Eight Signs Your Kid Is Starved for Attention
It always seems to happen at the worst time: Our kids get into some mischief just as things get stressful or busy. And because we're so occupied with our careers, making dinner, or simply trying to relax or unwind after a tough day, we overlook the reason behind this misbehavior: Their need for our full attention.
When we refuse our child's desire to engage, they share their feelings about our rejection in ways that ensure they are seen and heard. To help you know when your children needs you to focus on them for a few minutes, there are some behaviors to look out for.
They get bold and confrontational
This is probably the easiest behavior to spot as it involves tossed toys and daredevil behavior clearly meant to get you to pay attention to them. But before your little Evel Knievel breaks an arm because of his next dive off your couch, carve out about 10-20 minutes of one-on-one time to bond.
Moving in slow-motion
Children have no concept of time, which any parent who's tried to get their kids dressed for school can tell you. Getting them ready for bed is no picnic either, which can increase their stress level (and yours) when they're supposed to be winding down. Their ignorance of how minutes and seconds work allows children to control the clock so they'll spend more time with you. I've combatted this behavior by making this time a game, with the reward being extra screen time or more time to read. I'm always surprised by how quickly they move when given the proper motivation.
They want to pull an all-nighter
It's been a daily recurrence in our home: After we put our boys down for bed and start to decompress, our youngest has to use the potty five minutes after he just went. Then there's a request for hugs after he washes his hands. We've found the solution for this is some extra bonding time before bed or a guided meditation led by one of us to help them relax (and give them the attention they crave).
Knowingly interrupting you
Dinnertime discussions can be fun in our home. But when my wife and I shift our focus to each other, one of my sons suddenly wants to tell us a joke, effectively ending our conversation. One way to combat this behavior is to focus on them for a few extra minutes and get them to open up about their school day, which has led to some great conversations.
"I need help!"
When children want extra time with you, their minds tend to go blank, causing them to suddenly forget how to get dressed, brush their teeth, and do other simple tasks they've been performing unassisted for months. The way to jog their memory is to praise them throughout the day for acting independently, giving them the attention they need, and enabling them to increase their self-reliant behavior.
Telling tall tales
My youngest child is quite a storyteller. Sometimes he'll make up some elaborate fiction when talking about his day. The good news is that telling tall tales is part of a child's normal development. They're also unaware of the consequences of lying because it's hard to tell the difference between what's real and imaginary at a young age. They want to please you. Don't try to catch them in a lie, but try to figure out how they're feeling instead.
Getting my sons ready for swim lessons can sometimes become a Tony-nominated play filled with emotional performances. If they have difficulty getting their trunks on, the waterworks begin. I've found reassuring them that I care and I'm working hard to solve their issue, usually helps the tears to stop. Also, asking them what they want to work on during their lesson shows that I am interested in their lives and care about their goals.
"I hate you!"
Chances are you'll hear this phrase a lot during your parental career. Children say mean things to get your attention and get a rise out of you, so it's important not to react harshly. Combat this by showing how much you care about your children with cuddles, notes in their lunch box, or starting the day with a positive word or two.