How to Handle a Preschooler Who Demands Attention: 5 Steps
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Attention-seeking tantrums are common for preschoolers.

A preschooler who wants attention has lots of ways to seek it, from the whiny "Moooooooom" to the insistent "Look at me!" to the behavior designed to grab your complete concentration any way she can get it. Your child is certainly deserving of your time, but not every second of it, and not on demand. If her constant craving for attention is becoming a problem, there are ways to satisfy her needs while still keeping your sanity.


  1. 1
    Talk to your preschooler. Get down on her eye level and, in the simplest of terms, ask her if everything's OK. Maybe you'll hear about a monster in the closet, a witch under the bed or a boogeyman waiting to spring as soon as the lights go out -- which explains her attention-seeking pleas and behaviors at bedtime. These imaginary worries may seem silly to an adult, but the fear is very real to a young child.
  2. 2
    Give your preschooler frequent hugs and pats on the back. It's not abnormal for preschoolers to want attention, especially from their parents. Playing with your child's hair, watching TV cuddled together on the couch, putting your arm around him, and even tickling him if he enjoys that will make your preschooler feel noticed and valued, and this reassuring physical contact may relieve the need to demand attention.
  3. 3
    Ignore attention-seeking behaviors if they're not dangerous or hurtful. You may feel that yelling will discourage him from throwing puzzle pieces, jumping off the couch, and running around yelling that bad word he heard dad say last week, but in your preschooler's mind, negative attention is better than no attention at all. Sometimes withdrawing the audience cancels the show.
  4. 4
    Put your preschooler in timeout. If you're ignoring her but the attention-seeking continues, it's time for a cool-down. Timeouts are also beneficial for you, since they give you a break from dealing with the attention-seeker's behavior. Don't interact with her during time-out, and resist the urge to give a lengthy, attention-providing lecture when the timeout's done. Let the timeout be the lesson.
  5. 5
    Redirect your preschooler's behavior. Instead of giving attention to those negative behaviors, reward the ones you want to see more of. You won't see the difference overnight -- it takes a couple of months to make a positive behavior a habit. Remain patient and consistent, though, and you may soon get your life back.


  • Set a kitchen timer during timeouts. If your preschooler gets up before the timer dings, restart the timer. He'll soon learn that not staying in timeout leaves him without your attention for a longer period of time.Timeouts should generally last one minute for every year of your child's age. A 3-year-old, for example, should sit for three minutes.


  • Consult the pediatrician if your preschooler is constantly seeking negative attention. It could be a sign that your little one is emotionally overwhelmed.Don't spank your child. Physical punishment may stop the attention-seeking short term, but it doesn't teach the child to change the behavior.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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