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Attention seeking behaviors?

Parenting Teens and Young Adults - Parenting, Children, Teens: Just wondering if you would have any information on attention seeking behaviours in teenage girls. I have a 14 year ...

 

  1. #1

    Attention seeking behaviors?

    Just wondering if you would have any information on attention seeking behaviours in teenage girls. I have a 14 year old daughter, who seems to be using destructive and negative behaviours as a way of getting attention.

    I try to speak with her and feel that we have made some progress and then...wham, back to square one. My thoughts on this are that it is related to her new interest in boys...of course, she assures me this is not the case...

    An example of one of these behaviours would be her "having an emotional day at school" and then when the school counsellor asked her what was bothering her and if she ever has any thoughts of hurting herself ...my daughter, blurts out "yes, I cut myself"... (having just finished writing P&P on woman and child abuse...which included information on this...I was aware that this was newly acquired information for my daughter not necessary a newly acquired behaviour). However, the school called me and of course she came home and I looked at her arms and legs - nothing...she advised me they healed. So, I admit I did a little bit of health teaching on the healing process...

    Bad idea - I guess, because a couple of days later sure enough she has some "scrapes" on her arms and lower legs. This time I kept my mouth shut and didn't provide any further information...as apparently, too much knowledge may not always be a good thing...

    So, this is just one of the behaviours that I feel are "attention seeking"....she is attending counselling...yet, this is starting to feel like a game....

    So, I'm at the point that I am not up for anymore leniency and talking...I'm about to start taking away some of her priviledges....

    Just wondering if this is a good idea...or should I continue letting her go to counselling (which she has announced to her music teacher...this is why she isn't doing well in class...she's in counselling you know!)...

    BC, RN, BSN

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  3. #2

    Attention seeking behaviors?

    Hi, BC:

    My apologies for not responding to this earlier - for some reason, your question was showing as an unread post.

    The first question I have is has anything of note changed or occurred in your daughter's life or in the family recently (or since this type of behavior began)? Any changes in friends, residence, extended family? Are you seeing any other behaviors in her that might suggest she is anxious, worried, depressed, angry, etc.? Is there any history in the extended family of perfectionism, excessive worrying, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, etc.?

    If, as is often the case, the behavior does reflect some underlying worry or anxiety or insecurity, punishing her by removing privilieges is not likely to be helpful and may well make things worse.

    You mention that she is in counselling - what sort of feedback if any are you getting from the counsellor?

  4. #3

    Attention seeking behaviors?

    Dr. Baxter,

    The significant changes in my daughter's life recently have been the starting of high school and gaining friends/boyfriend. (My daughter's public school career was not pleasant as she was very overweight and taunted by the other students - however, with some exercise she is now quite fit and has finally been able to make some friends).

    I have given my daughter privacy with regards to her counselling sessions and as such (at her request) have not spoken with the counsellor. My daughter advises it is "going well" and she will only be attending for 1-2 more sessions (end of school year).

    As for family history...well, I believe I would be in the "over-worrying" category at times at times I suppose I would be considered an anxious person. Her father has a history of depression.

    I did peruse a few of your posts and found some interesting material, in particular - the importance of adequate sleep for teenagers. This is something that I believe my daughter could benefit from...as such, I have discussed it with her and we have compromised on a bed-time that seems reasonable. Hopefully, this is one positive thing we could add to her lifestyle.

    BC

  5. #4

    Attention seeking behaviors?

    The fact that your daughter has a less than happy experience in her primary school years may mean that she is still feeling insecure about making the transition to greater "popularity" now, and it may also be having an impact on her self-concept and self-esteem (people like me now that I'm not overweight? what message does that give about my fundamental value as a person? that I have to look good to be liked?). She is still young - no doubt, in due course she will figure this out and perhaps her counselling is a step forward in that regard too. In the meantime, she needs to feel that she has your support without having you inadvertently either punish or reward her attention-seeking behavior. The message you really want to give her is (1) that she doesn't need to do these things to get attention from you or other people who are important to her (i.e., reinforce the fact that she is a loveable person without those behaviors), and (2) that these behaviors might be risky and even irritating to some of the people she wishes to impress.

    As for instituting "curfew" or "bedtime" rules, while this may be a good idea it is very important that these be implemented in a way that helps her to make healthy decisions herself. This is a time when your daughter needs to feel that she is being listened to and having input into decisions affecting her - it's how she learns to trust her own judgement and make good decisions. See my article titled Transitioning With Teens: Letting Go and Staying Connected for more comments about how to do this. There is also an excellent book by Jane Nelsen & Lynn Lott, title Positive Discipline for Teenagers: Resolving Conflict with Your Son or Daughter in an Atmosphere of Mutual Respect (2nd Ed.) (published by Prima Publishing, 2000).

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