Isn’t it frustrating when your child resorts to attention-seeking behavior and nothing you do seems to snap them out of it?
It’s tiring to be the parent that everyone stares at because your child is constantly drawing attention at the most inopportune moment in the most embarrassing way.
Every day millions of parents take their children into public settings with no issues at all. Their children stand out for their polite manners and quiet demeanor. These children’s parents are complimented and noticed for all of the right reasons.
Then there are parents that face the constant battle of trying to rein their children in for bringing attention to themselves for all of the wrong reasons.
Do you fall into the latter of the two categories?
What if I told you that you are not alone? That there are others out there that face the same challenges of attention-seeking behavior from their kids every single day?
I know because I was one of them. And still belong to the club some days.
However, having walked through this trial and having mostly broken out of the attention-seeking behavior my son displayed, I can shed some light on a few ways to keep your sanity while doing the same. I hope some of you find this helpful in your own journeys with your kids.
First Things First: Find the “Why?” That Drives the Attention-Seeking Behavior
Trying to find out why your child is seeking attention is always a good starting point. Ask yourself this question: why is my child acting this way?
In my case, my middle son is not my biological son. He is one of my stepchildren that I have adopted to raise as my own.
When we first got custody of him, he was an expert at causing a scene anytime, anywhere. He wanted to be sure everyone saw him, gave him attention, and that all of the attention went to him and not our other two children.
He had traveled a hard road of neglect and to him, any attention was good attention.
To me, it was mortifying because I was the mother everyone was whispering about because my child was out of control!
According to nobullying.com, one of the main reasons children resort to attention-seeking behavior is that some children get as little as 7 minutes a day of one-on-one time with their parents! 7 minutes a day!
Wouldn’t you be looking for attention any way you could get it if you thought the people who matter most in your life only noticed you for only 7 minutes a day?
It is important to seek out the why behind this behavior because if it persists it could lead your child down a road of bullying behavior.
So how do you know if your child is an attention seeker? According to nobullying.com these are the different types of attention seekers:
- Those that fake illness to get attention.
- The child that is overly dramatic.
- The child that causes harm to another person just to play the hero in the situation.
- The child that puts themselves as the leader in any situation to receive attention.
- The child that plays one parent against the other.
- The child that acts as though they are super busy and over the top important so that it amazes people that they are able to complete everything on their plate.
- The one who pretends to be a victim over the smallest of situations.
It is important to seek professional help if the underlying cause is something extremely traumatic. However, in most cases, you can talk to your child about these underlying issues and then move on to the next steps.
Build Your Child Up
I struggled with this with my son. When you have a child that constantly acts out in order to seek attention it is hard. Even after you know why they are doing this, it doesn’t always make it just magically stop.
I had to make him feel secure that he had a permanent place in our home. He was so scared of becoming the middle child and being forgotten about. He didn’t want to go back to his younger years of neglect.
Even though I knew I would never forget or neglect him, it was hard for him to shake that fear.
At first, in the midst of trying to help him become more secure in a new family and safe environment, I became negative. I found myself becoming so focused on the problem that I was forgetting to shift my focus to all of the good things he was doing. I wasn’t focusing on all of the positive ways he was changing and adapting.
When I realized what I was doing and began to not just give him words of affirmation but also encourage him in the positive ways that he was adapting, he began to transform.
He realized people were noticing him as he was and need not resort to negative attention seeking behavior. He was gaining confidence in who he was. It was an amazing thing to witness.
A couple of tips on how to successfully build your child up:
1. Give Words of Affirmation- Any child that is acting in a way to seek attention is feeling insecure within themselves. It is important to tell your child how special they are and how much they mean to you.
For instance, tell your child at random just how loved they are. One way I do this is to randomly yell my son’s name and say (very loudly), “I love you!!!” It gets the whole house’s attention, usually brings about a lot of laughter, and though his little face turns cherry red he loves the special attention and the random reminder of how loved he truly is.
I also pay close attention to the mundane things he does during the day. If he completes his chores without anyone asking him I am sure to go by and give him a little hug and say what a great job he did.
2. Focus on the Positive- Try to focus more on the positive that your child is doing instead of the attention seeking behavior. According to psychcentral.com it is important to place more focus on your child’s good behavior verses their misbehavior. However, be sure that just because you are trying to change your focus of your child’s behavior that you never lose focus of your child.
For example, if your child goes into a public setting where normally they would seek out attention but they do not, make a much larger deal out of their good behavior than you would if you had to deal with a case of public tantrum and misbehavior.
We recently took a trip to visit my family in a different state. It is natural for kids to be a little wild at grandma’s house. Usually, my son would go overboard. However, this last trip he was very calm and respectful instead of overwhelming the whole family with his attention-seeking behavior. We made a huge deal out of his transformation by complimenting him in front of the whole family about how polite he was being. He also received a special day trip because of how well behaved he was during our visit.
Give Your Child Your Time
As mentioned above, some children only receive 7 minutes of one-on-one time a day from their parents. Make sure that you are not one of those parents.
Familyeducation.com states that there are 3 types of attention: positive attention, negative attention, and no attention. It is important that parents figure out how to balance. We need to consciously ensure that our children receive more positive attention from us than any other forms because the other forms of attention teach children how to manipulate situations to gain our attention. Our time is a precious commodity to our kids.
How do you accomplish giving your kids more time?
- Be intentional- Have a set time during the day that is just for you and your child/children. Turn off the phones, computers, and any other distractions and focus just on them.
- Make this time fun- This is a time that should be fun and an investment in your children’s lives. Be a kid again. Play board games, cook together, go on a hike, or make a craft. The list of fun things to do with your kiddos is endless – you can take a look at this collection of 101 fun things to do with kids to enjoy everyday family life for starters.
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Give Your Child Their Time
As important as your time with your kids is, it is just as important that they have their time too.
You are their parent, not their cruise director. Kids have to learn there is a time and place for everything. There is a time to interact and be the center of attention and then there are times when they should not be the main focus. They need to realize that it is okay to not be the center of everything all the time.
This did our son more good than anything because it gave him time to be himself. He could do whatever he wanted (as long as it was safe) and figure out who he was and what he liked. He didn’t have to constantly think on his toes for the next thing to get the spotlight on him. It helped him mellow out.
So how does this work?
This is how we do it at our house- Our kids have times that they go to their rooms and play by themselves. It usually lasts 15-30 minutes. It lasts longer as they get older because they enjoy their space. It is good for them because they learn how to entertain themselves and not depend on other’s focus to be content. We do not use electronics to do this. It also gives parents a little break and time to regroup.
Drop the Guilt, Not the Ground Rules
As parents, we must realize our children’s behavior is not always a direct reflection of our parenting. I know it is hard to remember this as we are being judged by those who are passing by our screaming child in the grocery store, but our children are people with freewill. We must remember this.
We can teach our children, but it is up to them what they do with that teaching. So stop the self-inflicted guilt trip.
That said, we are the parents. We have to develop steady rules that our kids can follow and know that they will be the same in each situation. This is not being “mean” but teaching good behavior. Consistency is key in this situation.
One rule in our family is no interrupting. When our son seeks out attention it is often hard to get words in edge wise because he can out talk everyone. This was a habit that had to be broken because it can make daily communication a struggle.
Attention-seeking behavior can present many challenges within a family. However, do not give up! Our kids can overcome this with communication, love, and support. Use this trial as an opportunity to deepen and grow your relationship with your child. They will appreciate you for it in the long-run.
The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents
When your child starts seeking attention it is important to remember, respond, and remove.
- Remember why they are acting this way which should help you to respond more gracefully.
- Respond by calmly letting your child know that their behavior is not appropriate for the time.
- Remove the child from the situation for a moment until they can calm down if they do not respond to the warning.
The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents
Stopping a child’s attention-seeking behavior takes a lot of patience on your part. It is important to stick to your rules so everything is consistent for your child. (No guessing games)!
Remember that it is okay to feel frustrated but be sure to vent your frustration in appropriate ways. You can do things like keep a journal or talk to a friend. Or, post your concerns in our Positive Parenting Village Facebook Group for some amazing, warm support from other parents just like you. It is best to be proactive in dealing with frustration so there is no build up and no unexpected outbursts projected onto your child. Keep it positive and before you know it your child’s attention-seeking behavior will be a thing of the past.
Wouldn’t that be awesome??