What Are They Trying To Tell Us?

What is going on with our  kids when try to get attention in inappropriate ways when we are talking on the phone or to another adult?
Interpreting their behavior is very important to solving the problem!
If we assume they are trying to annoy us, it will lead to frustration and unmet need.

Children who come from difficult backgrounds have many behaviors that are perplexing indeed.  The question is, What are they trying to tell us when it comes to hard to identify behaviors?

One of the most difficult and  painful things our children may have gone through, is that they were not noticed.  The child who  has suffered from severe neglect, was voiceless.
They were overlooked, ignored; their needs were not met, and it was as if they didn’t exist.

When our children come home to us, they finally have “attention” and the relish it.  They don’t want that feeling of being “noticed” to go away.
“Somebody thinks I am precious!”
“Somebody laughed when I said something funny!
“Somebody noticed that I skinned my knee!”
They voice a need and it is met.  They begin to feel the awesomeness of being “noticed”.
And then…. the phone rings, or another adult comes over; panic sets in.

Honestly, I think these kids are afraid of being “invisible” once again, so they need to make sure that we know they are there.

I distinctly remember several years ago when our first daughter was 4. She was still in her foster family and they had come over to visit. We were all playing cards and she was in the living room lining up stuffed animals and singing to them  louder and LOUDER and then slightly looking over her shoulder to see if we were listening.
She NEEDED to have that connection/attention but didn’t know how to properly get it.
We did go over and tell her that she was really entertaining those animals well! She smiled and then calmed her voice, and eventually came over to “visit” the card game.
After her adoption, she often needed to be in the middle of us talking , just to make sure we still knew she was there.
“You are so entertaining! “Can you sit here just a minute while we finish talking, and then we’ll talk?”
And we would keep things short, as a 5 year old just can’t wait a long time.
She needed us to pay attention to her, and we needed to meet that unfulfilled need.
For her,  it was LIFE. Her life was on the line.
A child who has been severely neglected and has never had a voice, needs to be given that voice, and they need to know that we know they are there.
It is terribly fearful for them to think they might be forgotten again.
With that in mind, it changes how we view what they are doing, and then we can work to really help them heal and know that they are precious, cherished and loved.

There will be situations where you need your child to be quiet, especially if you are trying to take an important call.
Prepare them ahead of time.  Let them know that you are going to need them to be real quiet for a few minutes so that you can make that call.  You can even tell them what it is about if you think it will help them to know that you are not forgetting them.
I used to keep a jar of M&M’s by the phone.
If it rang, the kids would all run and sit by the counter where the phone was, and I would give them 1 M&M at  a time, while I talked on the phone, offering warm expressions to them , so they knew I hadn’t forgotten them. 🙂
If you can’t prepared them ahead of time, excuse yourself for a minute from the call and explain to your children what you are doing and let them know you need to talk on the phone for a minute, but you’ll be right back with them as soon as you can.

Welcome them into your lap to sit quietly, or hold their little hand.  Make funny faces,  and offer them a snack.
It is so much easier in modern times to do these things compared to a long time ago when I was tethered to a land line!

There may be that time when your little one is first home, that some conversations may have to be cut short, so that your child can stay regulated. This is ok.  You will continue to work on ways to help them know they are safe and not forgotten, and things will improve!

It doesn’t take long, if you know what your are dealing with.

For the parent who might not consider the child’s overwhelming need to be “heard”, it can be exasperating to have a child speaking loudly, or singing loudly while you are trying to talk on the phone.  It can lead to a parent’s own meltdown,and cause hurt for your child.
There is NOTHING WRONG with needing that attention.  There is nothing wrong with wanting relationship and protecting what you perceive to be losing!

But , those behaviors need to be tweaked so all can function peacefully, including parents who need to speak to each other or on the phone.

Children who have had no voice, need to know that they will never be forgotten again.
They need to know that they are cherished and loved, even if you have to talk to the Electric Company.

Don’t forget that a child who comes from a traumatic background, is going to need those extra layers of security for a long, long time.
Our patience is soooo needed!

Happy Parenting!

2 Responses to What Are They Trying To Tell Us?

  1. MT says:

    Thank you for another great post. How would you handle it if your child constantly asks questions he already knows the answer to or says “what?” a lot when the parents speak to him, even though he has clearly heard. (His hearing is fine.) What is he trying to tell us with this behavior? Should we just answer him like he is asking a legitimate question? Thanks!

  2. ChristieM says:

    I would answer the question over and over and over…..
    When you know he is regulated and calm…. I would take him out for ice cream or a soda and then ask the question…
    “When you ask a question you know the answer to, why do you ask?”
    Ask it in a curious and playful way.
    You might get a real answer or an “I don’t know”.
    Be sure to let him know you will always be there for him, answer his questions
    and love him.
    These behaviors will diminish as security increases!

Comments warmly welcomed!


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