Signs your child might need some more attention

We all experience desires for one person’s attention from time to time – so do children.

Knowing how to respond to this in healthy ways can help both you and your child to manage this behaviour.

Acting out, interrupting conversations and clingy behaviour can all be signs your child needs more attention. 

Although it can be easy to see attention-seeking behaviours in a negative way, they’re actually a child’s way of communicating they’re looking for love, support and safety.

Everyone needs positive attention to thrive – it’s what helps us feel loved, valued and cared for. 

Recognising that your child needs your attention is the first step, followed by learning how to respond to your child’s behaviour in a constructive way.

We’ve put together a list of the common signs your child needs more attention and how you can respond.

Signs your child needs more attention

Giving your child the right type and amount of attention is important for building their sense of self-worth and security. 

It’s also an essential part of building a strong and healthy relationship with them. 

Knowing how to recognise these feelings is important for parents and caregivers.

Some of the signs include:


Periods of clinginess can be a sign of a healthy relationship and natural child development.

When a child is clingy, it shows they feel safe and secure with you. 

While some children are naturally more clingy than others, some children may be particularly attached to you when experiencing change or uncertainty. 

They could be asking for your attention or reassurance.

Interrupting conversations

Young children are naturally highly confident, meaning they don’t always think about things from someone else’s point of view. 

They may interrupt conversations you’re having with other people, unaware of how it impacts others. 

Children may interrupt on purpose out of boredom, difficulty with impulse control or to put off something they don’t want to do. 

Interrupting can also be a sign they want your attention, want to connect with you or want to feel heard.

Doing things very slowly

Children who are capable of doing tasks quickly and efficiently may purposefully take a long time to do certain tasks to get your attention. 

Asking for help, frequently forgetting things or refusing to go to bed can also be a sign they are craving your attention. 

Your child may recognise these times are when you give them your focus. 

Taking a long time or putting off tasks can be their way of showing that they don’t want to miss out on, or prolong that time together.

Tantrums and meltdowns

Tantrums and meltdowns happen when children don’t know how to deal with big emotions they’re experiencing. 

Toddlers and young children don’t yet have the language to communicate what they’re feeling or what they need.

When they feel a need hasn’t been met, it can result in attention-seeking tantrums and aggressive behaviour towards others. 

This could include the need for more one-on-one time with a parent or caregiver.

Lying and exaggeration

Children may make up stories or exaggerate when explaining something to you to impress you, capture your attention or win your approval. 

Pretending to be sick or hurt can be another way children look for comfort or positive attention from a parent or caregiver.

What to do if your child needs more attention

If you’ve noticed signs that your child needs more attention, here are some tips that can help:

Give them positive attention

Positive attention is the practice of sending your child positive messages by the way you interact with them. 

It’s one of the best ways you can show your child that they’re valued and loved, and it plays an important role in building their self-image and confidence. 

Every child needs to feel supported, encouraged and enjoyed for healthy development.

Experts have found that positive attention is much more effective at changing behaviour than criticising your child’s behaviour or pointing out what they’re doing wrong. 

Although not all of your interactions with your child will be positive attention, it’s good practice to try and give them more positive attention than criticism or negative attention.

Positive attention tips for a baby:

  • Smile at your baby
  • Speak to your baby and respond when they make noises
  • Comfort your baby when they cry

Positive attention tips for a toddler:

  • Make time for your child’s favourite activities
  • Tell your child exactly what you like about what they’re doing
  • Show your child you’re happy to see them when picking them up after daycare or preschool
  • Smile and make eye contact

Positive attention tips for school aged children and older kids:

  • Show interest in what your child is doing
  • Listen closely when your child speaks to you
  • Ask follow up questions to keep them talking
  • Point out and affirm your child’s positive interactions with others

 Create a schedule and set boundaries

Routines and clear expectations assist both kids and parents get enough one-on-one time throughout the day. 

For example, you might give your toddler your undivided attention before breakfast or establish a special bedtime routine with them.

Predictability and consistency can help your child feel more secure, knowing they have those important times throughout the day where they’ll get to connect with you.

This can also help parents avoid feeling like they have to be available all the time. 

Creating healthy boundaries and expectations can help everyone feel like their needs are being met.

Consider counselling

If you’ve tried giving your child more positive attention but find their behaviours haven’t changed, or are struggling to cope, child counselling may help. 

In some cases, these behaviours may be a sign of underlying issues which can benefit from professional support. 

Counselling can help your child get the support they need, help you feel more confident and make your relationship stronger.

Support for your family

Early Start Australia is a national therapy organisation committed to helping children and families like yours grow to their full potential. 

If you want to consult a professional to help build a healthy relationship with your child, you can reach out to Early Start today.

Our friendly team is available to answer any questions you may have and when you’re ready, reach out to Early Start to book an appointment.

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