Two Things Kids Crave
Give your child the right kind of attention and power, and watch behavioral problems go away.
“He’s doing that for attention.” “She has to be the boss.” True, true—but these are not faults or failings but a human being’s defining attributes.
Your baby’s first cry signals two enormous needs: love (attention) and mastery (power). Babies are born lonesome for you; they muster their strength to bring you back.
God placed Adam in charge of his environment. Your son or daughter is created to exercise dominion—to govern themselves and their world. They are designed to love and be loved—to find satisfaction in nurturing and in being nurtured. It’s natural and right for your child to crave attention and pursue power.
Because these things are their very survival, if your children fail to experience love and to achieve mastery in healthy ways, they meet those needs any way they can. They grasp any straw of attention—however negative or counterfeit. They use coercion to impose their will, and they use all the force at their command to resist authority.
Our mission as adults is to help children fill up with real love and good attention—to pump clear, pure water from deep in the earth so they won’t slake their thirst from mud holes of pollution. Our goal is to grow our kids into responsible rulers of their rightful realm—to guide them to govern wisely and well instead of squandering their gifts battling neighboring kingdoms.
So what can you do?
Teach them how to gain attention in positive ways:
1. Hold and cuddle them often, especially during stress or transitions (such as bedtime.)
2. Encourage honest words to request attention, comfort, or help.
3. Answer the first time the child asks: “yes,” “no,” “later,” or “maybe” (“I need to think about it”.)
4. Deliberately ignore mild misbehavior—refuse to notice.
5. Make frequent eye contact, and signal approval when they behave acceptably.
6. If they act naughty to get noticed, multiply attention when they’re acting right.
7. Notice and name specific positive behaviors—five for each correction or criticism.
8. Avoid unearned compliments or excessive praise (they are demeaning and addicting.)
Teach them how to exercise power appropriately.
1. Maintain strong boundaries; secure children don’t have to over-control to compensate.
2. Offer only good choices. When you offer a choice, abide by your child’s decision.
3. Give honest developmentally appropriate responsibility. (Don’t “baby” them.)
4. Respect them enough to refrain from making excuses for them. (Don’t pity them.)
5. Show them what you want them to do, teach them how, then let them do it.
6. Within safe boundaries, allow freedom to experiment and to learn from experience.
7. Let them speak for themselves—and listen. (You don’t have to agree; just understand.)
8. Encourage self-expression in as many modes as possible: art, music, poetry, crafts.
9. Model mission and include your children; assist them in developing purpose and ministry.