attention seeking behavior

Fights, feelings and attention seeking behavior


6 am… and my 4 year old son wakes and cries out “no school! I don’t want to go to school…”

Which wakes up my 6 year old who begins crying

“I want to go to school! Let me go to school!”

Too bad she had a fever last night.

No school? Why?

We are working on doing away with R’s morning fights… which is hard for me because I know he is fighting for a reason. Ignoring is one thing while preventing is another. The reason for the fights isnt school really though. It is because he wants attention.


Types of attention we seek

I know a child who isnt getting attention will seek negative attention. Ignore the negative and encourage the positive? What about intrinsic motivation?

I know he is smiling throughout the fight to get dressed and I know a lot of it is because he prefers to stay home and snuggle and get attention while V is at school… so that means I also need to make sure I am giving him positive attention.

On mornings when I go to school early with him we get a full half hour walking around. He gets to pick the vegetables from the bhajiwala. I let him pick a sugary juice or milk based drink and he often chooses a chocolate for after school for his sister and himself.  He doesn’t fight then.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, though,  my husband doesn’t have his favorite yoga teacher so I stay home and he does drop off. Those days are more tough but easier for me. But are they?

Is it worth the fight?

Perhaps I can go early every day. Monsoon rains aren’t as bad now so the rickshaw drive back isn’t so bad. We can afford the extra rickshaw ride and the exhaust won’t kill me. Green, no. Personal, positive attention for R… yes.

What are attention seeking behaviors?

Attention seeking behaviors are just that. Something a person does to get attention. Whether it is my 6 year old doing extra work to get a star from her teacher or the extra art up on the wall or 4 year old fighting in the morning so that I help him get dressed. It is the same. While one doesn’t cause stress to others, both can be stressful.

We do it as adults too. Don’t we all do something to get attention?

But, we can’t just ignore it all. We, as humans, have a need to connect and feel accepted. It is better that my husband and I work with out son on his needs so that he doesn’t later need to dull them or get negative attention elsewhere. Of course, there are no guarantees. Stress is there. We can give coping skills, talk through where we can and we can give what we can of ourselves.

My daughter likes date nights for the two of us. It has been a while… I need to make time and energy for that before she has to ask.

My son likes to play outside. I need to be okay with getting wet in monsoon or in the dreary weather so that he gets that time to show off his bike riding skills and speed through puddles. It means giving the attention he wants at times outside of school hours and snuggles when he gets home instead of me working on something or napping. I can’t snap out of the feelings I have, especially when the weather now is not helping but I can give myself reminders to give each kiddo a bit of what they need.

We often need love and acceptance most when we are showing behaviors that tell otherwise.

Ideas for reconnecting when there are attention seeking behaviors

1. Be spontaneous
2. Play games like “Guess what I am thinking about”
3. Do date night
4. Talk about the feelings with out accusations, using I statements.
5. Give a massage or pedicure. Boys can have pedicures too!
6. Put away the distractions,  including the phone.

How do you distract from someone’s behaviors, especially when you know you have to admit you may be at fault for some of them?

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS


  1. I often try to see where the behaviour is coming from. Yes in the end there is always attention seeking but for what reason. I try to focus on what I have been doing and if I have given enough attention that day to both my boys.

    You offer some great tips and I will be adding your blog to ym reading list. Thanks for sharing:)

  2. This isn’t something I am very familiar with anymore as my son was 25. He would act out and I would know that it was generally caused by something else and after I figured that out then everything would be okay again.

  3. I have luckily never had the fits to get attention with either of my boys. They have both seen children throw fits in order to get their way and to get attention and we discussed it and they both agreed that the child looked silly – it worked for my boys luckily.

  4. I’ll look for an underlying trigger and then go from there. Usually I end up distracting with something else though (Talking, playing a game).

  5. I am constantly having to deal with my 7 year old’s attention seeking behavior. It gets annoying.. Often times she is hungry or tired but won’t tell me, I have to guess. Other times she has been told ‘no’.

  6. This parenting thing can be so hard can’t it? Trying to juggle all the responsibilities and find time to get it all right with our kids!! The fact is that we won’t get it all right but hopefully we will find a good enough balance in each issue so our kids grow up as healthy adults!

  7. It is so hard to keep kids happy, especially when there are more than one. I remember fighting with my younger sister because I thought my parents liked her better.

  8. I read Hands Free Mama this summer. It was all about putting away the distractions. Putting down the phone (for me, at least) solved a lot of attention-seeking problems we were experiencing. I love the idea of a date night. I’ll definitely try that with my son.

  9. Positive attention breeds positive behavior is what I Was told for years. I was lucky son never gave me much trouble on the school front.

  10. My daughter is the queen of trying to get attention. We are usually able to pinpoint the cause of it pretty quickly, but it really can be stressful sometimes.

  11. It has been awhile for me since I have dealt with these type of issues. I do think that in most cases when a child acts out he is seeking attention and I love the tips that you gave for parents. Very helpful.

    1. Thanks. It is hard to be honest that sometimes we are at fault for it with out behavior or what we are doing.

  12. That’s a great way to put it, and it’s a great reminder to parents. I agree sometimes the best time to exert positive attention is when the kids are acting up the most.

  13. I am personally big on redirection. Its actually a technique used in psychiatric nursing. I find that you can use those types of techniques with children as well. They maybe engaged in attention seeking behavior such as fighting and you as the parent step in and redirect them and more their attention to something else. I have found it works pretty well with my six year old.

  14. My kids don’t throw fits to get attention thank goodness. But it is hard as a mom, to try to give undivided attention for a decent amount to all three of them throughout the course of the day.

  15. I’ve never had behavioral issue with kiddo but he did have fits with others including his dad and both of his grandmothers. Now that he’s a teen he only acts out a bit when there’s something wrong at school. I’m glad he’s at an age where he can better express himself and we talk things out.

  16. I’m a Grama now, so I think I have a different perspective than I did as a Mom. I’m much calmer and more patient than I was as a mother. My Grandson, who is 4, can be a handful at times. The one thing that I learned and think holds true, but can be hard to remember in stressful situations, is that when children act their worst is when they need love the most. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  17. These are great tips. It’s sometimes so difficult to deal with the negative attention seeking behaviors. Sounds like you are on the right track.

  18. Kids are often trying to communicate big feelings with frankly “obnoxious” behaviors. My 3 yr old has been acting out this week. Spending more time with him has helped him regulate those crazy feelings.

  19. This just made me remember what my daughter’s therapist told me. When she is acting out she is seeking attention, but only give it to her when she’s being good. I need to write this down. 😉


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *