The art of seeking and getting attention

Don’t comfort a tantrum they just want attention. Don’t give in to grumbling they just want attention. Don’t do things for your toddler that you know they can do themselves they just want attention.

What, exactly, is attention? It is the ability to concentrate and focus. What do you mean by paying attention? What happens when you give attention to your child? While you give attention to your child you are showing great interest in them, you look at them, listen to them, or think about them carefully. What happens when a child seeks attention? When your child seeks attention from you, they are considered, they get noticed, they are observed and are taken care of. Attention is not a luxury to be curbed out, nor is it something to be afraid of. Attention is something we all need. It tells your child that they are special to you, indicating affection or love.

All behaviour is communication. If your child is engaging in what people describe as ‘attention seeking’ behaviours, then they are clearly communicating a need- the need for attention. Children have an innate desire and need to feel acceptance and validation from their parents. While it can be quite difficult to find time and energy in your busy schedule to give your child the attention they crave, it is important to be intentional about your interactions with your children and recognize the impact you can have.

Could attention seeking be connection seeking? Children who are attention seeking have a justified need. You can teach them how to get it in a justified way. Is the pre-schooler showing you by his behaviour that you’re not involved enough? When you notice your child doing something good, catch them being good, this results in positive attention. Children can discern anger and hostility in your facial expressions and tone even before they know how to speak, this type of behaviour may result in negative attention which may as well get reinforced. Instead, try to respond calmly and neutrally.

Why is it important for you to give attention to your child? How much attention is essential for your child? What are the emotional issues or causes of attention seeking behaviour in a child? According to Jacob L. Gewirtz, “emotional dependence and attention seeking in children have been found as by-products of general studies which addressed themselves to the consequence’s in children’s behaviour of broadly defined family attitudes or conditions of socialization, such as overprotection, deprivation, or rejection.” Past experiences or trauma could be one of the reasons.

Ignore the misbehaviour but not the child, negative reactions will only keep the negative interaction going. Be consistent it’s the only way children know we mean what we say and repeat until the child gets it.

Children can begin developing attention seeking behaviours at a very young age. What is the world like for them? Why might they be so anxious for you to notice them? How can you address that need? Most parents were conditioned to parent based on fear. You don’t show them too much love or consideration, for fear they may become entitled. Is this the correct way to curb their attention-seeking behaviour? They are just children, trying to make sense of the world, wanting to connect with you, and doing the best they can. How can you help them? K. Alison Clarke-Stewart describes, “expression of affection, social stimulation, contingent responsiveness, acceptance of the child’s behaviour” can help them.

When your child has a need you can listen, care, and help them meet their needs in ways you are able to. Listen to what is your child is communicating. What do they need? Every day, in small ways, your children ask, ‘Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do I matter?’ Their behaviour often reflects your response.

Children need attention, they express a perfectly natural need for attention. So, what should you do when your child wants attention? Give it to them, always for them to have a happy and successful life ahead.

Reference Used:

  1. Gewirtz, J. L. (1956). A factor analysis of some attention-seeking behaviors of young children. Child development, 17-36.
  2. Clarke-Stewart, K. A. (1973). Interactions between mothers and their young children: Characteristics and consequences. Monographs of the society for research in child development, 1-109.

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