Why do children want attention?
When children want attention, adults must be able to help them restore calm. How to do it? Here we reveal some tips.
“It’s pure whim” , “let him cry, he’ll get over it” … Surely we have heard or used these phrases on numerous occasions to explain situations in which children want to attract attention. Perhaps in our upbringing or in those around us.
However, different disciplines are focused on transforming the way we understand children . It seeks to move from adult-centric biases towards respectful upbringing or positive discipline to stop thinking about childhood from our own terms, give it a voice and understand it.
In this way, crying is not always a whim and it will not happen just because. It is one of the main ways that minors have to communicate, especially in the early years. Therefore, you have to try to figure out what they need.
Why do children want attention?
In general, children are not looking for attention “just because.” With their performances they seek to tell us something. To understand them, it is not only necessary to approach and talk, but also to think about the possible situations they are experiencing; a move, the change of school, the loss of a loved one, among others.
On the other hand, the new approaches to parenting seek to stop talking about tantrums as a derogatory way or with a negative connotation, to think in terms of an emotional outburst or a feeling that needs to be expressed. These are some coordinates that can help us help you.
It is important to keep in mind that a child who is throwing ‘tantrums’ is trying to tell us something . Sometimes that’s the only way he can find, since his brain is still developing.
Faced with such a situation, the infant is emotionally dysregulated, and adults must accompany him to calm him down. In a second moment, it will be necessary to work on teaching skills so that he can express himself and communicate in another way.
You also have to understand that it is not just about calming him down, but about helping him understand what that underlying emotion is that triggered his discomfort . The management of emotions is something very necessary, and working on it from childhood has great advantages.
When is it necessary to intervene differently?
It is important to clarify that a respectful upbringing does not mean the absence of limits , nor to give them with all tastes. Quite the opposite. Understanding that behind a tantrum or inconsolable crying there is ‘something else’ does not mean that aggression, hitting, lack of respect or education should be tolerated.
At this point, it is convenient to establish clear, consistent limits (that the parents do not contradict each other), constant (it is always applied in the same situation; do not punish today what is rewarded tomorrow) and calmly (without any type of violence).
Many people dedicated to accompaniment in parenting suggest that we think in the following way: crying (or tantrum) is just the tip of the iceberg . It’s just what you see, but there’s more underneath.
Tips to act in front of a child who misbehaves to get attention
To help a child to restore calm or find other ways to ask for what he wants without having to throw himself on the floor to scream, it must be considered that he still lacks the means to self-regulate. As adults we play that role. Therefore, the following tips should be put into practice .
Respond with respect and empathy
Faced with unwanted behavior, we must respond by example, however difficult it may be for us. If we respond to yelling with more yelling, what we are doing is fixing said behavior, instead of discouraging it.
Ask, don’t assume
In children with certain language management we have the possibility of guiding with questions. This is an advantage, as it is a useful strategy to help them calm down, while interpreting what they feel.
Allow them to express their emotions
It’s important to validate how they feel even if it seems unimportant to us as adults. They must be continually encouraged to express themselves.
help them reflect
Sending them to their room and returning when they calm down is counterproductive, as it sends the message that they are loved only when they are well behaved. Instead, Siegel and Payne recommend ‘clustering’, which is just the opposite.
It implies getting closer —sometimes through bodily contact— to reflect on what is happening. Here you not only pause, but also lay the foundation for the development of executive functions, which reduce impulsivity.
Educate in patience
Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations where the child wants to receive attention immediately. You have to understand that for them time is lived in a very different way from ours, but you also have to work on your tolerance for frustration .
Education should be encouraged in patience and that they cannot always get what they want when they want it. At this point, it is about thinking about alternatives and negotiating, but above all helping them understand. For example:
- “You can’t have this, but you can have this.”
- “Now I can’t play with you because I’m working, but later I can.”
There is no universal recipe
We will not always be able to apply the same measure. You have to tune in and empathize with the moment. However, what is repeated are the principles and values that we put into our actions, such as love and respect.
Thus, while in some cases a hug will be better, other times the best answer will be a ‘no’ and, in exceptional circumstances, it is best to give in.
Recognize from where we educate
When addressing any situation in childhood, we must question where we act from and what our assumptions are regarding behaviors. Sometimes we believe that bad behavior is a whim or “a desire to go against us”, instead of interpreting that there is an implicit message of discomfort or a present difficulty.
On the other hand, you have to keep in mind the life cycle of that child; there are expected behaviors for a certain age, influenced or determined by ongoing development. In this way, finding out and consulting specialists can also help us to know which are the best tools to implement.
Ultimately, in order to provide sensitive and empathetic responses, quality time is key. Only by sharing and getting to know the child will we be able to understand what they need to adapt our response.
you can read more about Autism: causes, symptoms, and treatments of a neurodevelopmental disorder