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KD MAGAZINE! 
Posted: Dec 12, 07 ב"ה     ג' בטבת, תשס"ח                                          

 
 
 
   
 

Seeking Attention

Rabbi Shea Hecht
About the Author

 

The desire for attention is a basic human need. Ask 19-year-old gunman, Robert A. Hawkins, in the Omaha, Nebraska shooting. He killed eight people so that "now I'll be famous." He knew he'll be dead yet he was desperate for attention; he got it in the worst way possible, by taking others with him. His story just highlighted the fact that our children need attention. 

 

There are three primary ways for our children to get our attention: Negatively, positively and directly.  

 

Children that do negative things will get attention. Babies cry for attention and to make their needs known. Crying is an annoying sound, but that's the only way babies know how to communicate their needs. Some of us never grow out of that way of dealing with their needs.

 

A small child can throw a tantrum or make a mess and they'll get their attention - albeit negatively. On a teenage level - well it almost is beyond the scope of the human imagination what teens dream up or get involved in to get attention negatively. There are many other ways that children get negative attention such as complaining, criticizing and taunting. 

 

Though your child will sometimes get attention this way, some parents won't be manipulated into responding because they expect better and the child won't get the attention they crave.

 

Another way to get attention is positively  -  by trying  by trying to please people. People pleasers will go out of their way to do whatever they think will satisfy others and earn them attention. Some examples could be cleaning up a mess to please their mother, doing well on an exam to please their parents or falsely complimenting others because they think it will get them some more attention.

 

Though this might seem like a good way to get attention because it is asking in a positive way, it doesn't always guarantee the results we want because the action can sometimes be ignored. The child who comes home with a perfect score on his test to be signed might be disappointed that his mother is distracted with the other children and doesn't comment on the grade. The boy that cleans the shed to please his father might be let down when his father doesn't notice and remark about the job.

 

The last way to get attention is the most powerful: By directly asking for it. A child who comes home and says, "I had a rough day, I need some time to talk, I need a hug" is asking for attention in the healthiest way possible of all. That child is also more likely to get the time and the attention they want than one who comes home and throws a tantrum. Asking for the attention one needs is not a guarantee - there's always a chance one will be told, "I know darling, but it has to wait" - nonetheless that gives the greatest chance of getting what we're asking for.

 

The big drawback to asking for attention directly is that if the overture is rejected it can be extremely painful.

 

A smart parent will ignore the negative attention seeking, cash in on the positive attention seeking, but most of all train our children to recognize their need for attention and ask for it directly. Of course, a direct request has to be responded to graciously and abundantly.

 

These three means of getting attention and all their ramifications apply to every relationship - particularly marriage - where each spouse is looking to receive attention from their "better half."

 

It's sad that Robert Hawkins felt he had to take other human lives to get the attention he deserved. Most people don't feel that they need to go to such extremes. Had Robert learned to ask for attention in a more healthy way his nine victims would be living today.

 

Read more articles by Rabbi Hecht 

Rabbi Hecht's Website:  www.sheahecht.com  

 

 
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