Creative Child

Two Ways to Thwart Attention-Seeking Behavior

“Love and belonging are irreducible needs of all people. We are hard-wired for connection - it’s what gives us purpose and meaning in our lives. The absence of love, belonging, and connection always leads to suffering.” - Brene Brown
by Rebecca Eanes

After all the time and effort we put into parenting, you’d think our children would know how loved they are. You’d think they wouldn’t have any need for more attention. After all, don’t we give them attention constantly?! The answer is probably yes, but the deeper question is what kind of attention are we giving? The kind that makes them feel joyfully loved or the kind that makes them feel like a nuisance we must tolerate or another chore to check off. Ooof, harsh, right? But think about your typical daily interactions lately and do an honest inventory of how many of those really communicate “I enjoy you.”

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When we’re giving negative attention or no attention at all, kids begin to starve for belonging and connection. They will take a negative connection over no connection at all, so they begin to resort to behavior they know will elicit a reaction from you. They may get a big response from you when you yell or scold them, but even that negative response is a reward because they were noticed and therefore a connection was made. Unfortunately, this makes them more likely to repeat that negative behavior again, and a cycle ensues that nobody enjoys. Rather than fueling the negative cycle, you can use these two simple ways to connect and make them feel loved, thereby ending the need to seek out your attention in negative ways. 

Joy-Filled Connection

All children want to be enjoyed, not just tolerated. Are your interactions upbeat, positive, joy-filled, warm, loving, and fun? Or are you merely displaying patience? Are you being silly? Are you laughing and smiling a lot? Joyful interactions communicate “I’m having fun with you! I love being with you!” When you’re having a great time with your kids, they feel that needed sense of belonging, and it fills their cups to the brim. It doesn’t take hours a day to have fun. You can add in quick daily rituals and habits that speak love. Here are 10 ideas for quick connection:

  1. Tell a joke.
  2. Make up a silly rhyme about them.
  3. Show loving affection - a hug, high five, fist bump, or a head rub.
  4. Unplug and give them your total attention for a few minutes. Listen.
  5. Dance with them.
  6. Celebrate them for no reason at all with cake and balloons.
  7. Leave a love note on their pillow.
  8. Smile when you look at them. 
  9. Send a sweet or funny text.
  10. Share YouTube or TikTok videos with your older kids.

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Of course, it’s always worth a mention to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. It’s hard to show up with joy if you’re bone tired and irritated. We hear this advice constantly and yet so few moms truly heed it. Instead, we make excuses about being too busy or something, but we always make time for our priorities, so it’s just a matter of making yourself one.

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