Is this child’s misbehavior really a cry for attention?
Disconnection is what happens when we don’t recognize the call to connect. Recently my friend Lori asked me for advice about bedtime power struggles with her three-year-old. She said that when she put her daughter Katelyn to bed each night, she would come out of her room again and again and again. “Mom, I need a drink of water . . . I’m scared in my room . . . I want to sleep with my brother.” In addition, Katelyn was waking up in the middle of the night and going into her parent’s bedroom. One night, Lori felt so frustrated (after the tenth trip out of the room) that she spanked her daughter and sent her to bed crying. Lori felt horrible. Needless to say, so did Katelyn.
Instead of offering her tips for redirecting power struggles, I asked, “Do you think Katelyn is in a power struggle, or is she just wanting to connect with you?” Tears welled up in Lori’s eyes as she recognized and reinterpreted her daughter’s “power struggles” as simply cries for attention and connection.
That night, Lori offered Katelyn some choices about a new bedtime routine. Katelyn chose to fall asleep in Mom and Dad’s bed. Lori explained that after she fell asleep, they would carry her back to her bed. Instantly, the bedtime “power struggles” were replaced with a happy, peaceful, connected bedtime.
Get in the habit of asking yourself, Is this child’s misbehavior really a cry for attention? If it is, offer connection. After all, your child will not likely say, “Hey Mom, I really need some quality time with you. Do you think you could check your Daytimer and schedule some one-on-one time with me?”
It’s up to you to take the lead.