I have often thought that other kids seemed way easier than mine, but I was never openly embarrassed by my daughter’s behavior. Increasingly this past year, I have often wondered what is wrong with me or what is wrong with my child. We are pretty no-nonsense when it comes to child-rearing: the wrong choices mean consequences. The more poor choices she makes, the more material things and family time we take away from her.
However, the stricter we become with her, the more she seems to act out at home, in school, and in extracurricular activities. We try not to react too much to her when she gets in trouble, but I have realized that it is often the only focused time we have with her all day. Her offenses continue to become more and more egregious. Something is not working.
Instead of asking myself, “What is wrong with me?” or “What is wrong with my kid?”, I am now asking, “Why is she choosing to act this way, despite all our best parenting efforts?” She does not tell me a lot of what bothers her, but she does tell my husband certain things. We have discovered that kids have been cruel about her birthmark on her thumb, calling her diseased, and creating confusion with her racial identity. What are the other whys?
Both my mother-in-law and her teacher have suggested giving her someone to talk to in a safe space. Also, this has been a rough year, and I have realized that she does not get a lot of quality time with either of us. A main reason children exhibit negative attention-seeking behavior, according to nobullying.com, is that some kids only get seven minutes per day of one-on-one time with their parents! Seven minutes out of twenty-four hours?! I might try to get attention any way I could if the most important people in my life spent less than 10 minutes of concentrated time with me each day.
I struggle with feeling guilty over still doing some fun family or mommy-daughter thing with her after she has made the wrong choices. However, I now wonder if secluding her has had the opposite of my intended effect and is a main reason behind her negative attention-seeking behavior.
We are now testing out some new methods:
- Signing her up with a counselor that might help her talk through what the root issues are
- Focusing on words of affirmation – even if it’s for the smallest of good choices
- Only giving her attention for the positive behaviors she exhibits
- Minimizing our response to any of her negative behaviors
- Giving her focused, constructive, intentional time with each of us
If you have a child that is negative attention-seeking, know you are not alone. Have any of you already been through this and have tips for the rest of us to make it through? I am hoping that more positive parenting will result in more positive attention-seeking behavior. I would love to hear any stories you can share with your fellow mamas!