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Some children seem more dependent than others. Not that they are not able to do things by themselves, but they want your presence and your attention.
It can be draining for a mother to be sought all the time. When you reach your breaking point and stop being available, your attention-seeking child will turn to misbehavior to get it back.
Because for attention-seeking children, it doesn’t matter if it’s positive or negative, as long as they get attention!
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When Is Attention Seeking A Problem?
I could say, when is your breaking point? Some mothers are able to stand an amazing amount of solicitations, while others are very quickly bothered.
If I tell you:
- « Mommy, look at my drawing! »,
- « Mommy, come and help me out »,
- « Mommy, come and play a game with me »,
- « Mommy, you promised you would do that puzzle with me »,
- « Mommy, can you read me a story? »,
- « Mommy, I’m bored… »,
- « Mommy, look, a squirrel! »,
- « Mommy, check my lego construction, it has wheels! »,
- « … »
So tell me, how many sentences could you stand before starting to feel your nerves prickle?
Every one of those demands is actually sweet and you would love to comply if it was just this one, but being asked for attention from morning to evening is asking too much of you.
And if that makes you feel better, you don’t need to answer all those solicitations, because you give the message that you are at disposable. When the message you want to send is that you are available.
The different kinds of attentions
Attention is divided into two kinds: positive and negative.
And do not think you can cheat! You might say: « yes nice drawing » but not looking. Or, you might say “I love you too” with your eyes on your screen. This NOT giving attention. And your child is not a fool.
So, why do children seek attention?
Children have an attention bucket to fill every day, and they won’t stop until they get enough. Every child is different in their needs. Be mindful to respect each of your children in their individuality to make sure they all feel considered.
How to fix it? Simple, give them enough attention!
Don’t wait for them to seek your attention since that is what’s bothering you. Think of ways to spend quality time with EACH of your children.
Where Do You Exist In All That?
It sounds like I am telling you to do exactly what’s annoying, doesn’t it?
It is all a matter of balance. Life is energy. When you give, eventually you’ll need to receive. Learn to express your needs, take time for yourself, and to set boundaries. Your children will understand perfectly.
You too have buckets to fill. You might get plenty of attention (way too much sometimes), so what is it you lack? Every mother is different and might want different things.
Some will enjoy having a ladies’ night from time to time, some to go shopping, some go have a spa day, while others need some time alone on a daily basis.
It doesn’t matter, the point is, what you give, you need to be given back. I’ve expressed this point in more detail here!
A Practical Guide To Fix Attention-Seeking Children’s Behavior
Let me recap before we jump into the practical guide.
- Children need to fill their attention bucket every day.
- You cannot only give, you also need to receive.
When I was working as a social worker in a house for younger children, aged 6 to 15, there was a lot of attention-seeking. And then I had the crazy idea to have three children and to home-school them. In both situations, I have tried many strategies to satisfy their need while not exhausting myself.
Here is what I found out: you don’t need to be over creative and to come up with amazing ideas, that is not what children asked for!
It’s much more simple than that. Get them to participate in your activities, with a focus on what they like about it.
How many times a day do you try to keep your children busy so you can achieve some chores? Well, open your ears, because you’re about to have free help AND less attention-seeking. I know, awesome, right?
Take a moment to sit down. Write down all the things you do in a week.
Think of your children, where their interests lie, and add their names next to some of those activities.
Do not make an announcement about it like « you guys are going to help me with the chores from now on! ». I mean, it doesn’t sound exciting. Rather, for each activity, offer to the child on your list to participate in a casual way. Just say that you would love to share this with them.
Congratulate your child and thank them for this special moment together.
Continue this new routine until it becomes a habit, and it will feel natural in no time!
When Is Attention Seeking A Problem And How To Fix It
As you can see, attention-seeking is a problem when it becomes one for you. By including your children in your activities you do several things:
- you give them positive attention (you fill their attention bucket)
- you show them you value their company and help (you grow their self-esteem)
- you teach them important skills (you develop their autonomy).
While an exhausted mother might see this solution as more effort when all she needs is peace, it is the most interesting one in the long term. If it feels overwhelming to you, maybe you should consider starting with a break. Get back some energy. Ask for help around you to look after your children. Reduce the activities for the coming week. Whatever feels good to you 🙂
Don’t let the inspiration fades and take action right away:
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I wish you all the best with your kids, always remember that we all do the best we can at a given moment, so never judge yourself harshly. Be confident and listen to your intuition. If what you do comes from a place of love, then you’re on the right path.
See you next week for another exciting article!
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