Episode 27 –
How much attention does my child need?

Episode 27

“I remember times when I would be getting ready to read a bedtime story with my daughter and she would ask me to put my phone away.  She didn’t even want it in the room. It really made me more conscious of that even for my younger ones who may not be as effective in communicating this need.”

Am I giving my child enough attention? Who hasn’t asked themselves this question!

In this episode I answer this question from both the perspective of a full-time working parent and a stay-at-home parent. I also address how attention needs differ from sibling to sibling and how to adjust yourself to each child’s needs (as much as possible!)

Check out the books, The 5 Love Languages and The 5 Love Languages of Children – both by Gary Chapman. They are must-reads!

Let me know what questions you have on this subject in the Raiseology Parenting Facebook group! Thanks for listening!

 

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Welcome to the Raiseology podcast with your host, pediatrician and parenting mentor, Sharon Somekh, here to empower parents to raise resilient and independent children. Grab your coffee or your Margarita and let’s get started. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should be used to supplement rather than substitute the care provided by your physician.

I’m going to be challenging myself this month to share parenting tips every day via live video in the Raiseology Parenting facebook group.   So be sure to join the group if you haven’t already!

 

Ok, We’ve all been there- That feeling that we just don’t know if we are doing enough as parents?  That guilty feeling that we know we can be giving much more attention and occasionally our kids are actually letting us know that’s the case- they need it, they want it, and they will go to seemingly extreme measures to get it.  

 

The thing is while our kids much prefer our positive attention, they often will misbehave in an effort to get negative attention.  When we yell, or acknowledge what they’ve done, they are actually getting exactly what they want- our attention on them.

But is this avoidable, and if so how?  When will we feel we confident that we’ve given them enough attention even if they are begging for more?  And if they are begging for more what can we do to stop it?

 

Wow, there are a lot of loaded questions here.  

So, I think it’s really important to first address the question of how much is enough.  And I’m sorry to say there isn’t a magic answer. Rather than focus on how much attention you are giving your child, try to focus on the quality of that attention.  Some parents are with their children all day giving true one on one attention, and it still doesn’t feel like enough. Other parents are working all day and barely have 10 minutes to be with their kids but their kids are happy with that.  Sometimes when we are with our kids for longer periods of time we don’t realize that much of that time is spent with our phone in our hands, or with distracted by other things we may be thinking about or doing such as household chores or work responsibilities.  

 

Our kids notice these things and they do matter to them.  I remember times when I would be getting ready to read a bedtime story with my daughter and she would ask me to put my phone away.  She didn’t even want it in the room. It really made me more conscious of that even for my younger ones who may not be as effective in communicating this need.  

 

Aside from how present you are its important to note that every child is different and the actions that may satisfy the need for attention of one, may not mean as much to another.  

There are several ways that you can offer attention to your children.  I first learned about these after reading the book the 5 love languages.  It is a book meant for couples in romantic relationships, and I highly recommend it no matter what the status of your relationship is.  It really helps you realize that we all have different needs and we need to start thinking about how to show others love the way that seems to most important to them, rather than the way that is most important to us.  As I was reading this book, I started thinking about the effect this knowledge could have on our parenting. I subsequently read the version for children which was really insightful. I will link to both books in the show notes.

 

The idea here is that there are several ways to show love and attention.  We often think that giving our kids attention needs to be in the form of quality time.  While this form of attention is great and important, it is not the only one. For some children, there is more power in physical touch.  Simply giving your child hugs and kisses or a high five, may satisfy their need for love and attention.

For others, hearing nice things or ways you may appreciate them makes a big impact.  Telling my daughter I loved the way she behaves today, makes a big difference for her behavior tomorrow.  A much bigger difference than if I tell her I wasn’t happy with her behavior and would like to see her do better next time.  Both are ok to say, but one is clearly more encouraging. All of our kids can be caught in the act of doing good things… we owe it to them, and to ourselves to notice them, and acknowledge them if that’s what we would like to see more of.  

 

I once asked my daughter how she knows I love her.  She surprised me with her answer. “Because you always make dinner for me and make sure we have everything we need”, she said.  For her at that time in her life, knowing that I was taking care of her, was making her feel special and loved. Even though that wasn’t direct attention on her, it was the best way to give her attention.  

 

This is why I say it sometimes takes some trial and error and detective work to figure out what will work best for your children.  And yes, it’s challenging that of 4 kids they all have different needs and different ways they feel satisfied with our attention, but I believe that it is our role as parents to help satisfy that need, within reason, of course.  Warning: Once you figure it out- your kids will surely change it up on you.

 

Which brings me back to the question: When will we feel we confident that we’ve given them enough attention even if they are begging for more?  And if they are begging for more what can we do to stop it?

 

I cannot stress enough the power of conversation.  These are great questions to ask your kids! Ok if your kids are non-verbal you may be stuck trying a few things and seeing what works but if your kids are older, have this conversation with them.  Ask them what it is that they feel will satisfy their need for attention? I recently had this conversation with my oldest daughter. She’s been saying lately that she feels we don’t give her enough attention, and while she can be very mature and insightful, and understands that she has 3 younger sisters that need attention too, I’ve seen that this need for attention has been causing her to behave in ways I haven’t been too happy with.  In her specific situation she hasn’t been misbehaving toward my husband and I or even acting out, but I’ve seen her be really unfriendly to her sisters as a result. Basically, she’s taking it out on them, that she feels she needs more attention than she’s getting. As their mom, figuring this out and working through it not only helps my oldest who clearly needs something different, but also her sisters, as I can already see that making some small changes in the way I treat her has been making a positive impact on the relationship between my daughters. So we discussed that although she’s the oldest and requires the least amount of prompting at bedtime she would really like us to make sure she gets some time with us before bed.  Admittedly, if the evenings escape us and it gets late, she’s the one that often loses that time since she’s fully capable of putting herself to bed. But now that we know how much she values that time, we’re making sure to prioritize it. We’ve also given her more responsibility at home which she really appreciates, since it is really one way we can positively differentiate her from her sisters and make her feel mature and trusted.

 

Now, younger children often express this need for attention by way of tantrums.  The important thing to remember here is to avoid giving attention to tantrums and to really try to give positive attention when they aren’t tantrumming.  You will surely find a reduction of tantrums in doing so.

 

If you’d like to discuss your specific situation and how I may be able to help you book a free 15 minute consultation at raiseology.as.me

 

I’m going to be challenging myself this month to share parenting tips every day via  live video in the Raiseology Parenting facebook group. So be sure to join the group if you haven’t already!

 

Thanks for listening to the Raiseology podcast. Head over to www.Raiseology.com where you’ll find plenty of. You’ve got this resources for parents and any links or tools mentioned in today’s show. Be sure to hit subscribe on your podcatcher so they you can listen to the next episode, the minute it’s out. Until next time, have an empowered week.

Meet Your Mentor

Sharon is a general pediatrician, loving wife and mother to 4 daughters.

 After a decade of practicing general pediatrics and working with families, she realized there often wasn’t enough time while tending to children’s medical needs to help parents in the way that would be most helpful in shaping their children’s futures.

 The Raiseology Program was developed to teach parents how to raise their children with the love and authority necessary to promote resilience and responsibility.

Sharon’s experience with hundreds of families as well as her own help her meet you where you are on your parenting journey to help you make it what you want it to be.

Empowering parents to raise resilient children in a modern world

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