What to do when a child wants attention but responds negatively – Reader Question

Reader Question – Can you help?!  Some questions that are better answered by the collective wisdom of the Creative With Kids community rather than just me. Share what you know in the comments!
What to do when a child wants attention but acts negatively

My Child is Giving Negative Response to Attention – but Wants Attention!

 “I am a single parent to a two (almost three) year old little boy. Lately I've been struggling a lot with connecting with my son. I think the most difficult thing for me is that most times when I try to engage with him he gives me this look like I'm absolutely insane, and just continues doing his own thing. I feel like I'm putting a lot of effort into connecting with him and I'm not getting anything from him. He's been acting out because he wants my attention, but when I try to give it to him I only get negative responses from him. I'm pretty much at my wits end. And that is why I'm reaching out, hoping to find…something…hope, answers, advise…”


Alissa's Response: I think the key here is not taking the negative emotions personally, and seeing them as emotions your child is feeling safe enough to express with you. This question made me think about is the section in Playful Parenting (amazon affilaite) by Lawrence J. Cohen, when he talks about “Unlocking the tower of isolation.” He reminds us that reconnecting not only brings out positive feelings, it also brings up lots of sensitive feelings. Sometimes reconnecting can make a child (or adult) realize just how lonely, afraid or abandonded they've been feeling and these are scary feelings.

If we can keep playfully trying to connect and allow our kids to safely experience these feelings we can allow them to work though the negative with empathy and help them find their confidence and contentedness again.

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This is a question I posted to Facebook before -some of my favorite answers are below:

  • “Participate in activities that your both involved in but are parallel, such as eating out, bowling etc so he doesn't feel like your eyes are on him and perhaps awaiting a negative response.
    Also- put together a reward chart and let him decide what the treat will be at the end!!
    Reward chart arnt just for ‘naughty kids'!! Kids love routines and structure!! X” ~Laura G.
  • “I was also a single parent of a then 3 yr old. I started a tradition of talking about our “happy, sad, and silly” each day, often at dinner time or bedtime. It gave me a chance to hear about his day from his perspective- what made him happy, sad, and what was silly today? Then I took a turn, sharing my day with him. We learned about each other's days, connected, and it often opened up a lot of conversation. 4 years later we still do it everyday. He looks forward to it…” ~Jennifer H.
  • “Remember at 2 years old they don't play with others. My daughter used to say come play with me, what she meant was come sit right next to me while I play by my self and ignore you. It is a phase and will pass. Don't feel bad about not connecting. He knows you are there with/for him and for right now that is enough.” ~Maria B.

If you have experience or helpful ideas, please leave your comment for our community!
To submit your own reader question you may email me at: alissa@creativewithkids.com.