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Kids Seeking Too Much Attention

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Below are three questions I've answered about attention-seeking children. While all normal children enjoy receiving attention, some seem to be so addicted that it causes social and emotional problems for them and others.

From a mom:

Q: My son is very emotional, always worried about what others say about him, to him or even to somebody else. I tell him to worry about himself. What do you recommend I do?

A: It's possible that your son is tattling on others' behaviors because he thinks you will sympathize with him or feel sorry for him. You might try telling him that no one is perfect and he should try to find the strengths in others instead of their problems. Remind him also to develop his skills and strengths and be sure that you and/or his dad spend some one-on-one time doing things together.

If your relationship includes active involvement, he'll have lots of things to talk about — e.g. sports, games, arts, projects, etc., that can provide fun-loving conversations and cause him not to worry about slights by children to others.

Here's a letter from a teacher:

Q: What do you do about attention-addicted children? Sometimes they rule the classroom, playground, bus and social situations. The children and their parents get upset when you say no to them.

A: If you, as teacher, talk privately to attention-addicted children about their special kindness, unique skill you've noticed or any good qualities you've observed and tell them how pleased you are about those behaviors, it will energize the children to want to please you. You can even set up a private signal with the child (like touching your glasses or hair) when you notice those good qualities. The child's good behaviors will increase and the negative behaviors will diminish. Attention-addicted children feel so starved for attention that they easily become nuisances if they can't attract positive notice from teachers.

And finally here's one from a mom for grandmas:

Q: My only daughter is adopted.

She has had a spotlight on her from the first day I held her. I'm sure she has responded negatively once entering school since she didn't have constant attention. I saw what I had created and began to change my approach. I now need ways to help both grandmas understand that we need to dim the spotlight. One grandma even makes it obvious she favors my daughter more, which is creating all kinds of problems with not only my 8-year-old son and her 4-year-old cousin, but also animosity amongst my siblings. Any suggestions of how to deal with grandmas?

A: When you withdraw constant attention too suddenly, attention-addicted children actually feel attention deprived. However, if you privately notice their hard work, perseverance, kindness and independence, they actually accomplish much more in all those arenas. Perhaps the grandmas could just change their focus, if you explain how important their words are to all their grandchildren.

Since we want grandmas to love and appreciate all the grandchildren, perhaps they could take turns having one to themselves once a week. All of the grandchildren can use some one-on-one attention, and none will feel cheated if the grandmas give each a turn.

For free newsletters on the pressures bright children feel, the do's and don'ts of grandparenting, or from overempowerment to underachievement, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the address below.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or srimm@sylviarimm.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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