When your children ask for attention, it is not to bother, they need it

564 points
When your children ask for attention it is not to

Everyone at any age needs care. It feels good when someone focuses all their attention on you. Being attentive feels good for your baby or toddler (and older kids, too). For children, getting attention is even more important than for adults.

Children need care to grow, develop self-esteem and a positive sense of identity, and thrive and succeed. There is even research showing that parental attention has a connection to the release of growth hormones from children.

Of course, you want to pay attention to your child. Sometimes, though, it seems like they need a lot, a lot of attention and time, more than perhaps you feel you have. You don’t have to be there every minute of every day, but consider when to give them attention, how much to give them, and what kind of attention works best.

basic care

When your baby or toddler cries because he’s hungry, physically uncomfortable, or sick, for example, it’s critical that the parent respond to his or her immediate physical needs. Your response also shows them your love and teaches them that they have an effect on the world. Your baby or toddler also has many emotional needs.

Pay attention to the emotional needs of the child:

  1. When you smile at him;
  2. Hug, kiss or snuggle with them;
  3. Speak in a soft, soothing voice (even if they don’t speak yet);
  4. Singing and reading to them;
  5. Holding their hand so they feel safe when you’re out in the world;
  6. Being there completely;

You can’t be there all the time, but when you are there, make it count!

Quality is better than time spent on other matters

Some experts say that with 15 minutes of fully focused attention, children will feel content and independent for the next half hour or so. You can be fully attentive to your child and then attend to that work mail or dishes.

How to make time count

  • Put down your phone, tablet, or other device.
  • Avoid vague judgmental words, even if they seem positive, like “good job.” Instead, respond specifically and descriptively: “You made a really big ball out of that clay.”
  • Try to be at eye level with your toddler. Try to look your child directly in the eye.

Follow your child’s cues. Use what is called “Incidental Teaching”. Are you at the beach and tired of answering a million questions about the ocean? Ask your child “How deep do you think the ocean is?” They probably have no idea, but you can spark their imagination and maybe even stop the current round of why questions while they learn. And you may be surprised at what they tell you!

Attention must be paid to the bad and also the good

If you pay attention to your child for his negative behavior, he may get the message, “If I want Mom’s attention, I can throw this plate on the floor.” What can you do instead?

Instead of paying attention to your child for negative behaviors, try:

  • Emphasizing the Positive. If your child frequently tugs on the cat’s tail but notices a moment when he’s petting it, let him know you’re paying attention: “The cat really likes it when you pet him so gently. Look how he purrs. I love how gentle you are.”
  • Help your child name feelings: “You seem angry because the cat doesn’t want to play with you.”
  • Trying to find out what might be behind the behavior. If negative behaviors persist, even for a short time, there may be something else going on. For example, your child may be in the early stages of an illness before showing obvious symptoms. He may not feel well, but he doesn’t know how to express it. Perhaps they had a disappointment in child care that makes them feel insecure or frustrated.
  • Be patient. Remember that your child is trying to get his needs met the best and often the only way he knows how.

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564 points