Attention Seeking Behavior

Dealing with attention seeking behavior is one of the most troublesome aspects of parenting toddlers.

Read this parent's dilemma below.

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Question About Attention Seeking Behavior

What to do when your 3 year old demands your attention when on the phone or if visitors come? My child constantly demands attention and won't let me talk. This does not let up.

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This is a really tricky one. It is like breathing to young children. They will always want attention more than we can possibly give.

Click here for a clear explanation of why toddlers behave like this.

When young children use problem behavior to attention seek, the best response is usually to ignore it.

However, this situation seems a bit different because obviously holding any kind of conversation is going to be difficult while your little one is clamoring for your undivided attention. We all need to talk to others during the course of the day.

Some sort of compromise is appropriate here, and these are my suggestions:

Firstly, make sure you have some quality time with your tot as much as possible. It is easy to get caught up in housework and other chores, but if you give your child regular attention, at least you have a fighting chance of them not indulging in too much attention seeking behavior when you are talking to someone else (even if this doesn't work now, it will later on as they grow older).

We should all aim for some one-to-one time every day, preferably a few short sessions. The best way to do this is to plan it, to develop routines for special time with your child. During these sessions, don't answer the phone.

I think you may have to adjust your expectations of how much you can chat when your child is around. In depth conversations are out I'm afraid.

A realistic aim would be to hold a conversation and accept that you get interrupted before you start.

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I have loads of phone calls that go like this: "So did you go out on Saturday in the end?.......Oh really, I've never - Hey can you put that down, Louis! No, put it DOWN....Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, I've never been there. Is it worth the entrance fee?" etc etc

Give your toddler something to do while you talk. It's possible to talk to a visitor or on the phone while sitting on the floor and building a tower with your kid, or racing their toy cars, or sitting dolls down for a tea party. My son adores sweeping and I often hand him the broom to occupy him while I'm busy for a few minutes.

Don't get angry when you are interrupted. As I say above, accept from the start that you will probably be interrupted and you won't get so mad at your child.

Keep calm -it's really important. Toddlers are illogical creatures and losing your temper will only backfire - in fact your child might keep interrupting you as a response to your reaction rather than the phone call etc.

Make sure you give your child some quality time afterwards. This is especially effective in the case of phone calls - as they get older, toddlers will realize that one-to-one time will follow a phone call and you can start to say "I am talking now. We'll have some special time soon." As your child is 3 already this should be possible now or soon.

I worked out a system with my friends or frequent callers, that they should let my phone ring once only, then hang up. Then wait 30 seconds and redial. In that time we would run and put the TV on as a treat. It would cause a bit of fun and excitement and usually gave me a short uninterrupted time.

To sum up, with attention seeking behavior there is no solution that suits either you or your child 100%. It's a case of compromise.

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