Many times when we start discussing what is going on with a particular child I hear staff say: "she is just doing it for attention". We say this dismissively, as this invalidates the behavior and means we don’t have to take it seriously.
If you go to a play ground where children are playing and adults are near by, what do you hear constantly from the children: "Look, Mommy!" "Daddy, watch this!" "See how high I can go!" The children are clamoring for attention.
In fact, as adults we also demand attention. When you receive a compliment or an honor, do you call someone to tell them about it? Do you get upset if you try to tell your partner something and they are not paying attention?Attention is the food of the soul, the building material of the brain. It is necessary for growth and change. It is through the attuned attention of another that our brain develops and we form a sense of who we are, what the world is like, and what we can expect.
Attention is one crucial part of what was missing in the development of traumatized children. They were not central. Their needs were not put first. Often there was no one to listen to their stories and to take their disappointments seriously. Their needs were problems to be dismissed, not legitimate. Their cries were not answered. They have an attention deficit- not just that they cannot concentrate, but that they have empty spaces that have not been filled through the loving attention of another. No one was watching.
And now they are in treatment programs in groups of 12, 14, 17. Adult attention is in short supply, and is often monopolized by extreme behaviors. It some times seems the only way of being heard is to scream.
Paying attention is the greatest gift you can give another person. So next time you hear the words "he was just doing it for attention" stop. Pay attention. Listen. Express delight. Remember. Comment. Watch. Look, and describe what you see.
Attention is the nourishment you can give that will enable others to grow.
Loving Kindness Meditation for Self Care
3 years ago