Behavior Management Attention Seeking Behaviors

Attention seeking behaviors are anything that a child does to purposefully draw attention to themselves.  The child may be seeking attention from the teacher and/or peers. The attention seeking child will respond to both positive and negative attention. Any attention is better than no attention.  Some children need more attention than others in order to feel safe and secure. As a teacher it is your job to fulfil that need in a positive praising manner. 

The classroom environment can play a part in the inappropriate attention seeking behaviors. 

  • Pay attention to the classroom environment regarding noises, decorations, and space.  Are the child’s behaviors being triggered by overstimulation?  
    • Is there a variety of choices in order to avoid under stimulation?
  • Expectations of the child need to be age appropriate. 
    • Does the classroom have age appropriate activities and toys?  

It is important to prepare the child for appropriate behaviors in new environments. Not every child has the same experiences.  A child experiencing something for the first time may not be aware of the behavior expectations. 

In order to meet the needs of the attention seeking child, consistency is key.

  • Provide positive praise for appropriate behaviors. 
  • An agreed upon nonverbal cue, word or written picture can be used to communicate the child’s need for attention. 

When the cue is used, a response, by means of attention from the teacher is required. 

  • Over exaggerated praise is productive.

This will need to be taught through modeling, repetition and follow through in order to be effective. 

Provide opportunities in the classroom where the child can have positive attention from their peers. 

  • Give the child a class job
  • Give them the opportunity to share something from home
  • Highlight the “student of the day”

Remember the goal is to praise appropriate behavior and actively withdraw attention from unwanted behavior. Your relationship with the child can motivate them to change their behavior.

Beacon School Support Ltd. shares a technique that uses Tactical Ignoring and Proximity (Specific) Praise. 

  • Tactical ignoring: The teacher chooses to ignore drawing attention to negative behaviors.  
  • Don’t give attention or make the classroom aware of the negative behavior.  

It is NEVER acceptable to tactically ignore a child who is in an unsafe environment or expressing unsafe behaviors. 

  • Proximity (specific) praise: The teacher chooses to praise another child for a specific behavior, who is near the attention seeking child. 
    • It is necessary for the attention seeking child to witness the specific positive praise of the other child. 
    • Use the words, “I Like it when _____________” to express your specific praise. 

In order to be successful, this technique requires repetition and consistency.  

  • If you have a child with disruptive attention seeking behaviors, assess your environment, recognize their need and implement a strategy.

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