Attention seeking behaviour is communicating a need for your child. Understanding the reason for this behaviour can influence the way you manage it. This can range from impatience and impulsivity to underlying anxieties and insecurities. Thus an impulsive child requires support with waiting turns and being patient whilst an anxious and insecure child requires reassurance and self-esteem building. These underlying needs must be addressed as well as dealing with the actual attention seeking behaviour.
Bombard your child with positive attention. The aim of this is to sate their need for attention by constantly praising them and rewarding them for doing the right things. Sometimes referred to as 'catching them being good' this strategy requires a lot of effort by parents to notice and praise everyday positive behaviours that we too often take for granted. For example, hanging their coat up rather than dumping it on the floor or putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket. It is about finding any excuse to thank them for desirable behaviour and keeping the intensity of praise very high. It is important to keep going with this strategy after things improve as your child can quickly return to attention seeking behaviour if you don't.
Ignore attention seeking Behaviour
Your child will have developed lots of negative ways of attracting attention. The reason these negative behaviours continue is because they now have a history of successfully getting the child the attention they seek or some other desired outcome. You now need to try and ignore these behaviours so that the child learns that they don't work anymore. Clearly, dangerous and aggressive behaviours can not be ignored. But when appropriately used, this can be an effective strategy and particularly so when combined with providing positive attention. It often takes a couple of weeks for a child to abandon a particular attention seeking behaviour.
Dedicated parent child time
In our modern hectic lives it is easy to go the day without finding time to just be with your child. Yet, dedicated time, when you give your child your undivided attention, is so important for their well-being and a powerful strategy in combating negative attention seeking. Try to set aside just 5 minutes when you play or talk with your child without other distractions or demands on your time.
Another strategy for providing positive attention is to do this randomly. Here you are not waiting to 'catch them being good' but instead you just find any reason to briefly interact with them or make a passing comment. This can be very powerful in communicating to the child that you are always around, thinking about them and can help make your child feel more safe and secure. This in turn reduces their need to 'test you' with attention seeking behaviour.
Touch is hugely important in reinforcing family bonds. You should aim to touch your child to 'make contact' at least once a day. A hug or simply a hand on the shoulder or arm can help to reassure your child that you are 'there' and you care. Don't wait for a special reason to touch. Sometimes it is just good to ask your child for a hug and this also conveys to your child that you need them too!