Are you Meeting the Love and Belongingness Needs of Students?

Are you Meeting the Love and Belongingness Needs of Students?

“Ignore him–he just wants attention!” How many times have you heard a teacher say something like this? Attention-seeking behavior has a bad reputation in our schools, and it can often lead to difficult classroom management challenges. Yet Maslow, the often-forgotten humanistic psychologist, has helped us understand that seeking attention is a way of getting our love and belongingness needs met. The need for human interaction and affection is so strong that it is a kind of hunger–the more a child lacks these interactions, the harder he will try to get them. And any interactions, even negative ones, are better than none.
Some children, due to a lack of social emotional skills and competence, are hard to interact with. They might talk back, or whine. They may be pushy and demanding. They may lack manners, or constantly put others down.  Naturally, teachers and other children begin to avoid them, or push them away. This reduces their chance to learn social and emotional skills, and thus begins a downward negative cycle. The result can be children who use challenging behaviors to achieve social interaction.
Notice what the consequences are when children act out inappropriately. Often the teacher gets close, touching the child (especially young children) by holding an arm, physically removing the child from the area, or even picking the child up. Often the teacher is at eye level, in very close proximity, and she is usually filled with strong emotions. In a way, the typical reprimand of a misbehaving child is intimate: close, physical, and emotionally intense. Often a child with frequent misbehavior is sent to a vice principal, center director, or other disciplinarian, where he gets additional one-on-one attention in a more peaceful environment. In any case, the typical result of attention-seeking behavior is, not surprisingly, attention!
So wouldn’t it make sense to ignore these behaviors to stop reinforcing them? Well, yes, BUT only if you INCREASE the amount of positive attention the child gets at other times. The child is hungry for a relationship with you and it can be difficult to develop this if you are angry and frustrated with the child. It’s natural (but unprofessional) to ignore him instead. (Which is why he is using challenging behavior that is hard to ignore). What to do?
  • Schedule time to spend with the child. Sit next to him at snack or invite him to read to you one-on-one. Greet him warmly when he arrives and spend an extra minute or two talking with him at the beginning and end of the day.
  • Directly teach the child how to get your positive attention through modeling and practice. Make a list (or chart ) with photos) that can help the children remember these new skills. You can do this in small group if you have other children who would benefit.
  • Plan ways he can interact with other children in a successful way. Pair him up with a child who has excellent social skills for buddy activities.
  • Rather than trying positive reinforcement with praise or other tangibles like stickers, instead think of providing rich interactions. Remember he’s hungry, so he needs healthy “meals” of interactions, not “junk food” like quick praise.
  • Have honest, authentic interactions. Find out more about his likes, habits, fears, hopes. Think about CONNECTING.
  • Give it time. As his hunger for relationship is fed, you should see a reduction in the attention-seeking behaviors, but it can take a while to change deeply engrained behaviors. Show him that he can get your attention more effectively with positive behaviors!
What other suggestions do you have for creating better relationships with children who are difficult to interact with? Please share in the comments!

Comments

comments