How to Stop Attention Seeking Behavior

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Attention seeking behavior is one of the most frustrating things for other people to deal with, and it often accomplishes the opposite of what you want. Attention seekers may be rude, they may interrupt others or top others' stories all the time. They may also engage in risky behavior to get you to rescue or punish them. If attention seekers are driving you crazy, there are some ways to help work with an attention seeker to make them feel more heard, and to give some boundaries to keep them from acting out as much. Here are some tips:

Understand What They Need
Attention seekers often act the way they do because they feel insecure and unheard. If they can't get positive attention to feel heard, then they will be bad until they get some attention that way instead. People in general need to feel loved and attended to. If they don't get this naturally, they will find other ways to gain attention. If the person who is seeking attention is your child or grandchild, then one great way to deal with this is to give them a lot of attention when they do what you want. Catch them being good and appreciate them for it enthusiastically and regularly.

Call their Attention to This Kindly
Your attention seeker may not be aware what they are doing, so another strategy may be to let someone know how their behavior is affecting others. Kindness is key with this, along with a gentle push toward self awareness. This is a good tactic to use with coworkers, bosses, or other people who are not your children, and with whom you want to gently deal and show respect. An example, if someone is hogging the conversation, would be to say something like, "Wow, John, that sounds like a fascinating story. I would really like to take the time to listen as soon as Susan finishes her story."

Set Boundaries
If kindness doesn't work with your attention seeker, then you need to put up a wall that is based on appropriate behavior. Though they don't act like it, attention seekers do understand, for the most part, what does and does not constitute acceptable behavior. To make it crystal clear to them, let them know, gently, that they have crossed a line, and spell out what will happen if they cross that line again. You can decide not to spend time with them anymore until they change. If they are adult children, you can make acceptable behavior contingent on being able to live with you, if they do. The boundaries are for your health as well as for the other person, so make it appropriate to your situation, so that you don't have to deal with attention seeking anymore if you must follow through.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "How to Stop Attention Seeking Behavior," in, February 9, 2016, (accessed August 7, 2022).