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Every child wants attention, and sometimes they’ll do anything to get it. Some parents spend up to only 7 minutes a day with their child, and if we have siblings in the picture or step-siblings even, the middle ones often get neglected. Feeling left out leads to attention seeking behaviour in children which we discuss below. Keep reading to learn what it is and how to put an end to it.
What is Attention Seeking Behaviour in a Child?
Ever faced problems like your child lying down in the middle of the road to get a toy or causing a scene at the park amidst other siblings by stealing ice cream or bullying other kids? These are examples of attention-seeking behaviour, and sometimes it goes too extreme to the point where you get glares and glances from outsiders and other parents.
Other signs of negative attention seeking behaviour in children are –
- Faking illnesses to get some of your time
- Causing too much drama at home or in public settings
- Causing harm to others and trying to play hero
- Creating problems which make one parent argue with the other
- Playing the victim by magnifying the proportion of simple everyday problems
- Showing that they are super busy and completing everything on time or before
How Much of Attention is Enough for Your Child?
How much attention is enough for your child will depend on the child’s personality, behaviours and daily routines. Your child may feel satisfied with the attention she receives at home but may be disappointed in the classroom, in which case, you may need to talk to the school counsellor or concerned teachers to make room for opportunity to shine by asking questions and encouraging participation in group discussions.
Giving your child 100% of your attention at home for at least some time of the day, fully and uninterrupted is highly recommended. The reason behind this is if you don’t spare your attention for your children, they may end up causing temper tantrums or throw fits in other settings to cause a scene.
Types of Behaviour That Merit Attention
There are different types of attention seeking behaviours. However, just like behaviours, there are ways of approval and rewards that come with adult attention. They are listed below.
1. Positive Attention
If you find your child doing something good, give them some words of encouragement or reinforce that action with positive rewards. This is what we refer to as positive attention. In other words, a pat on the back, a gentle hug, words of praise and small smiley doodles or notes in their notebooks or lunch boxes work just as well.
2. Negative Attention
Negative attention is like a vicious cycle. Your child misbehaves, you lose your cool and scold them. Then they do it again, and again, and again. You get the gist. To get more of that attention. Invariably, you get increasingly upset at every turn of the way since children do mishaps and mischiefs to nab some of your time. This is also an example of toddler attention seeking behaviour.
3. No Attention
No attention is when you aren’t paying any attention when your child is doing something good. For example, two brothers who are usually messy or destructive in behaviour are quietly sitting at home and watching TV together. The parents don’t respond to this positive change and proceed to move on with their work. This is an example of paying no attention to children.
Emotional Issues Behind Your Child’s Attention Seeking Behaviour
The emotional issues or causes of attention seeking behaviour in children are –
- Maybe your child has trouble making friends at school
- Doesn’t get enough attention from you at home
- Feels lonely or left out amidst other siblings
- Feels ignored due to parents being busy working too much
- Doesn’t get enough attention at school or in outside settings
- Past experiences or trauma
How to Deal With Attention Seeking Behaviour in Kids
Here are some tips for dealing with or how to stop attention-seeking behaviour children-
- Give More Positive Attention – Help your kids lend a hand with your kitchen chores or praise them for spending time with themselves quietly like watching the TV or drawing. If they have talents, ask them to practice and praise them for putting effort into it.
- Ignore Bad Behaviour – bad behaviour comes with no rewards. Make that known through your ignorance to his whines and tantrums. In time, he will realize that and slowly change his behaviour for the better.
- Give Options – If they don’t want to do less desirable tasks, make them more doable by providing them options. For example, what dress do they want to wear or what dessert they want for dinner (if they eat their vegetables).
- Alone Time – Set aside 5 to 10 minutes of uninterrupted alone time with you and your spouse each, separately. Maybe, before bedtime works or whatever works for the two of you.
Do’s and Don’ts for Parents
Below we have some of the do’s and don’t where dealing with attention-seeking behaviour in kids is concerned.
- Try to Ignore – If your child is screaming or yelling or simply causing a ruckus verbally, don’t be afraid to tell him that he won’t be given chocolate or extra TV time because of his actions and that you’ll hear him out once he calms down.
- Create a Rules List – List out the rules of the house and consequences for breaking each. For screaming, it could be 10 minutes cut from their normal TV time, and for making a mess, it could be going to bed early and so on. Create this chart with your kid and hang it up at eye level at a place where they can see and often visit. Stick to this chart no matter what, and you’ll slowly notice them making changes in their behaviour.
- Give Attention Mindfully – This is not to say that the rules cut out attention from your side. Gather around during family dinners to talk, read out stories before bedtime and do the little things that bring joy to your child’s daily life but remember to enforce the rules and be consistent about playing out the consequences when they break them. They’ll only take it seriously if you’re consistent and serious from your end.
- Scream – It’s natural to feel angry or frustrated but never lash out at your kids by screaming or losing emotional control from your end. Whenever you feel like you’ll lose your cool, feel free to move away and take a break. Don’t be afraid to tell your child that you’re taking a break because you’re not in a state to handle their whining currently and will be back after a few minutes after they quiet down. Practice deep breathing exercise and meditate for a few minutes every day to be calm and composed.
- Guilt-Trip Your Kids– Don’t make them feel guilty or emotionally blackmail them. If you feel out of it, just tell them you’re tired after a day’s work and won’t be able to resolve their situation today since you don’t have the energy to. Make it clear that you won’t be able to keep them company on that day if they continue whining or yelling and move out of the room instead. Even kids have feelings; they will surely understand.
- Think That It’s A Clinical Disorder– Most parents think that their kids’ temper tantrums are linked to ADHD or other medical disorders. Don’t assume that. Sometimes it’s perfectly normal for kids to scream and yell since they are at that stage of development in their lives. However, if your child is cutting herself or acting out dangerous situations or causing harm, then seek out a paediatrician for help.
And that’s it! Just try out the tips above and keep these pointers in mind to fix attention seeking behaviour in children in school and home and we’re sure you’ll notice the positive changes soon. And remember the magic word – time.
Also Read: Common Toddler Behavior Problems & Solutions