Ten Tips for Handling Your Child’s Needs for Attention
All children need attention. If there is no positive attention to be had, they will seek negative attention. avoid this slippery slope by following these ten tips.
1. See Your Child’s Acting Out as a Need for Attention: See Billie’s misbehavior as a cry for attention. Let go of any judgment you might have about Billie ‘needing attention’. Think of it as him asking for a glass of water. Your child is not wrong for being thirsty; he should not be made wrong for wanting attention.
Never criticize Billie for acting out. All you need to know is that he is in desperate need for his feelings to be cared about and to be shown that he is loved. Let Billie know that, although you are not happy with what he’s doing, you want to know what’s going on with him. Tell him you love him; give him a hug and say, “Want me to take you to the park?” If you’re in a time crunch, say “I love you! Wanna go to the park later and talk?”
2. Children are Mirrors: Think back on a time when you wanted attention and did not get it. Take out your journal and write: “Why does it bother me that Billie wants so much attention?” And then ask: “When did I want love and attention and felt angry because I didn’t get it?” Sometimes parents feel like it’s not fair that their child gets the attention they never got. If you can’t think of a time, let it percolate for a few hours – it’ll come to you. Then call your EFT tapping buddy and heal the painful memory.
3. A Parenting Pep Talk: When a baby cries, you don’t get angry with it: You pick it up. You hold it, offer it a bottle, see if it needs changing. You try everything you can think of until it stops crying. Children and adults are just bigger babies, also needing affection, praise, and quality time with you.
4. How To Know When It’s Enough: When a child is satiated, he or she will begin making a craft or start playing fetch with the dog. Because they got what they needed. Don’t worry about ‘spoiling’ your child with too much attention: They will let you know if it’s too much.
5. Stop Gossip in Its Tracks: If you hear, “Don’t mind Dolly, she’s just looking for attention,” say, “Oh! Thank you for letting me know! Gotta go – I got some major huggin’ to do!” And then go and do something fun with your precious child. Aunt Minnie will get the message.
6. See It as a Healthy, Human Need: Have you ever asked your spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend for a hug? How dare you need some extra attention! Just kidding. If a child is showing you through their behavior and mood that they are needing attention, gosh darn it, give it to them. Generously and with panache!
7. Appreciate and Acknowledge. Every child needs to be appreciated and acknowledged – for creative contributions, acts of kindness, doing their homework, making you laugh, hugging their siblings, showing up for dinner. Make it a priority to spend quality time with your child, praising them, helping them with their homework, reading to them, telling them jokes and funny stories. Show them they are cherished and important to you.
8. Seek Out the Real Reason for the Acting Out: Your child is never ‘being selfish’ or doing something ‘for attention’. Ask them what’s going on with them. If they can’t tell you, figure out something they enjoy to do with them. Be patient, and they will eventually tell you.
9. Circumvent the Acting Out: You will be amazed at how infrequently your child acts out when you shower them with praise, acknowledgment, affection, and individualized attention. It only takes a moment to acknowledge your child at dinner for something they have done that was awesome!
10. Children Bounce Back Quickly: Children bounce back quickly when they’re given what they need. When you see your child happy and drawing you a picture because you gave them the love and nurturing they needed, you’ll know you did the right thing.
Janet Stegman is an EFT and Inner Child Practitioner, successfully counseling people with addiction and other mental health disorders for more than 20 years. Janet is the author of Sandcastles: Tools for Letting Go of Addiction and the Pain of the Past; How to Raise a Healthy Happy Child; and My Mother the Comedian . . . I Mean Superior Court Judge. She also has extensive comedy and musical theatre credits including Janet Stegman Starring in HBO Here I Come! and Peter in Peter Pan. Janet lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she teaches Silver Sneakers and dances the Lindy Hop every chance she gets! For more information visit www.janetstegman.com.