If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us the importance of slowing down and appreciating the moments we have with our loved ones. On the flip side, it has also caused some additional stressors for parents as they have had to play the role of teacher while also fulfilling their work demands. While we knew before the pandemic, that children will do just about anything to get attention, since secondary attachments to teachers and coaches have become limited, children are looking to their parents to fill more of their attachment needs. As Rudolf Dreikus said, “Children need attention like a plant needs sun and water.” So, children seeking attention is usually a good thing, under the right circumstances.
Nowadays parents are busy with a varying number of essential things, and their child’s “attention-seeking” behaviors might always seem to come at the wrong time. The problem is that the need for attention is a need for attachment, which is a biological need for survival, according to attachment theory. When children don’t get quality connection time with their parents, they are more likely to act out. Unfortunately, these behaviors trigger parents to punish their child, which gives them the attention they are seeking, but it’s not the right type of attention. While parents don’t intentionally want to reinforce their child’s negative attention-seeking behaviors, that’s what the punishment response does.
A better approach would be to reframe how we see attention-seeking behavior. When we as parents understand that they are acting out because their children are seeking a connection, parents are then more likely to change their approach. By scheduling time each day to connect with their child, parents can lessen the negative attention-seeking behaviors. Critical in this is making sure that at the appointed time you are focused and engaged with your child. Additionally, by catching your children being good and praising them with positive feedback their “attention tanks” will be replenished and you will have reinforced positive behaviors. Too often, parents take good behavior for granted and come to expect it but highlighting children’s efforts is essential for these to continue.
The Parent SKILLZ curriculum was created to help inspire parents to rethink their approach to parenting. Within the program, parents can learn and practice each skill to take their parenting to the next level. Each of the eight skills requires only 10 minutes a day to implement but has a long-lasting impact on the parent-child bond. The instructors in the SKILLZ classes also implement these skills to support critical secondary attachments. The simple yet effective strategies create relationships that give children a sense of security and help the development of their emotional self-regulation skills.
When we focus on positive things, we see more of those things. In parenting, the goal is to make positive reinforcement a natural occurrence. When we understand that “attention-seeking” behaviors are simply a child’s way of wanting a relationship, we become more mindful of our responses. As Dr. Jody Carrington said, “Every time you think of calling a kid, ‘attention-seeking’ this year, consider changing it to ‘connection-seeking’ and see how your perspective changes.”