Attention-Seeking Behaviour in Children

Attention Seeking Behavior in Children

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Attention is a basic human requirement, which arises from attachment. Thus, every child craves attention, especially from their parents. Due to today’s culture of work and hustle, most parents are unable to spend quality time with their children. As a result, a child can feel left out. Feeling left out leads to attention-seeking behaviour, and it can even strengthen such existing behaviour. Read on to learn about attention-seeking behaviour in children, and how to put an end to it.

What Is Attention-Seeking Behaviour in a Child?

Have you ever faced problems with your child, such as lying down in the shop because he wants a specific 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 to an 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 drama or throwing tantrums at home or in public settings
  • Causing harm to others and trying to play hero
  • Creating problems that 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 Attention Is Enough for Your Child?

How much attention is enough for your child will depend on the child’s personality, behaviour, and daily routine. Your child may feel satisfied with the attention he 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 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 him words of encouragement, or reinforce that action with positive rewards. This is called positive attention. 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

When your child misbehaves, and you get upset as a result, you might scold him. This attention that you are now giving your child is called negative attention. This can be in the form of scoldings, lectures, or punishments. If your child is actively seeking attention from you, this type of negative attention will not serve to reduce instances of his misbehaviour, but will instead increase it. Thus, it will turn into a cycle of constant mischief and constant negative attention from you.

3. No Attention

No attention is when you aren’t paying attention when your child is doing something good; it means that you pay attention only when your child is misbehaving, and you are missing his positive-attention behaviour. For example, two brothers who are usually messy or destructive in behaviour are quietly watching TV together. Their parents don’t acknowledge or respond to this positive change. This is an example of paying no attention. On the other hand, if the brothers do misbehave again, the parents are quick to notice and respond with scolding.

No Attention

Emotional Issues Behind Your Child’s Attention-Seeking Behaviour

The emotional issues or causes of attention-seeking behaviour in children are –

  • Your child has trouble making friends at school.
  • He doesn’t get enough attention from you at home.
  • He feels lonely or left out amidst other siblings.
  • He feels ignored due to parents being busy or working too much.
  • He doesn’t get enough attention at school or in other social settings.
  • Past experiences or trauma.

How to Deal with Attention-Seeking Behaviour in Kids

Here are tips for dealing with attention-seeking behaviour, or learning how to stop this behaviour in 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 TV, or drawing. If they have talents, ask them to practice them, and praise them for putting effort into it.

  • Ignore bad behaviour.

Bad behaviour comes with no rewards. Make that known through your ignorance to your child’s whines and tantrums. In time, he will realise that, and slowly change his behaviour for the better.

  • Give options.

Giving your child options will make them feel seen by you. Providing options also helps if he throws tantrums during simple tasks, such as dressing himself, or eating his meals. You can ask him what he would like to wear today, or what dessert he would like to eat after he has finished his vegetables.

  • Give alone time.

Set aside 5 to 10 minutes of uninterrupted alone time that your child can spend with you and your spouse each, separately. Before bedtime, or any time that both you and your spouse can freely spare, can work.

Do’s and Don’ts for Parents of Children with Attention-Seeking Behaviours

Below we have some do’s and don’ts of dealing with attention-seeking behaviour in kids –

Do’s

  • 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 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 in a place where he can see it regularly. Stick to this chart no matter what, and you’ll slowly notice your child making changes in his behaviour.
  • Give attention mindfully. This is not to say that the rules cut out attention from your side. Come together as a family for dinners, conversations, and bedtime reading. Do 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 the rules are broken. Your child will only take the rules seriously if you’re consistent and serious from your end.

Don’ts

  • 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 his whining currently, and will be back after a few minutes after he quietens down. Practice deep breathing exercises, 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 your child you’re tired after a day’s work, and won’t be able to resolve his situation today since you don’t have the energy to do so. Make it clear that you won’t be able to keep him company on that day if he continues 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 himself or participating in dangerous situations, or causing harm, then seek out a medical specialist 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 positive changes soon. And remember the magic word – time!

Also Read: Common Toddler Behavior Problems & Solutions

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