It’s exciting to see your baby start to become a child. They’re a little more independent, able to focus on a particular activity and even entertain themselves for short periods of time. Even though she’s getting older, she still needs lots of attention. Everyone does. Children need attention to survive – without it they won’t be able to develop the way they need to. Giving your child attention shows them you love them – and is also an important need for his or her growth and development.
Lack of Attention
Children who don’t get proper attention can develop emotional, intellectual and even physical problems.
A child who doesn’t get attention regularly can start to engage in negative behaviors, like frequent tantrums or hitting other children or animals. Your child isn’t being “bad,” or trying to be manipulative. He’s telling you he needs something, which includes needing your attention to survive and grow.
Children who are preschool-aged and older can go for longer times with less attention. It’s exciting, for example, that you can sometimes cook dinner while she sits at the table happily drawing a picture.
This is the time to tell her how much you appreciate her focusing on her drawing. Take a moment to notice the colors she is using and give her a kiss or pat her shoulder. By giving her this positive attention, you may be able to avoid the scene below.
There are plenty of ways to make sure your child is getting the kind of attention they need.
- Before your child interrupts you, put down your phone or tablet and turn off your computer and TV. You’ll be more attentive to your child and show them that personal interactions are sometimes more important than a text.
Pay attention to the positive! Everyone likes support for what they’re doing, and your child is no different. Noticing the positive builds self-esteem and will give your child confidence. It builds independence – if you affirm they can do something on their own, they’ll believe they can.
- Did she remember on her own to wash her hands before dinner? Let her know.
- Notice that some toys got put away, rather than what did NOT get done.
- Let your child know they’ll have an opportunity to do it differently next time.
- Lend a hand to finish the job. Doing a chore together is giving your child attention and support.Did he put away most of his toys?
- Give positive strokes when they take care of themselves while you are doing what you need to.
- Don’t judge! Stay away from words like “good” or “bad.” Your child can interpret “good job” as you are not really paying attention to the details of what they’ve done. Good or bad job doesn’t describe what your child actually did — she may not understand what specifically was good or bad. She won’t know how to recreate or avoid it.
- Create special times. Whether it’s a walk around the block after dinner or a special hug at bedtime, have some consistent time where it’s just you and your child doing something you both enjoy.
Pay attention to the “every day”. It’s great to have special times, but the majority of your time with your child is your daily routine together.
- Be curious about what they are doing and thinking.
- Give attention to everyday tasks and activities like getting dressed and having breakfast.
Don’t give attention to negative behavior. If you mostly pay attention to your child when they are displaying challenging or negative behaviors, they will learn if they want your attention they should break a dish or hit a sibling.
- Don’t get engaged in a yelling match or a lecture. Try to calmly set and/or repeat clear limits, rules, and natural consequences — she intentionally breaks a bowl of ice cream, then no more ice cream right now.
Be compassionate and thoughtful. Consider what is going on when your child is displaying negative behaviors. They may not be able to verbalize their feelings, but you can help them figure out what’s going on and how to deal with it.
- Is he eating healthy food and getting enough sleep?
- Is she missing a grandparent who just returned home?
- Is he getting a cold or feeling ill?
- Is she feeling stressed or uncomfortable with something or someone at school or childcare?
Check in with you. You may be distracted or short tempered with your child because of what’s happening in your life – is she reacting to your mood?
- Do a self-inventory.
- Are you getting healthy food and good sleep?
- Do you have enough time alone and with your spouse or friends?
- Are you having lots of work stress?
Too Little, Too Much or Just the Right Amount
You cannot give your child “too much” love. Denying or withholding attention from your child will not teach them to be independent or to “behave.”
Give your child lots of attention for the things they are doing that you like. And, especially as your child gets older, set clear boundaries and natural consequences for their actions. Encourage and support them to be independent – which includes giving them positive attention. You’ll create a calmer home now and will be building a better relationship for the future.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors, Tova Stabin, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! contact us here.
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