Muriel Rand, professor of Early Childhood Education at New Jersey City University, recently addressed the challenges of many teachers who find it difficult to manage their classroom environments with constant attention-seeking behavior.  Rand submits that the ineffective but commonly used strategy of ignoring undesired behavior is simply ineffective when dealing with that kind of behavior, and unless the teacher couples this strategy with “increase[ing] the amount of positive attention that the child gets at other times,” the behaviors will continue.

In her article, “Are You Meeting Your Students’ Needs for Love and Belonging?”, on the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development website establishes that what underlies most attention-seeking behavior is the need for human interaction and affection.  This desire is so strong that many students who lack social-emotional skills and competence will engage in negative behaviors because this is the only way to address that need.  Even when a teacher is reacting negatively to inappropriate behavior, there might be “close, physical, and emotionally intense” contact by that teacher, thus, meeting the child’s need for attention.

Rand offers several suggestions for providing positive attention for the child:

  • Schedule time to spend with the child by doing things like sitting next to him during snack time.
  • Greet him warmly when arrives and spend an extra minute or two talking with him at the beginning and end of the day.
  • Model and discuss appropriate ways to get your positive attention.
  • Pair him or her with a child who has excellent social skills.
  • Don’t use stickers and other tangibles; thinks of ways to provide rich interactions.
  • Talk with him about his or her likes, habits, fears and hopes.