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What To Do About Attention-Seeking Kids | Psych Central

What To Do About Attention-Seeking Kids

By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

What To Do About Attention-Seeking Kids

The preschooler I observed in the grocery store yesterday was doing everything she could to get her mom’s attention. She whined. She squirmed in her seat in the cart. She took items off the shelf. She threw the bread on the floor. Her mom asked her to please stop whining, replaced the pilfered items, picked up the bread and pleaded with her daughter to please, please be good and she would get some candy when they left. As her mother turned to figure out which meat to buy, her daughter gave her a kick. Mom looked around and sighed. She grabbed a package of hamburger and made a dash for the checkout line. What’s going on?

Before deciding a child is a discipline problem, it’s very important to rule out medical issues. I’ll never forget a particularly squirmy and whiny toddler who had developed a gross habit of picking at his bum and smearing his poop on the floor. His mom was at her wit’s end. Sensing something was physically amiss, I referred her back to her pediatrician. The result? A diagnosis of a serious case of pinworms. No wonder the kid was out of control!

Barring medical issues, though, and before considering psychiatric ones (such as ADHD), let’s consider why any child would be so emotionally needy that she constantly makes bids for extra attention, even at the expense of adult disapproval and negative consequences.

One of my teachers, Rudolf Dreikurs, used to say that children need attention like a plant needs sun and water. Mother Nature does her best to make sure both plants and our little ones get what they need. Little children are designed to get adult attention. Watch what happens when adults meet the new baby in the family. His little face and cute little fingers and toes make adults fuss over him and even compete to hold him. His cries bring his mother running. His little coos and smiles keep her engaged.

By trial and error, growing children figure out what makes adults continue to give them attention and what drives them away. Since they are dependent on us, they do everything they can to get the love and nurturance they need. Usually their early experience shows them that when they are well-behaved, when they learn new skills, and when they are happy, they pull adults closer. When the adults react with interest, affection and approval, the children strive to please, to copy the big people, to grow in their social and practical skills, and to find a positive place in their family.

via What To Do About Attention-Seeking Kids | Psych Central.



2 thoughts on “What To Do About Attention-Seeking Kids | Psych Central

  1. Very nice…now if only we could get all the moms to read this! On the flip side, many parents are simply too exhausted to always pay attention to their child. I mean, what happens to the single mother raising 3 kids while holding down 3 jobs and going to school full time like my mother? It just isn’t easy.

    Posted by youngsub91 | October 23, 2011, 6:13 pm
    • For sure… Raising kids is difficult and I know that for in my case, finding what works for them is a very difficult daily journey and did require me to stop being a workaholic. Time is the most precious resource and the one we as adults have very little of. But I am learning that children have very different needs at different ages and that giving them time does not mean giving them all your time but quality time (i.e. present, not stressed, engaging with them). Personally I have had to re-learn how to balance life and work and more importantly to live in the present and to focus on them when I am with them. Quality over quantity of time seems important. I now every so often take a kid to work and just that time seem to make a difference…

      Posted by alxbal | October 23, 2011, 7:12 pm

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