Begin by realizing that it will end, so really you are looking for survival tactics. For me it helped to name the problem. We called it “Purposeful Annoyance.” The annoying behaviors could be anything: chewing loudly, humming, singing, breathing loudly, thumping, snapping, bouncing, repeating words…

The possibilities were limitless.

Lots of teaching surrounds dealing with this issue. For one thing, even as the child grows into adulthood, they will come across people whose behaviors may feel annoying at times. They will need to learn when to express how they feel and when to ignore or change the situation.

That training starts now.

To the child being annoyed (who can be any child in the house) they have the power to respectfully express that the behavior is bothersome. Explain that the person probably  has no idea that what they are doing might be disturbing. (This is called a “basic assumption of goodness” which is granted to all kids—even the purposeful annoyers.)

Once the child has been notified and has still chosen to continue the behavior, the annoyed child has a right to remove himself from the situation. The “alleged annoying” child is NOT allowed to follow the offended child around. This is a personal boundary issue that they can escape from the annoying behavior.

If escape is impossible, a parent may consider intervening OR they may help the annoyed child practice being tolerant. “This is a tough one, buddy. Your sister is trying to practice her clarinet and you think she’s squeaking on purpose to bother you. It bothers me too, but she’s not the kind of person who would do that on purpose (even if she is, let her hear you speak positively). Let’s you and I practice being able to focus on what we’re doing harder until she is finished.”

If the annoyed child chooses to stay, they cannot give the alleged annoyer power to continue to annoy. The choice is leave or stop being bothered. 

When the child who is chewing loudly or humming loses their power to incite a reaction, they often stop within a short period of time. 

The bottom line is to empower the child being annoyed to leave or not be annoyed AND to remove the thrill the annoyer gets from “STOP!!!!! YOU”RE BOTHERING ME!”

Stay calm and direct. This won’t last forever.



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