Kids wanting your attention

On holidays recently, my gaze was drawn to a family nearby. Mum, standing, was on the phone, cradling her newborn. Dad was sitting over the other side of the restaurant eating. The little boy, around 18-20 months old was running near mum and enjoying going up and down some stairs. Dad finished eating and came over to talk to mum. The little boy suddenly started crying out “Me wun (run), me wun (run)”. He was clearly trying to get dad’s attention. As soon as dad looked over at him, the little boy fell over intentionally. Now dad would have to pick him up. Unfortunately, dad didn’t get the clues and looked back at mum, focusing his attention on her.


What do your kids do to try to get your attention?


I’m watching with interest a teen whose family is close friends with ours. This teen has recently started mucking up at church, in groups, etc. This teen shared with me how they didn’t feel that their dad understood or really paid attention to them. (That is the teen’s perception. From my position it looks the opposite!!) Due to the position that the dad holds, no-one seems to have said anything to him about his teen’s behaviour. I’m watching with interest as I can see one of my kids going down a similar path.


What do your kids do to try to get your attention?

  • Hang around you
  • Pulling at your legs/clothes/hair whilst you’re chatting to other adults
  • Physically annoy you
  • Display inappropriate behaviour
  • Be naughty
  • Have vague sickness symptoms eg stomach ache
  • Whining, sulking
  • Tantrums
  • Tease or pick a fight with others
  • Start swearing or using inappropriate language

Some attention is better than no attention so even though negative attention may be expressed by their parent, the teen or child still craves any attention over none.

When children realise that they get more attention through behaving in a negative manner, manipulation starts to occur. This is not what we want at all.


Children feel secure and valued when you show interest and affection. Ways of doing this include:

  • Smiling at them
  • Looking them in the eyes
  • Gentle physical touch
  • Encouraging words
  • Show interest in what they are doing
  • Spending focussed time with them. Put down your phone/internet device

Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell wrote a series of book on ‘Love Languages’ years ago but I still find them invaluable. ‘The Five Love Languages of Children’ is a great place to start to learn more. They also have a great book for parents of teens – ‘The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers’. It is worth getting a copy.

I find it challenging at times to give my kids focussed attention as they are usually wanting it when I am busy doing something I consider important. I’ve eventually realised that stopping what I am doing and spending a little time with them when they are asking, usually reaps more time for me later after I have spent time listening to them.


Teenagers, especially, tend to pour out their heart when they are ready to talk, not when you are ready to listen.


If you want to know what is happening inside your teenager’s head, stop what you are doing and listen as soon as your teenager wants to chat.

What do your kids do to get your attention? I’d love to know what your response is. Please comment below so others can share from your experience too. Thanks.

4 thoughts on “Kids wanting your attention

  1. Catherine

    Mine tends to get really angry at everyone in the home. This indicates he needs to go for a walk with a parent and generally he chats about random events going on in his life and comes back much happier.

    • Jane Post author

      Thanks Catherine for sharing. Yes – they are all different and individuals aren’t they. You raise a great point about finding the individual thing that will help your child and give them space to express themself. Thanks Catherine.

  2. Anja

    Thank you Jane for this recent post.

    Having children with differing age gaps presents attention seeking behavior in my experience.

    My children’s age gaps go from 16months to six years and I have often found this a challege to navigate and not have all at the one time wanting my attention, love,assurance,validation.

    Don’t get me wrong, I feel blessed that I am chosen to be their mum, and that they feel safe to share their inner most loves and fears as it has not always been so.

    We are learning about asking to come in for a share and care and being aware of boundaries. Raising our awareness about appropriate and inappropriate times for a care and share…ie when I am in the bathroom, I am speaking on the phone.

    It is reassuring to read I am not alone and I can always adapt if what we are doing atm is not working.

    I love your point about picking up on queues, as we are working on this.
    Keep up the good work Jane.

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