You’re feeling annoyed. Your child keeps bothering you with the same behavior.
“Stop!” you huff for the tenth time, but it happens again.
Why can’t my child just listen to me, you think.
You’re confused as to the reason your child would continue to do something over and over again when you’ve made it clear that you want it to stop.
How many times has this happened for you this week?
Maybe did you finally “lose it” and yell? . . or end up threatening or following through with a punishment?
Want to better understand the situation? Would you like to try something that might yield better results? Read on to take a deeper look at what’s really going on between you and your child.
Attention Seeking Behaviors – What’s Going On
When looking more closely at attention seeking behaviors, there are a couple of issues going on. I’ll address them one at a time.
Negative attention is better than no attention
If your child wants your attention, he or she knows how to get it. First your child might, just might try a positive behavior to get your attention. If that doesn’t work, your child might try a negative approach next. You have “buttons” and who knows them better than your child? If you don’t notice a positive behavior from your child, surely you’ll notice a negative one, especially if it’s one that pushes your buttons. If your child is repeating negative behaviors in front of you (or making sure that you find out about them) then a good guess is that your child is seeking your attention. Now that’s not exactly a bad thing that your child wants your attention and truly that may or may not be what your child really wants, but the way your child is trying your attention probably isn’t working super well from his end or her end either.
Attention Seeking Behaviors Might Be Caused by Too Little or Too Much Attention
All children need a healthy amount of attention. Think about this idea of attention on a spectrum – a line that represents not enough parent attention on one end and too much parent attention on the other end.
If you’re a super busy parent, maybe your child is seeking attention because he or she really hasn’t had enough attention from you to feel that he/she matters to you. On the other hand, maybe you and your child spend so much time together that your child has developed the idea that he or she needs attention from you almost constantly in order to feel that he/she matters.
What Your Child REALLY Wants – Instead of Attention
To address this issue of children and attention seeking behaviors, let’s change the label of attention to a new one that will help us better approach the problem. Instead of naming this attention seeking behaviors, let’s change the name to connection seeking behaviors. We might look at this problem in a slightly different way if we understand that our child is seeking connection – a connection with you.
Positive Discipline is based on the work of Alfred Adler. Adler believed that children (and all humans) are constantly seeking “belonging and significance.” They want to “belong” in a group of people or in a relationship – that’s the connection piece. They want to feel connected to other people. So really, instead of attention, it’s connection that your child seeks. Secondly, your child wants to feel significant in a group or in a relationship. Your child wants to contribute something valuable to the group or to the relationship somehow.
When we approach the problem with this Adlerian view, then the solutions below start to make more sense.
Positive Discipline Tools When Your Child Seeks Connection and Contribution
Connecting with you is what your child needs to form a healthy emotional bond that will foster relationship skills for life. In addition your child needs to feel significant by making contributions to others in his life. The following Positive Discipline tools address these two important needs.
1. Schedule Special Time
2. Involve your child in a helpful task
3. Give your child opportunities to make meaningful contributions through household jobs such as helping cook, feed pets, set the table – on a daily basis. Do not pamper children in the name of love; instead let them see how capable they are.
4. Stop what you are doing and connect with your child for a few minutes. Love Rituals are one great way to do this.
5. Plan one night of the week for family time to create lasting memories and connections with each other.
6. Empathize with your child and validate your child’s feelings so your child knows that you care about his/her perspective.
Learn more Positive Discipline tools at my monthly teleconference called “Solution Seekers.” It’s for parents and it’s free.
Think It Through Parenting
Certified Positive Discipline Lead Trainer