Is Attention a Need or a Want?

woman sitting at a computer getting attention

We all love getting attention or being noticed in some way. At Healing Children, we recognize that receiving attention is a human need. We all need to be loved, feel as though we belong, and that we are cared about. So how do we fulfill this need in kids who have significant behavioral problems?  

Often times, we discipline in a way that accidentally meets their need for attention and reinforces negative behavior. For example, talking too much to a child who is being rude, disrespectful, not following directions, throwing a temper tantrum, etc., can negatively reinforce behavior. How do we follow through with discipline and provide the right kind of attention that will lead to the child’s healing and development? How can we help foster healthy future relationships?

You can do this by giving them attention throughout the day. This includes things like check-in’s, noticing them, setting specific times to spend with adults, etc. Provide acknowledgement when they work hard, put forth effort, or manage a difficult task. Make sure you use enthusiasm and encouragement to show your joy in their positive behavior and the choices they make. 

Remove your attention and emotional energy when they are misbehaving, refusing to work, or won’t do what is being asked of them. If they need to be removed from the classroom due to their behavior, make sure you allow them time to think, reflect, and self-regulate. It is not your job to lecture, talk, help, use anger, or counsel them during this time. This can disrupt the process and may rescue them from some much needed self-reflection. Children will often come up with good solutions to their own behavior and academic problems if we give them the time and space to do so. 

Once they are calm (this may take a while) and have followed directions, you can then set a time to talk through their difficulties and provide them the help they might need as long as they are working harder than you are.

So go out there, and give your students lots of positive attention when they are doing what is asked, working hard, being kind, helping others, or just when you see them. 

Take a live course  or an on demand course or purchase our book “Healing Discipline: Bringing Hope to Shattered Lives, A Guide for Educators.” or our book Raising Babies. We are also happy to discuss any questions or concerns you might have via phone or email.  You can contact us at 1-888-311-1883 or email us at 





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