Dad Podcast

Can You Give Your Kids Too Much Attention? – Dudes To Dads Ep 109

Who doesn’t like attention?  The problem is that we as parents pay much more attention to our kids when they behave badly than when they are good.  In episode 109 we look at the different kinds of attention and what to do about it.  The reality is that our children misbehaving is OUR FAULT.

There are 3 kinds of Attention:

  1. Positive Attention – This can be affection, praise.  We typically do this when they are well behaved.   We give them approval.
  2. Negative Attention – Giving them attention when the misbehave.  This can be yelling, lectures, threats.  This is still a reward.  Let me repeat that: Negative attention is still a reward!  It teaches them to interrupt you, annoy you, behave rudely, etc.
  3. No Attention

The problem is that children want attention all the time.  If they don’t get positive attention, they will still want it and negative attention provides that.

We give so much more negative attention than positive. So the answer is to give positive attention and they will want more of that.

You and your brother are playing so nicely together
– You should be really proud of yourself for reading that entire book
– I really appreciate that you put your clothes away
– It was very nice of you to let your sister choose the television show.

In our meetup group, one of the dads was telling a story about how his 6-year-old daughter would often complain of a stomach ache.

Of course, they would cater to her and give her attention.  She has now come forward saying that her stomach didn’t really hurt.

These are difficult situations because you can’t discount when a young child says they are in pain or struggling.  It’s a hard situation.

So we ask the question: Can you give your kids too much attention?  Even if it’s positive?  I think we can.

While it’s crucial to give the attention, there is such a thing as too much.  I’ve recently become concerned that my children now have certain expectations around events and school functions.  Because I have a flexible schedule, they have learned to expect that I will be there because I attend many of them.  For example, I recently went on a field trip.  When I first indicated I may not be able to go, my child was unhappy.  The reality is that I don’t want them to expect that I will be there every time because then when I decide not to or can’t, they will be very disappointed.  I think they need to occasionally be disappointed and learn how to manage that.  Not everything in life is perfect.  While I thought it was, it makes it difficult to handle things as you get older.

So what do we do?  How do we manage the attention seeking child?  Here are some ways to do that:

1) As we discussed, focus the attention on positive attention

2) Spend alone time with them

3) Teach them to ask for what they want

4) Tell your child what to do instead of what not to do.  The word NO often causes friction.

5) Ignore bad behavior

Ultimately have a discussion with your child when you are both calm that you simply won’t interact or deal with bad behavior.   However be sure to really make a big deal when they do good things.


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