How to Help an Attention-Seeking Child in the Classroom

Smiling girl with outstretched arms
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It's not uncommon for children in the classroom to do things to get your attention. Too much attention-seeking, though, can be disruptive, causing trouble and creating distractions. The attention-seeking child will often interrupt a lesson by blurting something out. Their desire for attention is almost insatiable, so much so that the child often doesn't seem to care whether the attention they receive is positive or negative. In many cases, it doesn't even seem to matter how much attention you give them. The more you give, the more they seek.

Causes of Attention-Seeking Behavior

The attention-seeking child is in need of more attention than most. They seem to have something to prove and don't take as much pride intrinsically as they do extrinsically. This child may not have a sense of belonging. They may also suffer from low self-esteem, in which case they will need some help building their confidence. Sometimes the attention-seeker is simply just immature. If this is the case, adhere to the interventions below and the child will eventually outgrow their craving for attention.

Interventions

As a teacher, it is important to remain calm in the classroom even in the face of frustration. The attention-seeking child will always present challenges, and you must deal with them in an even-handed way. Remember that your ultimate goal is to help the child become confident and independent.

  • When a child's attention-seeking becomes disruptive, sit down with them and explain that you have a number of children to work with each day. Provide them with a period of time that is just for them. Even a two-minute period before or after recess—a period where you can devote your attention exclusively to them—can be very helpful. When the child begs for attention, remind them of their scheduled time. If you stick with this strategy, you will find that it can be quite effective.
  • Promote intrinsic motivation by asking the child to describe what they like about their work or how they performed. This is a great way to encourage self-reflection and help the child build confidence.
  • Always commend the child on their improvement.
  • During the child's special time, take time to boost their confidence by offering some inspiring words.
  • Provide the child with responsibilities and a leadership role from time to time.
  • Never forget that all children need to know that you care about them and that they can contribute in a positive way. It took the child a long time to become an extreme seeker of attention. Be patient and understand that it will take some time for them to unlearn this behavior.
  • Remember that students, especially young students, don't always know what appropriate behavior is. Take time to teach them about appropriate interactions, responses, anger management, and other social skills. Use role play and drama to help students understand other people's feelings and perspectives.
  • When you notice bullying, take the students involved aside and ask the bully to apologize directly to the victim. Hold students accountable for their harmful behavior.
  • Have a zero tolerance policy in place that is well understood.
  • As much as possible, recognize and reward positive behavior.