Positive Attention Is The Kindest Form Of Parenting

Children, teenagers, adults – we can all be attention-seeking. Even if we shy away from direct attention, we would never want to be ignored by others or feel unvalued. And that’s why positive attention is such a powerful tool – it’s something we all crave.

We’re all attention-seeking

Most of the time, it’s an insult to call someone an “attention-seeker”. We do it when we believe they’re behaving in a way to get a reaction out of us and it can be annoying.

But we all long for attention to one degree or another because having our efforts noticed or our hard work complimented is a lovely feeling. It makes us feel validated, appreciated, and valued.

Children are no different – they thrive on attention.

Positive attention as a parenting tool - young child doing rock climbing at Bolton Abbey

The benefits of getting attention

Humans are sociable creatures – we live in groups; we share resources; we collaborate with each other; we choose to spend time together. This is why attention is so important to us – we want to know that we are valued by the rest of the group. We want to know that the people in the group care about us and that we are not alone.

We look to the attention of others to reassure us that:

  • We are valued
  • We have something to offer
  • They care about us
  • We are doing the right thing
  • We are worthy
  • We are loved
  • We are part of the group

If you’ve ever been in a room full of people and felt lonely, you’ll understand why the attention of others is so important to our mental well-being.

Positive attention and positive parenting - mum and child shadow

Negative attention is a substitute for positive attention

The thing is, it is often bad behaviour that gets the most attention. A child who just fits in will often be overlooked, whereas a child who behaves badly will constantly get a reaction out of those around them.

As parents of the 21st century, I’m sure you’ll relate to this scenario:

I’m sat on the sofa doing some work on my laptop (or scrolling my social media!). I have some deadlines to meet and my daughter is playing happily on the floor with her cars.

Suddenly I notice she’s decided to start throwing a ball at the TV!

I immediately jump up and tell her to stop. I either get really annoyed, or try to distract her by playing with her cars to encourage her to come back to them.

The problem is, I’ve just taught her that being naughty gets my attention – it’s the cause-and-effect idea. When she plays quietly, I ignore her and do my work. But when she starts doing the wrong thing, I lavish attention on her.

Positive attention is always preferable, but negative attention is better than no attention at all. And rewarding bad behaviour with attention encourages our children to repeat that behaviour again…

Positive attention reinforces good behaviour - sisters walking on stepping stones at Bolton Abbey

Make time for positive attention

This is why it’s so important to make positive attention a priority. We need to readjust the balance so that positive attention is so readily available that they don’t need to look for the negative type.

We can train our children to behave well by making sure we make a fuss of them when they behave the way we want them to. And it’s a much kinder way of doing it than always saying “no” to their bad behaviour, or constantly lecturing them about the right way to behave.

Lavish positive attention on children to teach them how you want them to behave - child climbing a tree at Bolton Abbey

I’m not saying you need to reel off a 20 minute speech about how wonderful your kids are every time they make their bed. But, if we go back to the laptop scenario, just take the time to look up from your work and tell your child how well they’re behaving. Let them know how grateful you are and that their contribution is making it easier for you to get your work finished.

This shift in focus also has the added benefit of boosting our kids’ confidence. You will be confirming that they are good people with value and something to offer the world. You are reinforcing the idea that they are deserving of attention and love.

You are telling them that you want to give them attention because you have given it without them asking for it.

Positive attention as a gentle parenting technique - mum and child holding hands

Look for ways to give positive attention

It’s a new way of thinking and it can feel strange to spontaneously comment on “normal” behaviour (as opposed to a naughty behaviour), but it can make the world of difference.

So start consciously looking for reasons to compliment your kids. Here are a few things you could look out for:

  • Doing their homework without being asked
  • Offering to help make tea
  • Playing nicely with their siblings
  • Sharing their toys
  • Helping a friend out
  • Owning up to a mistake
  • Following instructions straight away

When you catch them being good, TELL THEM! Let them know that you’ve noticed!

Positive attention is free. It is something we, as parents, love to give. And it’s something that our children love to receive. But so often it is forgotten. Let’s bring back positive attention and lavish it on our children with all the love and kindness we can muster – everyone will be better off for it!

Positive attention versus negative attention - children climbing through ropes at Bolton Abbey welly walk

Do you actively give positive attention to your kids or is it something you hadn’t considered before? What sort of positive attention works with your children? Tell me something your child has done well this week (big or small)! Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

PIN it for later:

Positive Attention is the Kindest Form of Parenting - positive attention for kids is really important. Praising them for behaving well encourages them to do it again. Positive reinforcement is a gentle parenting technique that trains children in a happy environment #positivereinforcement #gentleparenting


Add yours
  1. 3
    Enda Sheppard

    So nicely expressed … it can be so easy to forget to praise, just as it is so easy to give out, especially when we, as parents are tired or fed up doing everything around the house!!! #BlogCrush

  2. 4

    #BlogCrush I always look forward to reading your posts about gentle parenting. It is important to remember to give positive attention to our kids. I want to make them feel loved and secure.

  3. 5
    Rosie Doal

    I agree with this wholeheartedly. Nothing like giving your undivided attention and one-on-one time where you’re really present. A child really feels it and knows when you’re distracted. I try to give undivided attention to both my children one on one as often as I can x #BlogCrush

  4. 7

    Another fabulous post, Lucy! I love it so much I shared it in lots of places!
    I often see how children are ignored because they are being good and parents wonder why they misbehave or are silly often! It’s not rocket science! I have written a similar post but I think I prefer yours!

  5. 8
    Fiona Anderson

    Spot on, sometimes it’s the hardest thing to practice. I’m often afraid to praise good behaviour as it’s only time I get to get on with things as it pulls their attention back onto bugging about something or other. I hate I think that way sometimes when I do want to practice positive praise so much more than I do. Sadly I’m all too aware the reason my golden child gets hardly any of my time is because her little sisters naughty behaviour takes it all up. Such a hard balance is this parenting thing! #blogcrush

  6. 9
    Daydreams of a mum

    I’d like to think I do this , but I also have to say I think it took me way too long to learn. The elder 3 being so close in age life was pretty chaotic but when the youngest came along I was older and the others were in school and was just so much easier to practice the gentle parenting I’d always been trying to #blogcrush

  7. 10
    Liberty Henwick

    This i so true and a very valuble principle for the classroom too! I try and remember to remark upon or thank my kids when I notice them doing something that is kind or helpful, or if they’ve made a special effort but I’m sure I don’t always notice everything. I can be quite critical too and it’s something I have to be aware of. #blogcrush

  8. 11
    Lucy Howard

    I really needed to read this post. I’ve been giving my children lots of negative attention recently. But I really need to focus on the positive and let then know how wonderful I think they are. Thank you for hosting #blogcrush. Sorry it has taken me so long to comment. Hugs Lucy xxxx

  9. 12
    Lisa Pomerantz

    You are brilliant and have hit the high notes with this post on positive attention. No one ever failed from being loved or cared for too much now, did they? I love this and staying positive and giving of yourself as a parent, freely, is such a good thing for us all! Thank you! #blogcrush

+ Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.