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How Do I Deal with an Attention-Seeking Child?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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Depending on the child, a simple explanation of why he can't constantly have a parent's or caregiver's attention may work wonders when dealing with an attention-seeking child. Special one-on-one time should also be set aside for that child, and he can also be allowed to participate in tasks with the person from whom he wants attention. Good behavior, such as allowing a parent quiet time, should be rewarded, and tantrums and other types of bad behavior should be ignored, if possible.

Most children seek attention. They often particularly crave the attention of their parents, regardless of whether it is positive attention or negative attention. An attention-seeking child with a behavior disorder, however, may demand excessive attention and may appear to be addicted to attention.

Explaining to a child that his behavior makes things more difficult at times is often the first step when dealing with an attention-seeking child. During this conversation, it is important for parents to listen to what the child has to say. He may feel his parents are not spending enough time with him. A parent can then explain that she is not always able to be right next to him, since she has important responsibilities.

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Setting aside special time for the attention-seeking child may also help. This time should be specifically centered around the child. For example, he should be allowed to choose what to do during this time. A parent and child could begin a nightly bedtime story ritual, for example, or an after-school board game. The adult should always be consistent with this time, and always consider it when creating her schedule.

Sometimes, a parent can incorporate time for an attention-seeking child into her daily routine. He could be allowed to help with certain tasks, or even just join his parent for a leisure activity. Some parents may allow their child to help with making dinner, for example, or go for a nightly after-dinner walk.

As with any child, the good behavior of an attention-seeking child can be rewarded. This reward should be positive, such as coins in a piggy bank. For example, when an attention-seeking child allows his parent to take an important phone call, or even an uninterrupted shower, he can be allowed to put coins in his piggy bank. He can then use this money to buy a small toy or other treat.

Bad behavior, on the other hand, should be ignored when possible. To a attention-seeking child, any attention — whether it is good or bad — is often reward enough. When the child throws a temper tantrum, for instance, he is rewarded with attention when his mother yells at him.

When dealing with attention-seeking behavior, such as tantrums or nagging, most parents are usually advised to ignore it. An adult can respond in a calm voice that she will talk to the child when he calms down. Giving in to his demands will often just reinforce the attention-seeking behavior.

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croydon
Post 3

@browncoat - It does depend on the child though. If they are very driven by the need for attention, it doesn't matter how good the intentions of the parents might be or how well they explain their lives and motivations to the child.

It can become a really dangerous cycle if the parents don't know how to react to a kid who wants any kind of attention and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. I'd advise parents to get counseling or some other kind of help if they feel like their lives are getting out of control.

browncoat
Post 2

@Mor - Unfortunately, it's not always possible for parents to keep to a strict schedule. Life happens and often these days both parents are working and have commitments that simply cannot be changed.

Children do understand if you explain to them what is going on and try to spend time with them when you can.

Mor
Post 1

I think one of the most important things to do is to be consistent with your child. If they know that you are definitely going to be having dinner with them and reading them a book before bed, they are more likely to listen when you ask them to play quietly for a while after they get home from school.

But if you rarely keep to a schedule like that, they might feel like they have a better chance of having attention from you if they act up.

They might not think about it like that, but it is essentially what will happen.

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