Behavior is communication, and it is not uncommon for children to use behavior to communicate. Sometimes, kids act in ways that feel like a rejection to their parents. In these moments, it is important to remember that these children, most of the time, are in need of love, assurance, and validation. Understanding the root of the child's behavior can make it easier for parents to help them.
Children depend on adults to take care of them, it's a strong bond. They need adults to feel secure, loved, and safe. It is only natural that they find ways to seek more attention from them. It is thought, and rightly so, that good behavior warrants love, attention, and praise. Depending on the child though, it isn't always the case. Some act out in very unloving ways in order to 'earn' that love, attention, and praise. It seems unrealistic, but it's far from it.
What Does This Behavior Look Like?
According to PsychCentral, signs of negative attention seeking behavior might be:
- Raising their voice
- Interrupting, defying, or ignoring adults
- Yelling, crying
- Running away
- Pushing, shoving, hitting, kicking
- Breaking things
At a basic level, children usually act out when they have unfulfilled wants and/or needs, crave attention, or don't want to do something. Although negative behavior does usually result in some kind of attention, it's usually not the kind of attention the child wants, or the adult wants to give.
Children Are Not Miniature Adults
Children may have all the same emotions and feelings as adults, but they do not know how to express them. It feels weird, and children don't know what to do with it, so they throw it at someone. Oftentimes, that is their parents. According to Kids Help Line, learning to identify and express feelings positively helps kids develop the skills they need to manage them effectively.
Children have had their expectations raised a great deal higher at a much younger age than ever before. At school, they go in and sit down for long periods of time, still and quiet. They more times than not don't have the stamina or attention span to do this, but need to do it. They need to do what is expected of them by adults. It sounds frustrating just reading about it.
Adults don't like to be put under those kinds of pressures, but here we are putting it on children who can't even make sense of their emotions half the time. They are bound to act out.
Why Do Kids Act Out For Love?
According to Michigan State University, when children seek attention through their behaviors, they are feeling overlooked or insignificant. To get this need met, they behave in ways to make sure they get noticed. They throw their toys, hit their brother, scream or generally make life difficult.
Children tend to get what they want when they do this. It might not be how they envisioned it, but someone is now paying attention to them.
It's easy at the end of the day for a parent to snap really quick and react to these situations by yelling or scolding a child. However, in doing so, while they are getting attention, they are getting negative attention. Children would prefer positive attention, but attention is attention. They will take what they can get. If the only time an adult pays attention to the child is to scold them or yell at them, the child will understand this, and continue the behavior. Most times it becomes worse, it escalates faster, and it expands outwards to other places, including at school.