It’s a common scenario in households across the nation: a young child wants something and will do almost anything to get it. This attention seeking behavior in children is a normal part of early childhood development but it can be so tedious for parents. This week we’re helping you understand why your child may be acting out to get your attention and ways you can correct the unwanted behavior.
Born to Seek Attention
If you think about it, babies are born to get attention. They are oh-so-adorable making adults want to hold and cuddle them. They cry when they need something because they can’t do anything for themselves. This natural instinct for attention is a survival tactic that adapts as a child gets older. At first attention is a physical necessity but as children age, it is more a psychological need, but still a legitimate need. Their methods of attention seeking will evolve to elicit the responses they want from their parents. As a parent it’s your role to temper this instinct and shape it into positive behavior to productively help your child meet their needs. It usually takes a good deal of time and effort from parents and children alike.
Why Children Act Out to Get Attention
There are many reasons a child may resort to whining, screaming, crying and harming herself or others to get attention. It could be a physical need such as hunger or tiredness. Or it may be a psychological reason like feeling sad about something that happened in her life or needing to spend more time with her parents. In some instances attention seeking behavior in children may stem from a true illness or disorder, which would need to be addressed by a doctor. In the eyes of a child, even negative attention is better than no attention, which is often why punishments and harsh responses don’t resolve the problem. Of course, giving in doesn’t help either.
The Balance of Giving Attention
Sometimes attention seeking behavior in children is the result of too little attention from parents, but other times it stems from too much attention. Too little attention may be the case when parents are busy with work, other children and other commitments. Finding the time to meaningfully connect with each child daily may be quite difficult but it is important to prioritize to avoid negative behavior. Conversely, when parents hover over their children and strive to meet their every need, desire and demand immediately, children can come to expect this sort of attention. It impedes the development of independence and breeds attention seeking behavior when parents are suddenly unavailable.
Later this week we will talk about positive discipline techniques that help you work through attention-seeking behavior in children. Stick around.