Children With ADHD Crave Attention

Most of us understand ADHD as a condition where children are lacking in attention, or where they struggle to maintain focus, concentration and ATTENTION.

But I think we often overlook another form of attention

When I speak with parents, I often hear the frustration coupled with parenting children with ADHD.  And you know I don’t mean that in a rude…condesending way!  At least I hope you know that!  After all, above all else, I am a parent first.  I am NOT immune to finding myself frustrated and burnt out from giving all of my attention to two young children.

Now it’s really easy to lose patience with our children, and forget how fragile our children really are…  To overlook what they really want from us… 


This is the attention that I think often gets overlooked when we are parenting children with ADHD and even those children without learning differences (without ADHD).

We immediately think attention, and everyone in the ADHD community starts thinking about the child’s attention span – what they can focus on…  But what if it’s NOT really that?  What if it is that these children just CRAVE attention?

Our children will do ANYTHING for attention…even if it is negative attention (like yelling, screaming, shouting, punishing…)

Just imagine that your child is dancing on the inside because you are finally <in their minds> giving them your full attention.

I know it doesn’t always make sense!

Just keep in mind one thing — our children do not have the same words or vocabulary, or the “know-how” to communicate that they want attention.  Instead, they have learned that their behavior (i.e., acting out) is what catches our attention.

Again – it’s the delicate balance between positive attention, negative attention, and just plain old being a kid and a parent in this messed up, busy world!

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5 Responses to “Children With ADHD Crave Attention”

  1. betsy davenport, phd February 24, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Interesting you should discuss this. It was the very fact of my increasing difficulty in being with (attention) my child that pressed me toward medication treatment for her.

    Impulsively, she would whack me in the leg, the back, whatever body part was nearest, every time I passed by her. Not enough to hurt, not motivated by anger, she just did it. A moving target asking for contact, I suppose.

    She knew I didn’t like it, she was immediately sorry, then even embarrassed, for she truly was unhable to stop herself soon enough, in that infinitesimal space of time between the impulse and the deed.

    I found myself giving her a wide berth around the house. It was increasingly hard to have a reasonable go at reading before bedtime, something she had always loved, still did, but moved around way too much to make it work.

    There were many such things — the things parents and children do all the time which engender closeness, understanding, security, etcetera.

    I was pretty sure what she “had,” and felt it was only a matter of time before her own agonies would be more important as cues for treatment than those of other people (teachers, etc.).

    In fact, my exasperation and hers coincided in time and we did the conservative, medical thing. Ten years have passed, and no one is sorry for that. Sorry it is necessary, but grateful such treatment is possible in this day and age.

  2. I am experiencing an “attention hungary” child in my boyfriends 10 year old daughter. She visits during the summer for 2+ months. Although I realize it is a “special” time that she gets with her father, there just never seems to be an end to her wanting constant attention. He will spend the whole day with her, just the 2 of them, and when they walk in the door she is just as needy as ever. Although he is eager to please her, I can see my boyfriend is frustrated as well as exhausted with her. She is also constantly in between us as far as conversations go. She either cuts us off or finishes our sentences. And when we have guests, she wants to be right in the middle of the adults conversations to hear everything instead of playing with the other kids. She then repeats everything to her mother or other relatives. Not that we have anything to hide but its just the fact that she’s doing it & the constant attention craving that has me concerned for her future well-being as well as ready to run from her anytime I cannot deal with the lack of privacy.

  3. I also wanted to add the she constantly stares at me. Mostly at dinner, when we watched a movie the other day, I sat on the couch & she laid on the floor ahead of me and she looked back & stared at me 10 times. She also will just stand there while I make dinner, expressionless, and stare. Its quite uncomfortable as well as annoying. Whenever I ask her why she looks dumbfounded. From talking with her I come to realize that her mother doesn’t pay much attention to her on a daily basis, doesn’t let her get involved in kids activities (sports, art class, etc.) & gossips to her like they are “adult friends” about the mothers friends. I can only do/say so much w/o offending both parents. I also don’t know what to do about responding to the child in a way that would be most beneficial to her.

  4. Wow! Marcy’s description of her atention starved step daughter hits the nail on the head with whay I am dealing with now. I recently moved into my Girlfriend’s parents house and her little 10 year old cousin is the most attention starved kid i have ever met. I want to be nice to her, I really do but I loath it when she comes near me, especially when I’m busy or just need some private time. If I’m cooking, she’ll be like “What are you doing?” in a little voice that’s not her own. I sense she’s a special child because she can read my expression when I don’t want to be bothered. But like, ten minutes later here she comes again. She’ll say “Stacy, and then say some random comment that I have No interest in as adult whatsoever. When a another child from school or the neighborhood comes to play, she’s really over excited and irritates the chid. I dunno. I’ll continue later.

  5. I am 28 years old and was recently diagnosed with adhd. Adhd often goes unnoticed in people whom are quiet and well behaved. I have always been an attention seeker. I believe this is because I do not know how to entertain myself and i feed off of the energy of others.