Question on Attention Seeking Child:

My son is 3 years old. He is a very well behaved child and everyone praises him for that. But when his dad comes home, that is every 15 days or so for a week or so, he transforms into a totally different child. He gets so ill behaved, he spits, laughs out wildly, hits his sister (6 yrs) and me, and cries so readily.

I just say “Stop that” and there he goes loudly with his crocodile tears and his dad comes running shouting at us. Yes, his dad loves him a lot and shouts at anyone. He was brought up without any manners taught. I don’t want my child to become like that. I work very hard at character development, and it works till the dad comes.

After he comes everything will be shattered. And you know what my husband says boldly,” What kind of mother are you? You tell me I don’t have manners, what have you taught the kids?”

I need help. What can I do?

P.S. His dad and I are not divorced. He works away so he comes home every 15 days. Thank you.

Attention Seeking Child

Answer: Your son knows how to behave when dad gets back to get all of his undivided attention. Because your husband only sees your family every two weeks, your son craves his father’s attention and does not at that moment care about consequences to you and his sister.

Typically, it is tough to help a young child understand what is okay or what is not okay if both parents do not parent as a team. Therefore, the first line of action would be for your husband and you to sort things out between the two of you (or seek some professional assistance through counselling).

Thereafter you could address your son’s behavior with your son by referring to your own feelings i.e. “When you hit your sister, it hurts her feelings as well as mine”. Ensure that you describe such statements every time he hurts someone.

When he is loving and gentle make sure to emphasize these actions with a lot of attention. That way your son will understand that he achieves much more attention from everyone when he treats others well.

Von Auer Psychology CentreVanessa von Auer is the Clinic Director/Psychologist of Von Auer Psychology Centre VAPC. She has spent her career helping parents learn effective parenting strategies, has helped children process their emotional difficulties in healthy ways and has helped families grower closer in their dynamics with one another. For more information, visit www.vapc.sg

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