Published on April 8, 2022 at 14:32 / Updated on April 11, 2022 at 18:31

If there is one primary need that a child must have to ensure optimal development, just like food to maintain health, it is definitely the need for attention.

Familiprix in collaboration with Vie de Parents wants to help parents understand this search for attention by giving them some winning strategies to put in place to satisfy this fundamental need in their children.

What does "needing attention" mean to a child?

It is through the eyes of parents that children feel understood, loved and encouraged. This is how they form their own identity. In order to do this, they need your attention, which may take the form of time alone with them, recognition of their successes,  or seeking your approval, for example. Their behaviours—good or bad—often depend on the need for attention.

What are the types of attention?

There are two main types of attention: positive and negative. Let's demystify them together.

Positive attention

These are small gestures on a daily basis, such as hugs, quality time, words of encouragement or congratulations. When you use positive attention with your child, you encourage good behaviours as well as build confidence and self-esteem. It is important to emphasize positive actions that you want to see repeated.

Negative attention

This is expressed as impatience, criticism, warnings, yelling, threats, and often punishment. When you use negative attention with your child, you don't stop the bad behaviours—you amplify them. By giving importance to undesirable behaviorus, children understand that they must do this to get attention.

Why do children do bad things?

A child with a lack of positive attention often engages in objectionable actions or behaviours. They may express their need for attention in exaggerated ways, such as acting out. They may disrupt, jump or move continuously, and even behave rather aggressively in order to get attention. This ensures that you will take care of them, if only for a few minutes. If the situation is not dangerous, ignore the bad behaviour so that you don't give negative attention.

Why do some children talk too much?

Children who talk a lot may simply be happy or in a period of intense stress. They may be looking for some form of attention as well. However, when combined with other symptoms, such as difficulty concentrating or restlessness, hyperactivity may be the cause.

Is it hyperactivity or just too much energy?

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between excess energy and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), especially in children. Here are a few signs that may alert you if you have any doubts about your child. They may:

  • Be easily distracted
  • Lose some objects or personal effects easily
  • Forget some important elements
  • Constantly move or shift
  • Talk a lot and fast
  • Interrupt when other people are talking
  • Have difficulty waiting their turn
  • Have difficulty concentrating
  • Have mood swings

The symptoms listed above are not a diagnosis. The best way to assess your child is to consult a healthcare professional.

How do you satisfy a child's need for attention?

There are a number of little tricks that are very effective in promoting positive attention in children. For example, you can:

  • Give your child some household chores (picking up toys, setting the table, folding laundry, etc.). They will feel proud to help you.
  • Give your child regular one-on-one time (play a board game, do a puzzle, have a quiet conversation together, etc.). This will give your child the attention they  need without having to ask for it otherwise.
  • Highlight good actions using positive words, such as "Well done" or "Congratulations.” Positive reinforcement will prompt more good actions.
  • Encourage good behavior with supportive gestures, such as a smile, a pat on the back, a hug, a hand in the hair, etc. These are simple gestures that have the power to strengthen the bond with your  child.

Demonstrating positive attention to the child on a daily basis encourages him to listen to instructions, improves the parent-child relationship and contributes to a significant decrease in negative behaviors, for a more harmonious family life.

References and further reading

Le besoin d’attention par Naître et Grandir (French only)

Favoriser l’attention positive par Vie de Parents (French only)

Le TDAH par Vie de Parents (French only)

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