How do you stop your child attention seeking?

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How do you stop a child's attention seeking?



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.


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.


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.


Use regular touch to 'make contact' with your child. A hug or simply a hand on the shoulder or arm can help to reassure your child that you are 'there' for them. If your child is hypersensitive to touch then it is still important that you find an acceptable way of making touch happen.


Teach your child to gain your attention in more positive ways. As their language skills improve they can be taught to ask for what they want. Sometimes this needs to be explicitly said and some children benefit from a social story explaining the social rules for gaining attention from others. Recognise and praise your child when ever they ask appropriately for your attention even if it is said at inappropriate time like when you are on the phone or talking to someone.

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You may be interested in the following pages:

Gaining Attention Social Story

Parent Questions and Answers

Reward Systems

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