Emily had been looking forward to a weekend visit from her high school friend, Molly, for months. So, when her seven-year-old son, Randy, treated the occasion as an opportunity to show off and be otherwise ubiquitous, Emily was understandably annoyed.
What she wanted to do was to banish Randy to his room for the next 48 hours. What she actually did was to take Randy aside and make a deal. "I can't spend a great deal of time with you this weekend because we have a guest,' Emily explained. "But, I promise, I'll make it up to you. Next weekend, you and I will go to that movie you've been wanting to see. And, if the weather's nice, we can also visit the zoo. What do you think?"
After the briefest of hesitations, Randy nods in agreement and goes off to play with his action figures.
Not all parents would have dealt with the behavior of an attention seeking child with Emily's aplomb. There's no doubt, dealing with a youngster who is constantly demanding to be noticed is both stressful and irritating.
However, as Emily understands, when a child seeks attention, he's not behaving badly, just mistakenly.
Like adults, children need to feel significant. Yet, unlike, adults, they have few opportunities to show the world that they are worthy of attention. Too often, the result of the unmet need is inappropriate behavior.
To combat the problem, parents ought to try to ignore the negative behavior as much as possible. It's often helpful to defuse an attention-seeking situation by making an agreement with a child, as Emily did, to spend time together later.
Another effective way of diminishing instances of attention seeking is to give a child attention when his or her actions warrant it. A preschooler who makes her bed for the first time, an eight-year-old who has read her fifth chapter book or a ten-year-old who has made the school track team deserves to have Mum and Dad make a fuss over her.
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