My Daughter Is Attention Seeker

19 February, 2020
Q Salams dear counselor, I need your advice. I’m a mother of 3 kids, my eldest daughter - 9 year-old- is an attention seeker, for an instance she gets upset over little things, she sometimes misbehave and doing the wrong just to take my attention and this really makes me nervous, How do I change her behavior?

Answer

In this counseling answer:

•Try to spend some extra time with her alone. Maybe take her to a favorite spot she enjoys or has one night a week wherein it is a special time just for the two of you.

•Give her extra attention and props for her good behaviors. When she is acting out or misbehaving, send her for a timeout for a few minutes.

•Don’t talk a lot about the behavior as that is giving it attention and re-enforcing it.

•Please do follow up with a counselor in your area if her behaviors are worsening despite your efforts to decrease them.


As salamu alayum sister,

I can understand your exasperation at your daughter’s “attention-seeking” behaviors! As parents, we all go through ups and downs with our children and with each new stage of development, comes new challenges and rewards.

A child’s temperament, environment, as well as the parenting styles all, reflect on how a child will sail through changes and challenges.

First of all, I would kindly suggest making a list of her worrisome behaviors. Then look and see if anything precipitated the said behavior.

For instance, if she was quietly playing with her toys or reading a book and then begins to yell or whine, was there anything that could have triggered this? Often time there are triggers to children’s behaviors that we are parents may miss.

We only see the end result, the behavior. Thus, I kindly suggest that you try to be observant of things going on before she misbehaves or acts out. I remember when I was about 7 or 9, we use to go visit my grandmother.

My Daughter Is Attention Seeker - About Islam

My cousins and I would play outside and very often I would bang on the door, screaming to get in and once in I would knock over a glass of juice, or rudely interrupt my mom and grandmother.

This, of course, lead to discipline. However, what I could not explain to my mother at the time is that every time I would play with my cousins, they would tease me and chase me with worms (ughh).

Therefore, my behavior was not acting out of being defiant, it was just an 8-year-olds way of indicating that something was wrong. This happens often with children, not always the issue of being bullied, but triggers that cannot be verbalized yet lead to undesirable behaviors.

Attention Seeker

Additionally, as you stated your daughter is the oldest, perhaps she is feeling jealous or left out as your attention must naturally now be divided three ways. This is completely normal for older children to feel jealous especially if there is a larger age difference between her and her siblings. If so, you can imagine being the only child for a while, getting all the attention and being in the limelight and then comes along two siblings whom you now have to share mom with. Eldest children sometimes have difficulty with this transition.

Give her some time

I would kindly suggest dear sister that you try to spend some extra time with her alone. Maybe take her to a favorite spot she enjoys or has one night (or part of a day) a week wherein it is a special time just for the two of you. Sometimes we as parents have very hectic schedules. We often work, take care of children, do our daily home chores, shop, take the kids here and there, tend to ant social commitments such as charity and so on.


Check out this counseling video


Researchers (1) found that the average American child only gets 3.5 minutes of daily uninterrupted time with a parent! Shocking yes. However, when we do factor in all that we do and the constant interruptions in a daily schedule, it is a plausible reality. If this is not the case with your child, perhaps she needs some additional guidelines on how to interact with others.

To accomplish this, seek out times when your child is being good and raise her. Give her extra attention and props for her good behaviors. When she is acting out or misbehaving, send her for a timeout for a few minutes. Don’t talk a lot about the behavior as that is giving it attention and re-enforcing it.

Just tell her “okay, it’s time for time out” and do it. When a few minutes have passed invite her back into the scenario and re-enforce her positively by saying something like “I know you can behave now, so let’s continue playing with the rest of the children”. Insha’Allah if you are consistent and firm-rewarding the good and ignoring/giving time out for the negative behaviors, you will slowly see a change.

Puberty

Lastly dear sister, your daughter is a preadolescence. This means that in a very short time she will begin menstruating and go through bodily changes as well as emotional ones. With the high surge of hormones, you will definitely see changes in her. Perhaps this is what you are experiencing now.

Research has shown that “a girl’s first period usually occurs at about age 12, some girls experience their first period much earlier. And even before she gets her first period, your daughter will be noticing other changes in her body: Recent studies show that most girls start developing breast buds sometime between age 9 and 10” (2).

Follow up with a counselor

So my sister, insha’Allah it will soon be time to talk to your daughter about the changes she will, or maybe already going through. If she has begun to develop breast buds or slight pubic or underarm fuzz, you know the time has started. You can always take her to a physician to confirm, but if she has started, this may also be contributing to her behaviors.

Please do follow up with a counselor in your area if her behaviors are worsening despite your efforts to decrease them. However, it is my feeling that they will be remedied by finding out the cause as outlined above and taking to appropriate actions.

We wish you the best, you are in our prayers.

Salam

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach.
Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.