Attention - A childlike habit or a human need?

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Attention.  This is the special ingredient in heart centred relationships.  When we give young children our full attention, even in small bursts, we meet their very real needs for connection. They feel seen, heard, and part of a relationship - powerful stuff indeed!  

Do children SEEK our attention?  Absolutely.  

Yet our society spreads such a negative image of the ‘attention seeking’ child, painting this behaviour as something irritating, that needs to be stopped.  The seeking is condemned, and, in fact, so are the adults who ‘allow’ it.  Warnings abound about this behaviour becoming ingrained if we don’t put an end to it quickly.  

As heart centred teachers, we need to question society’s views, and counter them if the prevailing one isn’t serving our children.  

We need to recognise the true motivations behind common behaviours, and put a more positive spin on them.  Yes, children seek attention, and actually, it is a good thing.  

Full attention fills a child's fuel tank!

Full attention from an adult, especially one they have a trusting relationship with, fills a child’s emotional fuel tank.  It keeps the connection strong.  To want this connection is not an ‘annoying childlike habit’, but a very human need that we all have.

Children’s ‘tanks’ are smaller, and are still developing.  It makes sense that they need refilling more frequently.  Once we understand that, the child’s need for attention is not irritating, but an exciting expression of their human-ness.  

When we talk of full attention for children, sometimes it is presumed we are meaning the unattainable - being at the child’s beck and call, with full focus on them, 24/7.  Unattainable doesn’t begin to cover it, and actually, if we are tuned in to children, we’d realise it’s also not what they want or need.  They need to ‘fill up’ with our attention, but be free to move away.

They seek connection, but they also seek independence.  Their social needs extend out from us too as they grow, and their need to just be, separate from us, and others.  These needs can be met only if their emotional battery is full.

We act as the refuelling station, not the place to park permanently.

If the child jams their brakes on and won't move on from us, we need to check the quality of the attention we’re providing.  The busy, half listening, distracted adult is giving watered down fuel.  The child will survive on it, but not thrive.

In our ECE settings this means we need to deliberately ‘unbusy’ ourselves, slow down the pace of the entire programme and allow for small bursts of one on one time, at regular intervals.

Our team needs to be on the same page when it comes to valuing the relationships we foster with our children above busyness and visible ‘outcomes’.  The best outcome of all is that our children feel emotionally satisfied, as everything else flows from this beautiful core.  

Children know what they need, and this is why they actively seek our attention.  Isn’t our role to ensure that what they seek in our environment, they can find?

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