How to Address the Attention Seeking Behaviour in Your Child 


Attention seeking behaviour is not uncommon with toddlers. Here’s a case in point.


I set out one day with a friend on shopping at the supermarket. The little toddler of my friend insisted her mother to buy her a chocolate. The mother refused very curtly over and again. What you are about to read next is no big surprise. In a flash, the 6 year old was rolling on the floor, refusing to get up, screaming out loud and shouting at the mother. My embarrassed friend tried warning the kid and doing all she could to stop the ruckus, but in vain. At the end, she did buy that chocolate (very angrily, of course) for her daughter. 

This above mentioned scene doesn’t take us by surprise. In fact, it is a highly familiar situation in the life of a parent. That leaves us with questions : 

What is this behaviour? 

Why does my child behave like this in public? 

What must I do to address this behaviour? 

Children up to 7 years of age are unable to prioritise their needs and articulate it well and so attention seeking behaviour becomes the best way for them to communicate.

Attention seeking behaviour for a child is only normal. I once read that a child requires attention to develop as much as the food. As they grow, they learn ways in which they seek attention from parent and peers. Children up to 7 years of age are unable to prioritise their needs and articulate it well and so attention seeking behaviour becomes the best way for them to communicate. This behaviour in its extreme form could always have underlying clinical or physical causes. In that case, seek medical or psychological intervention. How much of such behaviour is too much? It is up to you to decide when you think it goes overboard because the child will keep seeking for attention endlessly if you keep giving it.

If we notice, we can see that children show this attention seeking behaviour even when they are given negative consequences. When a child needs attention, he means it. Even if the attention is not positive, he begins to long for the negative attention, as long as they get some attention at all. What can we do? 

Now, one of the basic things we as parents could question is that if that child’s attention seeking behaviour is legitimate. How do we know this? If we do look into our family functioning, it will be easy for us to discover – 

  1. How much time do we spend with our children?
  2. How emotionally attached or detached are we?
  3. How balanced the environment is for the child?
  4. How much of conversation time is spent with the child?

All these aspects matter. If all these are in place and you still seem to find it a struggle to handle this behaviour of your child, here are a few things you could look into : 

Being consistent 

Follow a rule that has been discussed at home. The minute you set to give into the child’s nagging behaviour, he learns that as a way to get what he wants from you. His manipulative antennas get activated. He instead needs to know that you mean what you say. Likewise, it’s important for you not to make promises that you cannot keep. Both of them send messages to the child negatively. 

Ignore the behaviour and not the child 

Address the unpleasant behaviour such as tantrum or anger. But as our response, if we end up directing the negative consequences towards the child and not the behaviour, it will only continue the negative interactions.

Increase the positive attention 

Giving them attention for appropriate, appreciable behaviour is important. The day is filled with things that you can appreciate your child about. Remember not to use words saying good or bad, instead replace them with the usage of words like “responsible,” “stunning,” “kind,” “affectionate,” “loving” etc . Appreciate their good behaviour so that the child will repeat it in future and refrain from undesirable behaviour. 

Avoid trigger words 

When a child asks you for something and if the answer is a plain ‘no’ all the time, the child is wired to immediately burst into tears or behave inappropriately. Instead you could always say – ‘we’ll talk about it later’, ‘not this time’, ‘we can discuss this late this evening’. 

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