how to stop a 5 yr old from craving negative attention?

Alyse - posted on 12/26/2011 ( 5 moms have responded )

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my 5 yr old son craves negative attention from my husband and tries to get a rise out of him. Even though my husband always gives him praise and gives him positive attention my son turns it around and does something to make us put him in time out. Any suggestions

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Katherine - posted on 12/27/2011

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The Positive about the Negative

Say my name. It's been said that people love hearing the sound of their own names. When you hear your name spoken aloud, it's a tiny manifestation that you exist. You belong in the world. You're acknowledged. So I imagine that if little Johnny is hearing, "Johnny! Quit that! Johnny! Did you hear me? Johnny! I mean it! Johnny! Stop that NOW! Johnny. . ." then little Johnny is certain to know he's alive. That's a lot of validation.

You say tomato, I say tom-ah-to. Conflict is stimulating. Perhaps these kids secretly feel some delight that a little bit of controversy is brewing. Think about it-human beings love debates. On television, we crave the scandals. We like the news programs where two "experts" hash it out. We like to watch presidential candidates squirm in the hot seat. Maybe a little dispute with mom and dad provides some well-needed intellectual stimulation.

Power to the people. Provoking others and causing upset is a manifestation of power. If Susie has the ability to get her siblings up in arms, and has ruined or changed the family outing because of her actions, that's a lot of influence she has on her world. In her view, she must truly be an important individual to have so much power. There must be real satisfaction in that.

So if negative attention can be desirable, how can we curb a child's intense need for it?

It's not the "negative" aspect of the attention that the child really wants, but the attention itself. From the above three examples, we can take the positive desirable elements-recognition, intellectual stimulation, and power-and channel them toward the positive.

Recognition: Try saying your child's name numerous times a day with a positive spin. "Wow, Johnny! You got ready for school today early and even finished your homework! That's terrific!" And "I'm proud of you, Johnny!" Keep it on-point and not too sappy. Notice the good things, and point them out.

Intellectual Stimulation: Try initiating some interesting discussions as you drive around town or make dinner with your child close by. "What do you think about classrooms without desks? Some teachers are thinking about trying that. Do you think you'd like a classroom like that?" Or, "Do you think there'll ever be a female president of the United States?" Actively listen to your son or daughter's opinions. Ask questions. Show interest.

Power: These children might benefit from having a lot of choices to give them a sense of control. "Do you think we should make grilled cheese sandwiches or go out for hamburgers?" "Let's start reading together at night. What book should we start with?" "How would you like to rearrange your bedroom? You can tell me how you'd like it." With many choices available throughout the day, your son or daughter might not need to engage in so many power-struggles.

Our friends said they have tried to keep their family interactions as positive as possible on a daily basis, so that negativity doesn't become the norm in their home. We've all seen that negativity can spread and take over a family's way of communicating if parents don't take active steps to break the cycle.

Lise - posted on 12/27/2011

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Ignore the bad; praise the good. Punishment has many downsides, one of which being it has to occur EVERY time the behavior does. Give positive attention frequently.

Kelina - posted on 12/26/2011

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Have you tried longer term consequences? Since he's not behaving he doesn't get to go to a brithday party. Or to the park or something like that. He's at the age that you cn take away priveleges for a certain period of time, kind of like grounding but I wouldn't call it that. No tv for 3 days. No video games if he plays them. Clearly time outs aren't working, you're going to have to up the ante. And when your hubby is giving him this positive attention is h on his level? is it during one on one time? and is the time out offence something you can ignore? Depending on the bad behaviour sometimes the best thing you can do to get rid of it is ignore it, especially when they're doing it for attention.

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Suzi - posted on 02/07/2014

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Well I'm pro-spanking, but if that's not enough then maybe you can motivate him to behave by public humiliation (and that includes the threat of being punished/embarrassed in front of his peers)

Aaron - posted on 02/05/2014

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OK i need help here. my girl friend and i have 2 girls "hers" one is nearly a complete angel and the other just doesn't care about getting in trouble at all we've tried the taking privs thing we've tried and are still doing the positive reinforcement we've tried grounding from toys or TV or in the case of her getting up at 4 am and raiding the fridge for all the sweets she can eat her sweets privs and the youngest "4" still doesn't care she repeatedly does the same unacceptable behavior knowing shes doing the wrong thing. we have both tried sitting down with her standing her in a corner grounding her to her room rewarding her when shes good "which within an hour of she will climb on top of the counter in the bathroom to get the toothpaste and all over the place it goes" the angel of the 2 is 6 I've tried so many things i'm at my wits end. I've asked my family which i have a 2 teachers in one is kindergarten and a preschool teacher i have a friend that's a child therapist and any other avenue i can find. we've now run out of options. i have even tried ignoring bad behavior but i can only ignore so much. please help....

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