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attention seeking child

Sometimes I hear parents or teachers scoff or whisper to me that children are "just doing it for attention." But have you ever taken a moment to stop and think about what it means to seek attention?

Attention is a very basic need everyone has. While it is not necessarily bad that a child seeks out attention, it is often interpreted as negative. In actuality, they are seeking love, support, and care.

So what should you do when your child is seeking attention? For starters, you should notice them.

Ignoring an attention-seeking child is like putting a band-aid on a festering wound. And if the child is engaging in behaviors to truly have a need met, ignoring is the last thing you want to do. Ignoring can backfire, pushing negative behaviors forward, instead.

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Try giving a hug, watching your child show off a new skill, or just listening to show you care.

It's also important to understand, children don't always know what it is they need, or why they might be doing a certain action. After all, as adults, we don't always immediately know what our needs are either. Children need your help. I know this is easier said than done. My own son belts out the most obnoxious cow-like sound when he's bored. And as much as I want to tell him to knock it off, I have to remember to stop and ask myself, "What's going on here?" He's bored, he wants someone to play with him, he doesn't know what to do with himself. As we know, kids turn to their most trusted parents, caregivers and teachers when they need help. When they feel safe, kids are more likely to allow themselves to fall apart, break down and make the most horrendous of animal noises in close proximity to our ears.

Too often, needing help might look like exhibiting negative behavior.

Sometimes help is silent, other times it's loud and obnoxious. That's when we become angry, frustrated and annoyed. We hit our limits of exhaustion and patience.

Wanting to be seen, heard and acknowledged is okay, mama. It is human. We don't always have to fix it, but we can address it, and teach coping skills.

We want our children to learn how to understand and ask for what it is they need in healthy ways. If they don't have the means and skills, they truly don't know what to do to get their needs met. Looking at this from a developmental standpoint, remember that both kids and teens are simply following the responses of their body.

Here's what a conversation might look like with a younger child:

1. Show empathy.

I'm sorry to see you are having a hard time right now.

2. Verbalize what is occurring. Address what possible needs are not being met and what feelings your child is struggling with.

It seems like you might be feeling a lot of anger? Are you feeling so much anger that you want to throw all your toys across the room and yell? That is so much anger! I am so sorry. Let's talk about what made you feel angry. Is there a solution?

3. Help your child come up with a more productive or effective way to have these needs met.

Let's try something else to help us with our anger and frustration instead of throwing our toys. Will you try _______ with me, to get out some big energy? And then maybe we can work on trying again, this time by talking about our angry feelings.

Here's what a conversation might look with a teenager:

1. Show empathy.

I'm sorry I am not able to drive you to your friend's house, I know you are struggling to find something to do on your own and you're probably bored and lonely.

2. Verbalize what is occurring.

Address what possible needs are not being met and what feelings the child is struggling with: It seems like you are angry and frustrated and that's why you are slamming the doors and yelling. It's okay to feel a little bit lonely or bored sometimes, but I know it's not fun. I know you'd like some time with your friend and I wish it worked out to able to take you there.

3. Help your child come up with a more productive or effective way to have these needs met.

Why don't you come talk it out with me or do some drawing to get some of the anger and frustration out? Then, we can come up with a plan together of something that we can work out instead. I have a meeting for an hour. Can you do something to de-stress for an hour on your own, and then maybe we can get lunch together/go see a movie and plan another time to go see your friend?

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