"There are no argumentative children; only adults who argue with children."

Attention Addiction

Question

Our son is 4 1/2 and is basically an only child as his older siblings are no longer living at home. Lately he seems to be having episodes of anxiety, and they seem to happen at various times. He says his stomach hurts or he’ll eat very little for dinner and says he’s tired and wants to go to bed. He also seems to be very talkative when he’s anxious.

My husband started a new job recently, and he’s not home during the week. When he’s home on the weekend, he spends a lot of time playing with him and giving him lots of attention. He is a well-behaved child and has no problems separating from us and is not “acting out” in a negative way.. I read your article “The Child-Needs-Lots-Of-Attention Myth,” and the sentence that the child feels “safe” only when he is the center of attention felt exactly like what is going on. My question is how do we fix it? I hate to see him feeling this way or having these episodes.

Answer

Thank you for your question.

Sometimes a child that is the baby of the family and the only one still at home can get more attention than they need. There is an easy fix for your problem. Stop giving him so much attention. A child who gets lots of attention doesn't get satisfied and decide "well my attention meter is full and I am better." No, they become attention seeking addicts. They will crave attention of any type, even if it is negative. Unfortunately the child is not responsible for the problem nor knows how to solve it. This is a problem only a parent can fix. It is good that you want to fix this problem while he is young. It can grow into a big problem that will only get worse with age. If he says his stomach hurts and he wants to go to bed, let him. Don't read more into it than that. It is also natural for people of all ages to talk more when they are anxious. Don't make a big deal about this. If you make this a big deal then it will be. Let him talk for a few minutes and then just tell him you are done talking about it and move on. When you are listening to his drama about his feelings you are feeding the attention seeking problem. Also do not absorb his feelings. His 4 year old feelings are irrational and unreasonable, The less you pay attention to them the better you both will be. Send him to his room to play or better yet go outside. If you must be outside with him please read or garden and let him run free. The key is for you to live your life and enjoy it.

When your husband is home there is no need for him to spend lots of time giving your son special attention. This is also adding to the problem. He can spend a set amount of time with him but then he needs to go do something else. A great alternative is for you and your husband to do something together. Your son needs to see that this relationship, of husband and wife, is the most important relationship of your home.

It really is an easy fix. It may take a little time for you to get use to ignoring his drama and enjoying your life doing adult things but everyone will be much happier.

Sincerely,
Jada Waldrop
Certified Leadership Parent Coach
jadarenae@gmail.com

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