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Controlling attention-seeking behaviour

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#1 JohBD

Posted 23 March 2009 - 03:24 PM

At the risk of sounding like an ungrateful, complaining mum, I am going to go out on a limb and say my almost-three-year-old is driving me nuts!

Before we became a family of four when Ethan was born seven weeks ago, Noah had been the centre of attention. I’m not saying he was spoilt, but he was our only child and was the only grandchild so he had no one to share attention with. He has to adjust this comfortable view of life and accept he is one of two children and that attention he took for granted now has to be shared.

He loves his little brother dearly and is very protective of “his baby”, so much so that he shields Ethan with his entire body from curious children at day care. This is all very cute, as is his gentle patting of Ethan’s head as I feed him, or his concern when Ethan cries. But his behaviour towards others since Ethan’s arrival is what this post is really about.

As I outlined in my last post, Noah tends to become very naughty while I am feeding Ethan, which creates at least three sessions of stress between us every day. His behaviour includes various attention-seeking stunts, but the worst so far have been hitting and pinching me, calling me stupid, pulling the foot stool out from underneath my feet and jumping on top of me (and obviously the baby).

I am trying my best to keep cool in these situations – for all our sakes – but I am finding the situation more and more frustrating every day. I know he is doing it because he wants my attention and I am trying to combat this by reading to him while I feed, praising him when he does something good and ignoring him when he is acting out. The ignoring method seems to be working best now, as he doesn’t get the sought-after attention and switches to something else, like giving me a cuddle or playing with his toys. These are much nicer scenarios!

His bad behaviour has now even extended to his interaction with his dad and grandparents. Noah now argues about everything we want him to do, like eating meals, having a bath or shower, cleaning up his toys etc and it usually ends up with him yelling at one of us. He also laughs at us when we tell him he’s been naughty. When one of his grandparents cuddles Ethan, Noah either jumps on top of them or ignores them completely, giving them the cold shoulder for long afterwards.

So how do I get back to peaceful feeding times and have more of those lovely cuddles my son gives? I kept thinking the tantrums and bad behaviour that came on just before he turned two would lessen once he turned three, but as that’s only a few weeks away I can see I was deluded! I realise it’s a difficult adjustment for him to make now he has a brother, and so I constantly try to give him my attention when I can and reward good behaviour. I don’t want him resenting Ethan – or us.

How did your children cope when you had a second, third, fourth… child and what worked for you when their behaviour got out of hand?

#2 vicks-

Posted 24 March 2009 - 02:28 PM


sorry i don't really have any advice for you just thought you might like to know that you are not alone!  from your blog i felt like i was reading exactly about my life - only my second  child is noah!  

my almost-three year old jasper was exactly the same when noah arrived, playing up the most when i was feeding noah, by the time the feed was over there would be toys absolutely everywhere because jasper would be throwing things all over the place for attention.  Jasper is also very protective of his new brother but the anger was somehow displaced to everyone else... all i can say is for us it did get better after 2-3mths.  

However, Jasper has recently become very defiant, clingy and difficult (i too thought this would improve as he approached three yrs old but seems to be getting worse). yikes!

like i said, this is no help to you but do let me know if any good advice comes your way!

jasper 24-04-06
noah 25-08-08

#3 Pippi Longstocking

Posted 24 March 2009 - 02:55 PM

I must agree that this behaviour is very frustrating - we are going through a similar thing with our oldest son, who is at school.  I have found some great reading on the subject, you can find it by doing an internet search on Dr Nigel Mellor - his website has links to a youtube video where he explains this attention-seeking behaviour and how to handle it.

Basically it involves
* ignoring the small stuff (even if it is very annoying),
* giving heaps of praise for the good stuff the child does (he advises creating phantom jobs for the child to complete to provide opportunity for praise),
* for the big bad stuff give a warning then if it continues give swift and predictable consequences.

The child is looking for attention and we need to make sure s/he learns that they will get the most attention for good behaviour.
Good luck with it all!  It's so difficult to deal with this behaviour with a new-born baby and not much sleep!
DS 10.8.01
DD 3.2.03

#4 helenparr

Posted 24 March 2009 - 05:19 PM

We hit terrible twos with Holly at about 2 1/2 soon after Michael was born. It has continued in various more challenging and sofisticated forms for the last 2 years, and I see no apparant end in sight. Sibling rivalry and competition for attention are, I think, the main drivers and it's all about mum. I should be flattered, but I'm often flattened by my 4 1/2 year old's behaviour. We have days where it's one telling off after the next. Time out, priviledges withdrawn, bribery, tears and tantrums (and that's just me  original.gif ).

But, they love each other completely. Michael misses Holly when she's at pre-school and they play beautifully together in between fights. She protect him and thinks of him in everything she does. She can be kind and concerned and loving and thoughtful. We just have to get the balance right. I'm told, by the time they get to school there is a natural maturing in behaviour. You then get a few less volatile years before the teens begin.

The main advice I have is to keep your resources up in order to cope. I didn't follow my own advice, and it makes it very hard to cope sometimes. It is almost impossible not to be tired with a new baby, but if you can take advantage of grandparents, dad, babysitters and friends, then take time out for yourself, to sleep, to pamper yourself, to re-charge your batteries so you are armed and ready for the next round of challenging behaviour.

A wise lady told me that children sense your level of wellbeing and if resources are low, they don't naturally get the attention they want and they play up more. If you are well, healthy and happy, they sense this as well, and somehow play up less. So looking after yourself has double benefits.

#5 cindus_c

Posted 24 March 2009 - 07:05 PM

Hi there I know exactly what you are going through!!! I like you had the same scenario last year in September but the only difference was my sister-in-law had her first baby 5 weeks after my second son so my son got hit twice. It is very hard but after 4 months my son started to get use to his little brother and realising he can do more interesting things than just sleep.  Now my second son is 7 months and my eldest who will be 4 years in July has got an audience when he does silly things.

As for the grandparents both at times get the cold shoulder or "I don't want you to talk to me" etc but they understand and still give him attention.

It gets better and better when your eldest realises the baby will do more as he/she grows.

#6 merk

Posted 24 March 2009 - 09:54 PM

Oh my gosh that sounds very similar to what happened to my first child. After my second child was born, my first child (20 months) became very cold towards me. He refused to give me any cuddles and would push me away when I tried to hug or kiss him. He became very clingy to his dad and would shriek his lungs out whenever my husband had to go to the toilet. He also gave my parents the cold shoulder and was very rude and abrupt to them no matter how much love and attention they gave him. He also started hitting everyone, especially my husband and me. With all the sleepless nights and fights with my first child, everything just seemed like a blur for a period of 4 months, then all of a sudden, my first child just snapped out of it and became more tolerant again. He probably realised that the second child was not going anywhere no matter what he did.

#7 leesybee

Posted 25 March 2009 - 01:23 PM

Hi Jo, there's 17months difference between my son and daughter. When my daughter was born I made a effort to have my son get involved with everything to do with his little sister. We'd go and get the cushion and 'sickie rug' for mummy. Then he'd sit next to me and stroke her little hand whilst I fed. We'd also bathe her together. He'd get the baby shampoo etc. So I guess it helped including him in the day to day things. She's two and he's 3 1/2 and they love each other dearly. It's easy for me to suggest all these things to you, as there were times when he'd get bored, but I hope this advice helps

#8 Orangedrops

Posted 25 March 2009 - 01:35 PM

Why not offer your older child a breastfeed too. It would give him something wonderful to share with his younger brother and even if he says no he might just enjoy cuddling up to your other breast while you nurse the baby and it may help him feel less jealous.

My 2 1/2 loves to cuddle up to my other breast while my newborn is feeding and it helps us all feel like we are sharing that special time together.

Edited by puffin, 25 March 2009 - 01:36 PM.

#9 JohBD

Posted 25 March 2009 - 02:22 PM

Thanks for your great replies vicks-, Phillipa_M, helenparr, cindus_c, merk, luckyaussiemum, leesybee and puffin.

It made my day to know everyone is is struggling/struggled along the way I do. I love both my boys to bits, but just need everything to go smoothly every once in a while!


#10 clare1975

Posted 25 March 2009 - 05:50 PM

My baby is 11 weeks old and her brother is 2.5.  There have been many challenging times...I was given some literature that compared a new sibling to how we would feel if our husband brought home a new wife!  It helped me when I felt really frustrated with my boy.
Advice - don't sweat the small stuff, no matter how messy it is, agree with the person who said only react to really bad behaviour, such as hurting the baby or you.  Make some time as often as you can to go to the park with your son alone, not with the baby.  Let him watch his favourite TV show during feeds - yes he will be watching more TV than you like but it's not forever, and it will help you.
Good luck, it gets better when they forget that there was a time without their sibling - 4-6 months.

#11 JohBD

Posted 27 March 2009 - 08:23 AM

Clare, comparing a new sibling with a new wife puts things into perspective a bit! What a great way to relate. This will make me look at things differently.

Your reply had some excellent advice - thank you.

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