How to Prevent and Consequence Eye-Rolling

Dear Kid Whisperer,

Rolling of the eyes….Any good methods to stop kids from doing this? I thought this action would begin at age thirteen NOT age seven. –Lyndsey, Philadelphia, PA


Rolling of the eyes is a very effective skill that kids learn early on to initiate and win power struggles with adults. They learn very quickly if this is a hot-button issue for their parents. The use of this kid strategy at seven is totally normal, especially with kids who are very smart.

Let me give you two highly effective strategies: one intervention and one consequence. Both strategies will get rid of this unwanted behavior by being both calm and assertive. Warning: This is not designed to make your kid happy in the short term. If it does, your kid is kind of weird.

When you warn kids when they exhibit a negative behavior, you are training them to always exhibit a negative behavior at least once. I call this “warning therapy”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my students or my daughter to be able to exhibit each of the negative behaviors in their repertoire once every day.

Here’s how I would do the eye-roll intervention.

Kid rolls eyes.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. This is so sad. Can you see your brain when you do that? I want you go to your room and I want you to go now. Feel free to come back once you are able to keep your eyes from trying to look at your brain.

If she does ANYTHING besides walk immediately to her room, I pick her up and carry her to her room, only repeating the words “oh-no” over and over like a door bell. This will help to calm both of us down and stop me from saying something that I may regret. As soon as I place her in her room, I say the last sentence again or, if I didn’t get to it before, for the first time.

She is able to come back immediately and she can stay for as many seconds as she is able to keep her pupils where people can see them. If they get lost somewhere in her cranium, I just repeat the intervention exactly the same way.

If you feel like your daughter still isn’t “getting it” yo can move on to consequence level. Here’s how I do the eye-roll consequence:

Kid rolls her eyes.

Kid Whisperer: (rubs his eyes with his thumb and forefinger): Ohhhhhh, maaaaan. Eye rolling really makes me tired. This is sad. I’m going to do something about this later.

Kid: What are you going to do?

Kid Whisperer: Won’t it be fun to find out?

Anytime in the next week, when things are going smoothly and everyone is calm, I say this:

Kid Whisperer: Oh, man. I have been exhausted since you rolled your eyes at me. Blurg. Eye rolling really does make me tired. I am going to ask you to do something for me since you’ve made me too tired to do it. I usually clean the kitchen floor, but today I’m going to ask you to do it so I can get my energy back. Here’s the Swiffer. Feel free to get it done any time before bedtime. Thanks!

When she gets it done, I give her a big hug, thank her for replenishing my energy, and tell her how much better I feel. In this way I have actually improved my relationship with my daughter because of her negative behavior! I know! That is amazing!