Do Toddlers Need Constant Attention?

young girl drawing with her mom

As a parent, sometimes there’s nothing worse than having a toddler seek your attention all the time. If you’re feeling tired after a long day at work, or if you’ve had bad night’s sleep, having a nagging child hovering around you constantly minute after minute, hour after hour can be truly exhausting. But is this normal? Do toddlers need constant attention all the time?

In short, toddlers don’t need your attention all the time. In fact, by giving in to their needs constantly, not only are you making things a lot more difficult for you in the long run, it’s bad for their emotional wellbeing as they get older.

Why does your toddler demand so much attention?

Toddlers seek attention  for a number of different reasons, and it’s completely normal. They might be hungry, tired, want something or they might just want to play with you. However, how you respond to these demands is vitally important. Obviously, dealing with hunger is easy, and you should be able to tell when your toddler is tired and might need a nap. However, when you take hunger and tiredness out of the picture, you have to know how to deal with a toddler who seeks your attention all the time.  

Seeking attention is a like a drug for children. The more you give in to their needs, the more they crave it. And when you don’t give in, they can start misbehaving until they get what they want. You have to strike the right balance between playing with your child and giving in to their needs in the right circumstances, but also knowing when to say no and encourage them to play by themselves.

What are the signs your child need more attention?

Here are some key signs that your child might need more attention:

  • Misbehaviour

In general, this is usually the biggest sign that a toddler needs more attention. If they aren’t getting enough positive attention from you, they might have a tantrum. You have to remember that for toddlers, negative attention is still attention. Of course, some children are just more naughty and mischievous than others, but temper tantrums are a very effective strategy for toddlers to get attention from parents!

  • Fussy eating

Some children are just fussier at eating than others, which can be very frustrating for parents. However, if meal times are the only time when a child feels they can have some time with you, they might deliberately eat slowly, or refuse to eat their meal. This way, they can get more attention from you.

  • They look sad

Not all children will play up and have a tantrum if they’re seeking attention. Some might go the other way, become silent and look a bit miserable.

  • Asking for help

We all want to help our children if they need us, but sometimes children will ask for help when they are perfectly capable of doing things by themselves. This is often a classic strategy to get your attention.

Here are some other signs your child might need more attention.

How much attention do toddlers need?

Toddlers don’t need nearly as much attention as you might think. While it’s obvious that babies require the most attention and this gradually diminishes as they get older, toddlers who can entertain themselves for short periods of time is actually a good thing. As a parent, you should think of alone time for your child as a way for them to practice being independent.

Rather than giving them some screen time to give yourself a break, try letting them entertain themselves for a while. It’ll make things easier for you in the long run, and it’ll certainly benefit your child too.  Don’t feel guilty if you can’t play with your child every second of the day!

Is too much attention bad? Can you spoil them?

According to the parenting guru, John Rosemond, giving toddlers and children too much attention can cause problems when they grow up. Firstly it prolongs their emotional dependency, making it difficult for them to feel happy by themselves. Also, they are more likely to be disobedient and selfish.

What happens when they don’t get enough attention?

To be honest, this depends on how much attention you normally give your child in the first place. Children will look for as much attention as you can give them, which can be incredibly draining for you as a parent if you give in to their needs all the time. You have to aim for the right balance between letting them entertain themselves and playing with you.

Here are the main signs of a toddler who doesn’t get enough attention:

  1. Throwing a tantrum/creating a disturbance
  2. Nagging or whining
  3. Sulking

Chances are if you normally give in to your child’s needs all the time, providing them constant attention, you’re making things harder for yourself as your child will really play up when they are left alone. On the other hand, a toddler who can play by themselves for periods of time throughout the day will probably be more content when faced with some alone time.

Is it Ok to ignore your toddler?

Children crave attention, whether it’s good or bad. If you praise your child, you’re giving them positive attention, but if you yell or shout at them, then that’s negative. Ignoring your child can be an effective strategy if your child is misbehaving. They might be whining, having a tantrum, or crying when they are not in pain. As a parent, if you ignore these behaviours usually your child will give up, as they realise you’re not paying any attention to them. Furthermore, it should reduce the chances that they will play up again in the future. It’s important you don’t feel guilty as a parent about ignoring your child, especially if they’re misbehaving.

Can you give your child the silent treatment?

Following on from the previous point, you can ignore or give your child the silent treatment as a form of discipline for your child. However, just be clear what type of behaviour you’re trying to change before pursuing this strategy. Also, it’s important you tell your child why you giving them the silent treatment. Finally, you should remain calm and composed as possible (even if they’re really getting under your skin!)

How long can a toddler play by themselves?

It really varies and depends a lot on your child’s character. Most 18 month old toddlers should be able to play by themselves for about 15-20 minutes at a time.

How many hours a day should you play with your toddler?

You can’t really give an exact figure as your free time can vary day to day. For many families both parents might have full-time jobs. This means during the week it can be tricky to find a lot of time to play with your toddler. Once you’ve got home, prepared and eaten dinner, it can already be bedtime! Just do the best you can with your available time, and remember some independent play for your toddler is a good thing. If you have a busy work week, you can always do some fun things at the weekend.

Do toddlers get bored?

Toddlers don’t actually get bored as everything is new for them. In fact encouraging your child to play independently can develop their creativity and critical-thinking skills. All too often as parents we try and tell our children what to do or how to do something, when we should be letting them explore and find out things for themselves.

do toddlers need constant attention
Like this article? Please ‘pin’ and share on Pinterest