Teaching Children to Get Positive Attention

Teaching Children to Get Positive Attention

What’s the difference between the children who are a joy to have in class and the children who push our buttons and challenge our last bit of patience? One important difference is that some children have learned how to get adults’ attention in positive ways and others haven’t. Consider the subtle ways that children interact positively with us:

  • Bringing us pictures they’ve drawn
  • Giving us a hug
  • Saying, “Good morning, Ms. Jones!”
  • Saying, “You’re the best teacher in the world!”
  • Making eye contact and smiling
  • Asking us about our personal lives – “What’s your dog’s name?”

These interactions typically take place outside of the actual academic activities. They represent a way of building personal relationships that we as adults also use in everyday life. You can think of these interactions as the grease for the wheels of relationship-building. And without that grease, the wheels turn slowly, squeak, grind, and wear down.

So it may seem strange at first, but what you can do is teach children how to get attention in positive ways.  Model nice things they can say to you and other adults, and have them practice. You can use puppets with younger children, personal lists of things to say written on index cards for older children. Suggest to the child that he or she can shake your hand when they come into the classroom, or ask how you are feeling. And most important of all, make sure that when the child begins to use any of these strategies,  you give plenty of positive attention and feedback!!! As children begin to get more attention in positive ways, they will have less of a need to get this attention by using more challenging behavior. Helping children learn these new strategies takes a while, so be patient. Practice again and again and before long you should see some progress.