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18 Month Old Wants Constant Attention

Question

Our almost 18 month old has started following me around the house most of the day trying to demand my attention. She doesn’t want to play on her own or fall for my distractions. She has started whining when she doesn’t get her way (attention, snack, phone, etc). "No" also doesn’t seem to have an affect on her anymore. She’s a ball of energy, ready to climb, pull, or push anything she knows she’s not supposed to put her little limbs. Help, please!

Answer

The first two years of a child's life is what John Rosemond refers to as the season of service (the first of four seasons of parenting). During this season a parent puts the child at the center of attention and provides near-constant service. During this season a parent must convince the child that he or she is wanted and loved, must provide for the child’s basic needs (including the need for adequate stimulation and opportunity to explore), and prevent the child from hurting themself. You should begin to establish certain boundaries (e.g., “don’t touch), but truly effective discipline wont be available until the age of about two years when a child begins to pay significant attention to his or her parents, and is tuned in to parental approval, as well as capable of remembering consequences. Between a child’s second and third birthdays, parents should gently, patiently, but purposefully remove the child from the center of their attention and position themselves at the center of the child's attention.

The critical thing during this first season is to avoid giving your child the impression that undesirable behaviors (like whining, screaming, tantrums, etc.) are the way to get what they want. While their verbal communications skills are not fully developed yet, they have an amazing ability to understand how to get what they want by how you react to their behaviors. Don't reward undesirable behavior by giving them what they want and don't encourage undesirable behavior by laughing at it or saying how cute it is.

By the way, it appears from what you have described that you are not using TV or some other digital device to occupy your child's attention. Watching television inhibits the development of initiative, curiosity, resourcefulness, creativity, motivation, imagination, reasoning and problem-solving abilities, communication skills, social skills, fine and gross motor skills, and eye-hand coordination. For these and other reasons parents should avoid this approach for children this young and be very restrictive with older children.

Marcus Robinson Certified Leadership Parenting Coach
arkpc@yahoo.com

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