One of those things you hear so often is “They’re just doing it for attention!”
So what should you do with attention seeking behaviour as a parent?
Well, this will be a really short article because the answer is to simply give it to them!
AND be glad your child is so efficient in communicating their need. It may feel frustrating but it is actually incredibly helpful and emotionally intelligent of your child to send a clear signal that they are feeling off-track.
Off-track behaviour is always a signal and as you become more and more of an empathic parent, you will see it as more of a blessing than a curse. This does require getting good self-care yourself! Attention-seeking behaviour is usually more blatant than most off-track behaviour so we can see it for what it is. A call for attention, connection, a “Look at me!” or “See me!”
So what’s your best go-to?
I think this is definitely a place where Playful Parenting shines. Particularly if the behaviour is coming up somewhere public or when you’re feeling uncomfortable (which it often does as children pick up on these things and/or feel over-stimulated in some of these situations). So I would suggest something like “Oh, someone wants Daddy really badly right now… do you need to know how much you are loved? Ok… here we go!” and you can chase them screaming “Cuddle!” dramatically or you can prop yourself down at eye level and gaze in and tell them how magnificent they are. If you are feeling particularly stressed or triggered at the time, you can playfully turn it on its head… “YOU want attention but Mummy needs it so much more! I’m so busy and tired all the time! Look at me! LOVE me!” (playful and dramatic). Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen is a brilliant resource for playful ideas and games for all situations. The idea is to meet that call and hopefully get some laughter going (which is a wonderful emotional release).
Most of us were raised to think/believe that children need to be trained or controlled. We are taught it is essential children have respect but respect is something we EARN and we need to model. We need to remember children come here through our own decisions and have no idea about what rules and regulations we hold dear. More confusing still is that these differ from person to person or place to place. So the best go-to is always empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of your little person, Listen to their thoughts and feelings and find the underlying message/need.
If this is all new to you, I highly recommend you kick-start things with 7 Easy Ways To Become A More Empathic Parent which includes the golden tool of Special Time which fills cups and is most likely to lessen attention seeking behaviour all by itself.
So next time you think “they just want attention” remember “Oh! They just want attention!” and what a relief that really is!