Member question: My 5 year old son feeds on attention. Negative or positive. . Problem – to get any life things done…(brush teeth, get in Pjs etc etc. – we have to interact – i.e. attention. He uses this time to goof off to an extreme, play games, do the opposite of what’s asked – because he likes the attention – even the “mommy’s frustrated attention”. I typically end up walking away to do my own night time routine or such, just to break the attention zone. This is a nightly drain and not the way I want to end our day or go to be myself. Any suggestions?

Rachel’s Response: I have a question for you…Is it possible that he’s seeking STIMULATION and the reason he wants that attention is because it’s stimulating (and doing things on his own is boring)?

Member Response: Possible, but not my inclination as he has usually gotten a good dose of attention. And stimulation during the evening. He just sees it as a routine time that he can do these antics. Sometimes he starts doing the bedtime routine well, then stops, gets a grin and starts the antics.

Rachel’s Response: That absolutely sounds like a need for engagement (rather than just connection) to me. It is important to try to tell the difference because the intervention is different.

The bad news is that you can’t “front load” engagement the way you can “front load” deposits. Routines are boring and he’s going to need engagement in the moment (so it almost doesn’t matter that he’s gotten stimulation earlier in the evening). The good news is that you can teach him how to make tasks engaging and he won’t need you around.

Creating engagement is about teaching him to engage his brain or body in an activity that he’s doing. When he has to brush his teeth, dare him to do it standing on one foot. Or ask him to sing the happy birthday song 3 times while he’s brushing his teeth.
When he’s getting on PJs, have write down 3 things that begin with a specific letter of the alphabet between items of clothing.

Check out the document called “Ways to Engage Kids So They Don’t Misbehave” in the Files section of this group. There are many ideas broken out by time of day.

And the best news is that at his age, he can come up with new ideas on his own (because yes, the ideas will have to change or they’ll lose their engagement power.) I never come up ideas for my kids anymore; they come up with ideas on their own because this is the way kids’ brains are wired!