When kids seek attention, they seek connection. In my practice I work with kids of all ages for various reasons. Often times parents bring kids whose behaviors have become concerning – thinking it is a behavioral problem. Parents will even say: “He/she is just seeking attention…”. And that is exactly what the child should get, attention!
Attention seeking for kids and teens is a way of connecting to an adult caregiver. It is an attachment behavior. Attachment is a basic psychological need to keep close to a caregiver for survival reasons. Children have no logical control over their attachment needs. When they feel disconnected from a caregiver, attachment seeking behaviors will start to take priority. Dr. Edith Eger, an amazing psychologist and author, states the 3 fundamental psychological needs for children are: attention, affection and approval (the 3 A’s). These 3 needs are often seen in attention seeking behaviors in kids of all ages.
Even though parenting can be hard sometimes, when our kids start to act out we need to start connecting to them (using the 3 A’s). Oftener than not, if parents consistently connect to the child the negative behaviors stop. Connecting with a child who is engaging in all kinds of negative behaviors can be tricky for adults as adults are often burned out and triggered by strong emotions in their kids. For this reason I recommend miracle minutes. Each day (consistently) set aside a minimum of 10 minutes with your child and just be with them in whatever they choose to do. No siblings, no phones, no criticism, just allowing them to take the lead and be with them. This fills up a child’s “love tank” and that means they feel connected and safe, which in return means no need to seek out attention in negative ways.
If parents seem to struggle with the miracle minutes, they need to look at their own self care and support, as another wonderful attachment expert, Dr. Gabor Maté states: The greatest gift you can give your child is your own happiness and healing.
For professional assistance or psychological intervention to help your own healing or to educate your child about emotional coping skills, please visit our contact me page.