How to Address Attention Seeking Behaviors

When thinking about attention seeking behaviors, it is easy to conceptualize what this would look like, right? You have a little one wanting ALL of your attention. When they are not getting it, they resort to challenging behaviors to gain it. But, how do you address it?

Let me set the scene-

Let’s say you have a little one playing independently with her ‘My Little Ponies’. As a mama, you are leaving her alone because, well, you are getting some peace and quite (we’ve ALL been there! Don’t lie… Admit it, haha).

Your phone rings.. As soon as you get on your phone, your little one stops playing, approaches you and starts whining. At this point, you start shouting for the little one to stop so she doesn’t disrupt your phone conversation.

Oh yes… It is like children have a 6th sense for mama’s being on the phone!

Do they have some sort of agreement amongst each other where children want to conspire against all phone conversations? Geez!

But seriously, in the above scenario, the child actually received MORE attention for the whining behavior than she did for the appropriate independent play…

Let that sink in for a second…

The little one was left alone for appropriate playing but was reprimanded when she was whining. She received way more attention (even though it was a reprimand, she still gained more attention for the challenging behavior). Wouldn’t we want to give more attention for the appropriate playing?

Differential Reinforcement

We have this strategy called differential reinforcement where we would HEAVILY reinforce appropriate play or calming down (i.e. playing with those ponies) while ignoring challenging behaviors (i.e. whining). The idea is that the babes will learn that when they engage in more appropriate independent play or behaviors (yay!), mommy will give them way more attention over the whining behavior because mommy is going to straight up ignore that whining behavior, haha!

Other strategies for Attention Seeking behaviors

Other great strategies to implement if you feel like your babe is engaging in attention seeking behaviors-

  • Providing praise non-contingent of the behavior. Maybe set a timer for every 10 minutes. When it goes off, provide some verbal praise to say how proud you are of them, give some tickles, or just provide any type of interaction! By enriching the environment with reinforcement, it will *hopefully* reduce the likelihood that your cutie will engage in challenging behaviors.
  • Extinction- This is when you stop reinforcement for a previously reinforced response. Basically, you ignore the challenging behavior. This strategy can be very effective but it can also be hard to implement because it may get worse before it gets better. You also MUST also find a replacement behavior to teach your child!! If you JUST ignore a behavior but do not teach a replacement behavior, you may not see the desired improvements you were hoping for. So, if you choose this strategy, plan ahead and be consistent!

If you try any of these strategies, share! Let me know how things going. I would love to hear about it. If you choose to post it, make sure you are using the hashtag #beehavenmama and tag @beehaventribe!


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