Starting from the day they were born, children learn how to get attention to meet their basic needs. As they grow older and your kiddos are whining or crying for attention, they are still exhibiting their natural instinctive tactic for getting what they need. As frustrating as it may be, this is a normal part of a child’s development. Earlier this week we learned why attention-seeking behavior in children occurs and today we’ll be sharing ways of handling it.
Children require a certain amount of loving attention every day. Some of this takes place while you’re going through daily tasks such as dressing and feeding them. Beyond those times, children need your affection and attention to help their psychological development. This can be done during cuddling, playtime, singing and reading, among many other activities your child enjoys. As your child gets older, she will need less attention but the key is finding the right balance between being available for quality time together and allowing her to discover independence. Sometimes this takes trial and error because there is no set formula for connecting with your child. You are both individuals and therefore you have to navigate this relationship with love.
You don’t have to fully understand your child’s behavior to show empathy. Simply being present, letting your child know you are a sounding board for their thoughts and feelings, and that you value their perspective is critical to your child’s self esteem.
Set Rules and Enforce Consequences
Establish rules so your child is aware of expectations. Conflict often arises because there is no mutual understanding of what your child should do and how she should behave. Also make the consequences clear. If she breaks a rule, give an appropriate consequence. Over time she will come to change her behavior to avoid consequences. Once a punishment is complete, let it go. Engage your child positively and don’t hold the misdeed against her any more.
Don’t Give In
Every time your child gets what she wants through negative behavior she learns that it is OK to repeat the behavior. Usually it will escalate too. Stand firm on your responses, even on small things. Make sure you and your partner are a united front so your little one knows not to ask daddy if mommy says no.
Help Your Child Contribute
Showing your child she is a valuable part of the family unit gives your child a sense of place in the world. Allow her to contribute to the family in meaningful ways by helping you tidy up the house, make repairs, or assist in the kitchen. Having pride in things you do together as a family not only provides space for connections but may curb attention-seeking behavior in children.
Ignore Negative Behaviors When Possible
It’s so hard to ignore a tantruming child but sometimes that is the best method to quash the behavior. When she sees that her negativity isn’t garnering any attention she may change her tune. She’s testing limits so ignoring the ones you don’t like may be the ticket to happier days. When your child is ready to speak to you appropriately, they should get your full and undivided attention.
Yelling back at your child is not the solution to attention-seeking behavior in children. This only perpetuates the idea that such a response is acceptable. Rather, take a few breaths and respond calmly. Even if it is through gritted teeth so you don’t explode, your temperament sets the tone for your child’s behavior.
Sources: Empowering Parents, Positive Parenting Connection and Psych Central