How to Discourage Attention-Seeking Behaviors in Children

If your child regularly whines, says inappropriate things or deliberately disobeys you, she might just be trying to get your attention. When children don't receive the positive attention they need, they sometimes misbehave just to get any attention, no matter how negative. It can be somewhat flattering when your child wants so much of your time and attention, but she must understand that you can't spend every moment talking to and playing with her. Your child knows that her behavior gets your attention 1. By changing the way you respond to her actions, the attention-seeking behavior will eventually stop 1.

Give your child positive attention regularly so he doesn't need to demand it from you. Talk with your child about his day, hobbies, sports, school, friends or anything else than interests him. Offer hugs several times per day. Praise your child when he does something right.

Spend at least 15 minutes of quality time per day with each child. This can help the two of you stay connected, and your child is less likely to demand attention.

Discourage your child from dominating your conversations. Explain that while you're happy he's participating, he needs to give other people a chance to talk. Together, come up with a subtle signal that you can give him when he's talking too much. Doing this helps children develop self-control.

Get your child a notebook or journal where she can write down her feelings. This calming activity may help her to understand her emotions and work out solutions to problems on her own. Instruct her to write in the journal whenever she feels angry or upset.

Ignore your child's attention-seeking behaviors whenever possible 13. Giving a reaction, such as yelling or spanking, provides your child with the attention she is looking for 1.

Send your child to her room or to a time-out chair if you cannot ignore her actions. When you tell her to go to time-out, refrain from yelling, blaming or nagging. Tell your child that you'll allow her to leave time-out when she's calmed down.

Practice consistency in the way you handle your child's behavior. If you're not consistent, your child won't take what you say seriously in the future.


Always rule out a medical problem before you scold your child for whining or demanding your attention. She might be complaining because she feels sick or is in pain.