Yes. This week I’d like to deal with the issue of attention. I’m not sure I understand exactly why it seems to be such a problem for us adults.
How many times have you heard a grown-up explain away, or dismiss, a child’s behaviour on the grounds that they are, “just doing it for attention” and have you ever stopped to think about what underpins that dismissal?
There’s no denying that we have a tendency to regard anything a child has to share with us as less important than our own adult concerns. In an awful lot of situations they encounter, children become used to being shooed away, shut up or shushed. Several of the children who have taken part in the How to Speak Child interviews bemoan the fact that they find it difficult to be heard, to feel they have a voice, or to get any attention.
So my big question is, if a child is doing something that we judge as being merely a tactic to get our attention, why are so resistant to giving it to them?
What is so wrong with our children needing us to acknowledge their emotional need, to praise their achievements or to just join in with their lives a little? Perhaps we are afraid that once we have broken the seal, they’ll be expecting us to be showing interest in them all the time - but I don’t think so. Any self respecting child needs their own privacy, wants their own interests and is happy to be left alone to live their own life every now and again. They would be mortified to have parents, teachers, or any grown-ups constantly focussed on them and putting them under scrutiny. After all, we all have times when we need to withdraw from others.
Perhaps, then, we need to relax a little more, trust their judgement a little more and also to remind ourselves that we are supposed to like our children. We don’t think it’s weird if our friends expect us to offer them some compassionate consideration whenever they’re feeling needy, so it seems unfair that we are so brutal to our children in this regard.
Within the bounds of reason, and with a common sense attitude to their emotional development, the next time a child you’re with does something, “just for attention” - try giving it to them. There’s nothing wrong with answering that basic need for human interaction, validation and acknowledgement.