Dear Ashley,

How do you address attention seeking behaviors that show up as misbehavior, defiance, and refusal of tasks?

Hi My Love,

I know these behaviors can be disruptive, annoying, and unpleasant. I feel you. It is so understandable to feel the desire to put a stop to the behavior. We have been taught to believe we need to fix the child’s behavior. We’ve been taught that it isn’t ok for children to challenge authority figures like parents and teachers so when our child does this, we have an automatic response that the behavior needs to be stopped before it gets out of control. We have been indoctrinated to believe that if our child is acting in negative ways, they are the problem and they must change. These are beliefs we have carried with us from our own past and upbringing. Because we have these indoctrinated beliefs, we are showing up to our child’s behavior with our own knot of wanting to be seen as a good parent and parental attention seeking clouds our ability to look underneath the behavior and truly help our kids.

As Einstein says, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” What if our child is not trying to be troublemaking? My mentor Dr. Shefali says “No child wants to be bad because it doesn’t feel good to be bad.” What if you were to view the behavior itself as the child protecting their authentic self in the only way they know how in a system that isn’t working for their individual spirit in that moment? Do you feel expansion in this? When we see the behavior from a different lens, there is compassion available. We can see our child wanting to be true to their own spirit, their own body budget and their own needs even if it shows up in unpleasant ways. What if the attention seeking behavior is held in a hug of love instead? What if you continue to see your child as whole and that they also really need more attention? You can begin with getting curious about what their true unmet need is and how you can help to validate this authentic need. Go to the place of causality my love, rather than the symptom.

Notice any judgment you may carry about the behavior itself that may be getting in yours and your child’s way. Does this behavior remind you of someone in your life when you were growing up? Did you learn to temper a part of your authentic self to please another? What is your unmet need my love? How can you also tend to that?