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Eliminate Negative Attention-Seeking

Eliminate Negative Attention-Seeking

Eliminate Negative Attention-Seeking 

G. Runo


You love your child more than anything else in this world. However, lately he is acting in a way that makes everyone in the house mad. He tends to demand everyone’s attention in a negative way. Someone once said children of all ages need adult attention like plants need sunlight. They are dependent on the grownups in their lives to give them attention to thrive. But attention should never be demanded. Children have a way of attracting our attention right from birth. They are so cute when they are babies that we can’t help but cuddle them. When they are toddlers, hitting their milestones is so cute that we can’t help but swoon. That first word or the first step is given so much attention that a child feels that he belongs.

As he grows older, he learns to draw parents and other adults closer by doing positive things. He knows that when he behaves well, his parents will be closer to him. And this is how it works in a family where enough attention is given to kids. But when they don’t get attention by being nice, children look for other ways to attract attention. If your child knows that misbehaving will get your attention, he will keep misbehaving. Yelling, nagging and scolding him is better to him than being ignored. He prefers to receive negative attention than no attention at all. It is this negative attention seeking that you want to minimize. You are not trying to eliminate the need for attention. You are only trying to eliminate the need for negative attention seeking.


Have a Talk


Imagine you have just had a fourth child and you’ve just brought the new baby home. The former baby of the family is feeling threatened by the new arrival. He worries that the baby is going to take all the attention from the older kids and the parents from him. He used to be the baby in the family and now suddenly he has to be an older brother. He notices how everyone pays so much attention to the baby and seems to forget him. No one even seems to notice when he does positive things. He therefore comes up with a new method to attract his parents’ attention. Instead of sitting and waiting for compliments, he decides to be a bad boy to attract some attention. He screams and cries unnecessarily. The parents try to soothe him but instead of calming down, his tantrums get worse. He makes demands for things he does not need. He says he wants a cookie when he is asked why he is crying, but when he is offered a cookie, he throws it away. Obviously the parents’ patience is stretched as they also have to deal with sleep deprivation and everything else that comes with having a new baby. The attention seeking gets so bad that the whole household now revolves around the boy’s behavior. The parents finally give in and start scolding and yelling at him when he acts up. They are rewarding his behavior with attention, albeit negative attention, which is what the boy wants.

Instead of reacting like this, you should have a talk with the boy. Ask him why he is behaving the way he is. When he opens up, let him know that as his parents, you have enough love for everyone and that having a newborn demands so much of a parent’s time. Decide together to set aside a certain time in the day where he will have your undivided attention and let him choose the time. Make sure to keep to your end of the bargain. The child also needs to stop seeking attention, on the understanding that you will take pains to acknowledge him. Set rules together, and come up with consequences together as well. This ensures your child knows exactly what will happen if he misbehaves. Make sure to follow through with the consequences. Also, have a follow up meeting after a few days to discuss with your son whether he is feeling a little more appreciated.


Give Enough Attention

All children need attention, and they will take as much attention as you can give. But we have busy schedules nowadays. Statistics show that parents now spend very little time with individual children (only five minutes for dads and 20 minutes for moms). This means children are not getting as much attention as they desire. They misbehave to attract your attention. Your teen will break the law to have you called to the police station. You can’t say you are too busy to the police. You will then spend time yelling at your child, which is attention. As parents, our number one job is parenting. It doesn’t matter how many meetings you have to attend per day, or how many jobs you have to juggle to make ends meet. If you can find time for all the activities in your busy schedule, surely you can find more than twenty minutes for your child. Spend time with your younger kids cuddling them and playing games. Attend all the school meetings and games at your older child’s school. Don’t be that parent who never shows up for games. Hug your older kids too and appreciate their efforts.


Appreciate Good Behavior


You school age child comes home every day, does her homework on time, does any chores you have assigned her and does not fuss when you tell her that it is time to go to bed. But you never appreciate or comment when she does these good things. You don’t tell her how happy you are that she is doing as you have instructed. Then one day she comes home and starts playing video games and just says she is getting to it when you tell her she should do her homework. After about the fourth time of repeating that she should do her homework, you storm into the living room and scold her for being unfocused. She has attracted your attention by doing something negative, yet you never noticed when she did positive things. Lesson? If you want mom’s attention, misbehave. You can teach your child to only seek positive attention by appreciating her often. Let her know how much you like it when your toddler keeps quiet while you soothe your baby to sleep. Let your teen know how much you appreciate her good grades and positive behavior.

Ignore Negative Attention Seeking

When you notice your child trying to attract your attention by misbehaving, don’t give her the attention. Don’t ignore her but also don’t focus on the misbehavior. For example if your primary school age daughter yells at her younger sibling, calmly follow through with your set consequences for such behavior. It can be timeout or anything, just make sure you tell her to go to her room calmly. If you get annoyed and start yelling at her too, you are giving attention to the bad behavior, and she will repeat it in future to get your attention. To dissuade negative attention seeking, be consistent. Don’t discourage a behavior today and let it slide tomorrow. Give the same consequence every time the behavior is repeated until it is clear to your child that the behavior does not get her any attention from you.



About the Author

G. Runo is an educator, a writer, a mother of two young children and a guardian of five teenagers. She has been a teacher and a curriculum developer for four years. She’s a passionate storyteller who enjoys sharing her parenting and education wisdom with other parents. Follow her on Twitter @grarun20.




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