When your children ask for attention, it’s not to disturb, they need it


Everyone at any age needs care. It feels good when someone is focusing all their attention on you. Being mindful is good for your baby or toddler (and older kids too). For children, attracting attention is even more important than for adults.

Children need care to grow, develop self-esteem and a positive sense of identity, thrive and succeed. There is even research showing that parental attention has a connection with the release of growth hormones by children.

Of course, you want to pay attention to your child. Sometimes, however, they seem to need lots and lots of attention and time, maybe more than you think. You don’t have to be there every minute of every day, but think about when to give her attention, how much to give her, and what type of attention works best.

Basic care

When your baby or toddler is crying because they are hungry, physically uncomfortable or ill, for example, it is essential that the parent meet their immediate physical needs. Your response also shows them your love and teaches them that they have an effect on the world. Your baby or toddler also has many emotional needs.

Pay attention to the emotional needs of the child:

  1. When you smile at her;
  2. Hug, kiss or snuggle with them;
  3. Speak in a soft, soothing voice (even if they don’t speak yet);
  4. Sing and read to them;
  5. Hold their hand so they feel secure when you are out in the world;
  6. To be there completely;

You may not be there all the time, but when you are there, make it count!

The quality is better than the time spent on other topics

Some experts say that with 15 minutes of fully focused attention, children will feel satisfied and independent for the next half hour or so. You can be fully attentive to your child and then take care of that mail or dish work.

How to make time count

  • Put down your phone, tablet or other device.
  • Avoid vague judgmental words, even if they sound positive, like “good job.” Instead, answer in a specific, descriptive way: “You made a really big ball out of that clay.”
  • Try to be at your toddler’s eye level. Try looking your child directly in the eye.

Follow your child’s cues. Use what is called “incidental teaching”. Are you at the beach and tired of answering a million questions about the ocean? Ask your child “How deep do you think the ocean is?” They probably have no idea, but you can spark their imaginations and maybe even stop the current series of why questions while they learn. And you might be surprised what they tell you!

We must be careful of the bad and also of the good

If you pay attention to your child for his negative behavior, he may get the message, “If I want mommy’s attention, I can throw this plate on the floor.” What can you do instead?

Instead of paying attention to your child for negative behaviors, try:

  • Focus on the positive. If your child frequently tugs on the cat’s tail, but notices a moment when you pet him, let him know you care: “The cat really likes it when you pet him so gently. Look how it purrs. I love your kindness.”
  • Help your child name their feelings: “You look angry because the cat does not want to play with you.”
  • Try to find out what might be behind the behavior. If the negative behaviors persist, even for a short time, there may be something else going on. For example, your child may be in the early stages of an illness before showing obvious symptoms. You may not be feeling well, but you don’t know how to express it. Perhaps they have had a disappointment with childcare that makes them feel insecure or frustrated.
  • Be patient. Remember that your child is trying to get their needs met as best they can, and often in the only way they know how.


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