Are They Just Trying to Get Attention Again?!

A common response to a child’s troubling behavior is that he or she is “just trying to get attention!” I have found this to be an especially common assumption among those of the older generations. So, what IF a child is trying to get attention? Does that discredit his or her behavior? How much attention should we give our children before we are spoiling or enabling? Are there certain kinds of attention that are better than others?

I learned many, many years ago from a wise mentor parent to pay attention to my triggers and responses to my children’s behaviors. She taught me that if I am feeling resentful, then I need to look at my boundaries and choices and if I am feeling manipulated or as though my children were trying to manipulate me, then they probably were. This information seemed incredibly liberating for me as she also encouraged me to tune in to triggers and address my children’s behaviors and emotions like I would any other person. This didn’t mean to treat toddlers like adults, but to take their behaviors and emotions seriously and react accordingly—without getting overly enmeshed.

Why is a child acting up and craving attention? Is he feeling insecure or left-out? Is she trying to create a distraction so you do not notice something else going on? Is he feeling competitive with his siblings? Did she have a bad day with her peers or at school and she is trying to work that out? Of course, we parents are not all-knowing and there will be those times when you have NO IDEA why your child is acting up and trying to get attention—but acknowledging that yes, the child is acting out because of some need or reason is a good start.

As the parent, you can choose how to react—I learned that trying to address the root cause of the behavior instead of the surface or the acting out works best. Whining and throwing a temper tantrum about a popsicle is usually NOT about the popsicle. What is it about? A tired and cranky child? A child feeling insecure and frustrated and wanted something to make him feel better? Perhaps sitting down and acknowledging his insecurities and addressing those will give him the attention he truly needs without giving in to a temper tantrum or unreasonable demand? As parents, we can still set limits and expectations around attention-seeking behaviors, while giving the child what he truly needs on a deeper level.

See Also: Those Early Temper Tantrums

Toddler Discipline: The Real Issue

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