It is important to understand that your child behaviour problems could not just be from attention seeking. There are many factors to take into consideration before you label your child's behaviour as “Attention Seeking”. Other behavioural problems that your child could be having may be due to not being able to express themselves emotionally, they are angry over an issue, your child may be having some troubles at school or with friends which in turn is causing their misbehaviour.
Attention seeking behaviour is basically your child regularly misbehaving to get the attention from you. It may be as simple as doing things to annoy you and disobeying any house rules. Your child is acting this way not because they like to get yelled at or screamed at, it's basically because your child enjoys the attention and fuss his misbehaviour brings. This is a very common problem that you as a parent will face at some point in your life with your child.
There are different methods in handling your misbehaving child. Each method depends a lot on other factors as well such as where you are, other people present during that time, etc. Sometimes you can’t use the same approach that you use with your child when he/she misbehaves at home when compared to the approach you use if your child misbehaves in public places. So parents tend to wonder, how do I make my child stop misbehaving and how to discipline a child?
Why does your Child Misbehave through Attention Seeking?
It is hard to give an exact reason on why your child misbehaves. Generally the reason for your child's misbehaviour may be connected with Attention-seeking. The psychology behind this is, your child feels deprived of attention for too long.
Kids tend to long for mum and dad’s attention. Therefore your child tends to misbehave because that's the only solution that your child uses for you to momentarily focus on your child. That’s why you see your child at times, resists going to sleep at night or misbehaves and tends to push your limits in public places, not listening to you when you ask your child to behave or disobeys any kind of request from you. Whatever the reason or the situation it is, the psychology behind this is generally the same for attention seeking child.
A child that wants attention will get it by some means. They misbehave and quickly realise that certain behaviours can't be ignored by adults and engage in them. Some children seem to have an insatiable desire for attention, which in return causes this behavioural problem.
How do I know when my Child needs Attention?
This is also at times a common problem with children going to child care or spending a lot of time with caretakers.
If you have noticed, your child doesn't tend to misbehave when they are playing on their own. This is because they are occupied and also kids learn a lot from playing since play teaches them more than we can teach.
Later when the parent hunger strikes, your child needs your attention. This is the problem - it’s hard for you to know when your child needs attention, since you are not a mind-reader. As a result your child tends to start misbehaving so they can get your attention.
The fact is, it works all the time! Kids always get the attention when they misbehave. Sometimes they also grab the attention of strangers around them because they are so good at it. Once they realise that it works, they tend to repeat it more often.
Let me tell you, your child is very smart in their own little world. Once they figure out a way for something, they remember it and use that trick over and over again. This is all the part of Child Development. Sometimes children tend to learn these annoying tricks that push parents to the edge. That doesn't mean that they are bad kids. We are the adults so we should understand that and try to mould them by setting an example for the disciplining child.
How does my Child gain the Attention through his Misbehaviour?
Once your child learns the trick, he will tend to use it a weapon. What I mean by that is, they tend to display ‘Power’. Your child knows that you don’t like it when he misbehaves and there is only so much you can do to stop him. This gives your child the ‘Power’. They love it since they get to experience “Power” for once in their life. The problem here is, sometimes parents tend to go the child's way and give them what they want so they can just stop. I would say that this is the worst approach since your child will then realise that misbehaving also comes with bonus! Your child will understand now that they can even use this trick to get what they want by being demanding this way. Therefore the attention-seeking behaviour pattern continues and will be used more often.
Why does my Child Misbehave only with me and not others?
Often you might see that your child never listens to you no matter how many times you've asked him to stop misbehaving. Doesn't matter if you are screaming and yelling yourself, it doesn't work! But if a stranger or someone other than mum or dad tells your child to stop in a firm approach, (firm but still polite) they tend to stop straight-away.
The answer to this is simple. Your child knows your limits. They know how much they can push you since they've learnt your limits. This is not the case with a stranger. Since your child doesn’t know this stranger, he would not want to take any chances. So don’t worry. This doesn't mean that your child doesn't love you anymore. It’s just a simple child psychology.
So, How do I handle my Attention Seeking Child?
Like I mentioned above, there is no straight answer on how to deal with difficult child or attention seeking behaviours. However, I am giving you the list of the best approach that works. You have to use the following approach constructively so you can mould this behaviour as a matter of time.
Do not encourage Attention Seeking Behaviour
This is the most important of all. DO NOT encourage your child by responding to their calls. Let your child realise that you have other things to take care of. Ignore the misbehaviour and continue your work “pretending” it doesn't bother you. Your child may continue his behaviour for sometime and eventually give up since he will realize that it does not work. Your child will forget and move on magically!
However, let me add, if your child has already developed the misbehaving pattern and has gotten their own way so far, they tend to be more stubborn. Sometimes your child might even continue for hours knowing that you will respond eventually. This is because this had happened many times in the past. Eventually when you give in, they win.
My advice to you is – Extreme Patience. This is the hardest of all especially when you have a child throwing a non-stop tantrum. This will eventually stress you out and push you to a point where you can’t take it anymore. You have to remember, this is due to the result of your child getting their own way all the time in the past. Your child is getting more frustrated when they suddenly see a different approach from you. If you stay focused by not responding to your child's calls, he will come to realise that the “power” doesn't work anymore. After a few more attempts in the future, your child will understand that the trick has lost its magic.
But let me add this important point when you use this approach. Though you pretend to ignore their misbehaviour, make sure that you are still aware of their safety. Sometimes kids can injure themselves by accident during one of their tantrum mania. So always be attentive though you are not showing that to your child.
Dealing with Tantrums
Another part of this attention seeking behaviour is you having to put up with tantrums. A tantrum during this behavioural pattern is caused by your child not being able to cope with the situation – you have ignored a demand made by your child and throwing a tantrum is a way of dealing with anger. Stress, hunger and tiredness are also related to children throwing tantrums.
Now if your child does this in a public place I understand how humiliating it can be. There honestly can be almost nothing worse than everyone staring at you and judging you as a parent. But tantrums can be stopped before it goes public.
The best approach in dealing with tantrums would be simply to walk out of the room your child is having the tantrum and wait until it stops. Its important you wait the tantrum out, don't start screaming at your child, just try and walk away. If your chid has thrown a tantrum due to something that he wants, simply offer and alternate choice that you can both compromise on. When your child stops screaming, crying and carrying on simply, divert your child's attention in something he may enjoy doing such as watching T.V, playing with toys etc. You need to forgive and forget. Don’t hold it against your child when he throws a tantrum. Get it over with and move on.
If your child does this in public, use the same approach however sit / stand in a position that you can see your child at all times. Don't be embarrassed. A tantrum is a normal part of behaviour you as a parent have to put up with.
When you give attention to your child when they misbehave, I would term that as negative attention. Start giving positive attention. Try to spend some one on one time with your child during the day. This is what a lot of people term as “quality time”.
When I say ‘spending quality time ‘, I am not talking about the time you spend in care taking of your child. That is your responsibility as a parent. Once you give them the attention for example by playing with your child for awhile, etc., you can later excuse yourself by explaining to your child that you have other work to attend to and that they can continue playing. This tends to reduce the attention seeking behaviour.
Appreciate Good Behaviour
Everyone likes to be acknowledged and appreciated. It’s the same for your child. Make sure you appreciate your child's good behaviour. You might not need to give them a reward (since this could start a new pattern of rewarding your child each time he behaves well. How many rewards can you give?). Instead you may like to reward your child with a simple smile, a thank you and a big hug.
Talk to your Child
Your child can understand everything you say. They are very smart. So feel free to let your child know how you feel and make them realise that you have other kids in the family whom you would need to attend to or you have other things to attend to and that's why you can’t keep coming every time your child keeps calling. . If it works, then it’s great. This would perhaps be the easiest approach. But from experience, it doesn't work so often when your child is in the middle of their tantrums. However, they can reflect back to this later on their own. So it is still constructive.
Enjoy watching your child grow. Remember the times you use to drive your parents crazy? ..it's payback time!