Attention Seeking

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One reason that attention seeking behaviours develop is that they enable the child to get their needs met without the use of language. From birth a baby uses crying to signal that they are hungry, tired, uncomfortable or bored. As they get older they learn new behaviours that get them attention and their needs met. So a toddler learns that doing funny things like repeatedly standing and falling over gets them attention and sometimes a reward. They also learn that having a tantrum is usually guaranteed to get them lots of attention and can often be used to manipulate their parent into getting them what they want.

Children also develop strategies for getting attention from other people. Social interaction is really complex and children often feel insecure leading to them trying to impress others through their behaviour. Some children act the clown because they feel that getting others to laugh at them is a way of securing a positive relationship. Some children will take risks to show peers that they are brave, strong or mature. Again this is about establishing relationships within their social group. Some children will show off because they are copying their peers and want to identify with that group.

Children with immature social skils may also engage in attention seeking behaviour because they do not fully understand the social rules of the situation and the contextual behaviour that is expected of them. Social rules can vary considerably depending on contextual factors such as: place, time and the occasion. We also behave differently depending on the status of the people we are interacting with.

Because social rules are really confusing, they change depending on the context, it is important to help and support your child with understanding them. Writing down rules and expectations is a really useful way of clarifying what you mean and communicating it effectively. Try to explore different contexts. For example, showing off and being a clown may be acceptable in the playground but not while your eating dinner.

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