October 6, 2020

Are You Giving Your Child Too Much Attention?

Parenting is a balancing act. Don’t be too strict or too lenient. Don’t hover, but still have enough boundaries. One area we can easily forget to temper is how much we focus on our kids. Are you giving your child too much attention?

As conscientious parents we are committed to raising our children’s self-esteem and building our children’s confidence, we often give our children too much attention. We make our children our top priority. We drop whatever we are doing to give them attention as soon as they demand it.

In doing so we convey to them that they are the most important people around and that they will always come first. We give them a sense of entitlement. Our children begin to think that they will never be required to consider another person’s convenience or comfort over their own. This can set them up for disappointments when they move out of the security of the home and into the outside world. Giving your child too much attention is nearly as harmful as giving your child too little. 

This won’t be apparent in the beginning but within a few years, an attention-addicted child is a serious problem.

Here are ways to tell if you are giving your child too much attention:

You cook separate meals for your children.

Of course, if you and your husband are eating salmon and you know the kids won’t eat it, fish and chips is fine. But if every night, you are bending over backwards preparing another meal so they will eat and, more importantly, not help in the kitchen or set the table, then you are telling your children meal times revolves around them.

You are giving in to your child’s demands or negotiations.

My middle child is a good negotiator. She is argumentative, logical and persistent. Even if she makes a good point, I have to stick to my guns and not give in or else I’m failing to teach her to respect authority. I’ll listen and respond, and sometimes I have to tell her she needs to do what she’s told because I am the parent. 

Your child interrupts conversations between adults.

Research in child development says that until children are about seven, they have a very self-centered view of the world. Children should not be allowed to interrupt adult conversations. They can be taught how to let their presence be known without interrupting. Show a preschooler how to lay one hand on the adult’s arm or leg and wait patiently until the adult can speak with the child. By covering the child’s hand with one’s own, the child understands that the parent knows he is there. Do not give in by lecturing the child on not interrupting or by asking anything. The child who is allowed to interrupt will continue to do so as long as he gets the adults complete attention. You may need to go into their room and lock the door to keep a child from interrupting your conversation. Your child will learn that it is better to be quiet and with you than to interrupt and be without you. If you can not do this you are giving your child too much attention.

Your children come before your marriage.

Turning away from your child to turn toward your husband will not hurt your children. It will give them a sense of security to see the two people who love them most love each other. Parents need private time. It is healthy for a marriage and healthy for the child to understand that there are limits and parents need time for each other. 

You have no adult-only space.

Yes, it’s their house too but if you do not have no toy-free, game-free, child-free zone where you can go and breathe, you’re telling your child there is no space where his or her needs don’t take precedence.

Providing a child a book to look at while you read a grown-up book is a good thing to do. There are times to read to the child and there are times for parents to read to themselves. Your child will learn to respect your right for personal time.

You stay home because of your child’s behavior.

Have you turned down invitations to get-togethers because you know your child won’t behave, or you don’t go out to dinner because he or she can’t sit still? You think you’re just choosing your battles, but you’re giving your children the reins and missing out on situations that can help them learn and grow.

Your child sleeps with you every night.

If your 4-year-old never sleeps in his or her own bed, you could be giving your child too much attention. I’m not talking about planned co-sleeping. Reactive co-sleeping, though, is a lack of setting and enforcing boundaries. Children need to loved and given the opportunity to be part of the family. Parents can avoid this trap by maintaining a life of their own and respecting their own rights. Insisting that a child sleep in their own bed is a positive step toward that child’s independence. Insisting that a child goes to bed at a reasonable hour is also a good thing to do. Parents need private time. It is healthy for a marriage. 

We must give attention to our children. Children cannot thrive without it. At the same time, we harm our children if we do not set limits. By respecting our own rights, we teach our children to respect us. 

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