Attention Seeking vs Connection Seeking

Why Do Toddlers Need So Much Attention?

As I sit here trying to write this, the joyful squeals of young kids fill the air. The attention seeking shouts of “Mommy, look!” and “Me do it!” echo through the play structure tunnels and down the slides like a megaphone bringing smiles to every parent in the building.

“Mommy, look!”

“Watch, daddy, watch!”

Anyone who’s a parent, or even just been around a toddler for more than a few minutes, knows how common these phrases are! I’ve asked myself time and time again, “Why does my toddler need so much attention?”

It doesn’t take long after a kid learns to talk that the look-at-me’s become commonplace. This attention seeking attitude is not unique to your child, I promise. And don’t think you can fool them and just say “I’m listening” without actually making eye contact. If you’re not looking directly at them the minute they finish their artwork masterpiece, then expect another immediate “Look!”.

Attention Seeking

Isn’t it funny how much our kids look up to us? We get so busy with our lives, that even before our kids are old enough to comprehend what busyness is, they’re already constantly requesting our attention; our FULL attention.

In reality, we have to juggle so dang much everyday (#adulting), and our children don’t really do much of anything! By the way, I’m talking about young kids here. We’re not usually ignoring our children on purpose. I get that.

Sometimes you have to look at the stove in order to cook dinner and not blow up the house. Sometimes you have to look at a different child’s diaper while you’re changing it so that you don’t get poop all over the place! And yes, sometimes you even have to look at your phone or computer a couple more minutes in order to finish up that important email or meet a looming deadline.

These are all crucial and necessary parts of life and our excited little mini-me’s 59th somersault may just have to wait a few more seconds before we can look…again.

But the important thing to remember in all of this, is that our children aren’t vying for our attention in an effort to distract us from the important things in life that we need to accomplish. They aren’t repeatedly saying “dad, daddy, dad, dadda, dad, dad, dadda!” to annoy us. They don’t realize that the act of wiping their own butts or eating all of their green beans are not huge deals in the grand scheme of things. They don’t know that spinning around like a princess or stacking the Legos 5 rows high probably pales in comparison to the 103 things you are currently juggling in your brain at that moment.

It’s not intentional. They don’t realize what they’re demanding. They simply want your attention.

The most nagging “Right daddy?”, “See daddy”, “Look what I did, mom, LOOK!”, “See? See?!?” can all be calmed with a quick acknowledgment. Quick eye contact plus a calm “Yes dear” or “Wow! Good job!” is often all it takes.

They simply want you to acknowledge them.

Most children, whether they realize it or not, aren’t just seeking your attention, but rather a connection.

So next time I’m about to lose my temper and yell something at my kids that I will most likely regret later, I’m determined to remember my own words here.

I will pause. I will take a breath. And I will acknowledge my child.

I think we often deal with this as adults too, even if we don’t realize it. How often do we talk to a friend only to look over and see them texting or distracted by something else? How often are WE that friend who is listening in one ear, but focusing on something else at the same time?

When it really boils down to it, there’s only one being that can truly and adequately fill our voids. Whether it’s as simple as listening to us vent about our co-workers, or it’s a deep cry for help in a season of tragedy, God is the only one who can fulfill us to the utmost. He gives us His full attention every time. He listens no matter how big or small.

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” –Jeremiah 29:12

He will listen.

Mother hugging toddler and infant - Quote image - It's often not attention that the child is seeking, but connection. - Attention Seeking Vs. Connection Seeking

God is there to connect with His children beyond what any of us as earthly parents can ever do on our own for our children.

That’s the key. As a parent, I can’t be perfect. I am not perfect. I never will be perfect. Pointing our children to God in and through everything is the best thing we can do for our family. That connection is deeper than anything we can fabricate in our own strength.

So, if I view my child’s attempts for attention as what they truly are, a desire for genuine connection, then my perspective will shift greatly and my child will probably feel much more fulfilled and secure in knowing I am there for him/her.

Big or small, I’m here for you child.

Just like our Heavenly Father always is.

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