If you have any parenting or teaching experience with a child who is attention-seeking, you know how frustrated you can feel and how quickly situations can escalate.
There are some children (please also insert teens and adults here), especially those kids with ADHD, who seem to have attention leaks. You can pour on the attention, and they still need more. You can think of these kids as attention-seeking missiles, and they will do anything in their power to raise the rate of attention directed their way. They have great difficulty in sharing attention with peers, other students, siblings, co-workers, etc.
Attention seekers also quickly figure out that negative attention is much easier to attain than positive attention. The type of interactions used to gain negative attention includes doing things that are deliberately annoying to other people, not listening or avoiding doing what they have been requested to do, and tantrums. In adults, this equates to picking arguments and creating drama.
The most powerful tool in your bag for attention-seeking is ignoring it, and then returning your attention in a positive way when the kid begins to act in the way we expect them to. I even tell kids that they can have my attention back as soon as they “act right.” This is easier said than done, because the atmosphere can be so volatile, and we try to reason with kids or command them to do what we need them to do. In school, we are also worrying about the other students in the class and how to deal with them while we are dealing with the attention-seeker.
I simply state it to the child and in my groups, to the other kids who are witnessing or being annoyed by the attention-seeker. I say to the child, “I’m ignoring that,” and I do. I say to the other kids, “We’re ignoring that, let’s keep doing what we’re doing.” Notice, that I am saying ignoring “that” which is what the child is doing to seek attention, not “you,” the child.
As soon as the child stops attention-seeking and makes a different choice, it is time to pour on the unconditional love and praise and immediately re-engage in giving loads of positive attention. Make sure to give it to siblings and any other children around the child as well, so that the attention-seeking child learns to share the attention when in a group situation.
Sure, it takes a little time to ignore and then praise, but in reality, we are spending just as much or more time dealing with negative attention-seeking.
It somewhat goes along with the old saying, “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” until the child seeks positive attention, and then say lots of nice things!
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