Teaching Children to Ask for Attention

Now that we have learned about attention-maintained behavior and possible ways to prevent behaviors we need to discuss ways to stop the behaviors when they do occur. The most important thing to remember when trying to stop the behaviors of a child is to avoid putting all of the attention on what the child is doing wrong. Instead you should tell them what they should be doing or only give them attention when they are following the rules.

One way to handle attention-maintained behaviors is to give attention to someone who is following the rules. This can be done in a classroom setting with other students or at home with another child. To do this successfully you need to ignore any attention seeking behaviors form one child and look for ways the other child is following the rules. For example, if you are playing a game with Joe and Jane and Jane is screaming you may look at Joe and tell him that he can go first because he is sitting calmly and waiting for his turn. Jane should be able to see you reinforcing Joe for his behavior so she can learn from your interactions. Seeing that she can get attention by following the rules should increase the chances that she will stop engaging in unwanted behavior so she can get attention.

Another method to stop the behaviors of a child seeking attention is to use something we call functional communication training. The goal of this is to teach the child a new verbal behavior that will replace the unwanted behaviors they are currently engaging in. An example of this is to teach a child who screams when they have to do homework on their own to say, “can you check my work?” when the child wants an adult to come over to him or her. Another example is if the child is hitting their peers to get attention you can teach him or her to ask their friends if they want to play. Giving children a new way to communicate with those around them can greatly reduce the number of inappropriate behaviors you see.

Children who are looking for attention should not be punished, but they should be taught what they should be doing instead. Here at the Husky ABA Clinic we want children to be able to get attention, but we want them to get it through the use of socially acceptable behaviors.

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