The attention-seeking toddler

I’m all for seeing my children develop their personality and to begin to express themselves more, but Master One has learned a new ‘skill’ this week – traumatising his 5-year-old sister by grabbing her hair and giving it a good ol’ yank out of the blue!

‘Play’ for him. Painful for her.

Her tears and my swift response to un-grip his chubby little fingers from my daughter’s locks gives little Lenny what he requires… attention. From us both. I’ve also seen the beginning of squeezing and even a bite from him of late too.

As behaviour expert Anne Dobson told me recently, “toddlers need huge amounts of attention, and they’ll do whatever it takes to get it.” This can be behaviours like hair pulling, scratching and biting.

My toddler is clearly too young to understand that what he is doing is wrong, although I think he’s slowly beginning to understand the words ‘no’ and ‘stop’, but he now knows that pulling his sister’s hair makes us focus on him.

Mission accomplished.

Aside from the obvious things to be mindful of (like making sure long hair isn’t dangling in front of him like a carrot to a donkey), I asked Anne what I can do to try and prevent the hair-pulling at home, because surely, I’m not alone in this?!

Basically, it’s a matter of trying to prevent him getting to the attention-seeking stage in the first place. Here’s her suggestions.

  1. When they show signs of looking for attention, such as patting your arm or coming close to you, give them some one-on-one attention straight away.

  2. Show them HOW they can get your attention. You could play a game where the toddler pats you on the arm, you look at him and say ‘boo’. Then reverse the play. You pat him on the arm and he looks at you, then you say ‘boo’.

  3. Spend consistent one-on-one time with them, such as reading a book, playing with blocks, discovering nature. Feed their need for attention as much as possible.


Editor, Tots to Teens

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