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Attention Seeking Behavior

Mesa Pediatric Urgent Care advises parents on how to deal with attention seeking behavior

Children can begin developing attention-seeking behaviors at a very young age. Here are some tips on how to give your child more of your attention and how to respond when children demonstrate attention-seeking behavior.

All children have an innate desire and physiological need to feel acceptance and validation from adults. While it can be quite difficult to find time and energy in your busy schedule to give your child the attention they crave, it is important to be intentional about your interactions with your children and recognize the impact you can have. There are three types of attention you can give to a child:

  1. Positive attention

  2. •Negative Attention

  3. •No attention

Positive Attention

When you notice your child doing something good, you may offer words of encouragement, praise, hugs, or a smile. This is positive attention. It reinforces and validates good behaviors and gives your child confidence and emotional strength. When good behaviors are rewarded with your attention, they are likely to continue.

Negative Attention

When you notice your child misbehaving, you may raise your voice, angrily grab their hand to stop the behavior or sternly tell them no. Children can discern anger and hostility in your facial expressions and tone of voice even before they know how to speak. This type of behavior is called negative attention because you are responding to a negative behavior. Just like positive attention, negative attention also reinforces the behavior. If children cannot elicit positive attention from you, they will often resort to misbehaving to get some sort of attention from you, even if it is a negative reaction.

No Attention

When children misbehave, try to respond calmly, neutrally, or ignore the misbehavior altogether. This is far better than giving your child the satisfaction of negative attention. The best way to deal with attention-seeking behavior is to pay no attention to the outbursts and tantrums designed to elicit a reaction, and instead, constantly reward good behavior with kind, positive attention. Teachers, scientists, and parents have tried and tested this method for thousands of years. While no parent is perfect, and the occasional negative reaction will likely occur, holding your ground and being intentional in your actions is critical to stopping these unhealthy attention-seeking behaviors.

Make sure to spend quality time with your children. Giving them even 10 minutes of your undivided attention will make a huge difference in the way they behave and the way they perceive you as their caregiver. Along with positive attention, there is one other type of attention you should always give when the situation arises: Medical attention. That’s why AllKids Gilbert and Mesa pediatric urgent care centers are open 7 days a week from noon to 10 pm to ensure your child gets the pediatric medical attention they need, right when they need it.

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield at

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