Families are strengthened when parents give enough attention to their children but do not overdo the attention. Parents need to insist that their children accept the fact that neither the family nor the world revolves around them. Children need to understand that no human being deserves to be the center of anyone's attention and especially not on a near-constant basis.
Psychologist John Rosemond, well-known parenting expert, recently wrote a column about the Look-at-me Beast. A mother wrote to him about her five-year-old daughter who was demanding far too much attention from her mother. Her demands included getting her a glass of water, watching her play, putting on her shoes, and lying down with her until she went to sleep.
Dr. Rosemond suggested that the mother spend about a week making a list of all the unnecessary demands from her daughter. When she had written approximately thirty demands, she was to put the list on the refrigerator and then read the list to her daughter. The mother was to explain to her daughter that a doctor said that she was too old to be asking for so much assistance, and the doctor wanted her to cross two items off the list every week. He said to call it the "I'm-Growing-Up List" and to tell her, "This is how children grow up. They begin doing things for themselves."
The child is to choose which two items are to be crossed off each week. Once the item has been crossed off, the mother is to remind the daughter that she crossed off the item because she is growing up and refuse any requests to do it. After a few weeks the child will be doing things that she has not crossed off, and she will be proud of her new abilities.
I found this statement by Dr. Rosemond to be very interesting: "Contrary to the prevailing myth, children who act `starved' for attention have received too much, not too little. They've come to depend on being the center of attention, and the more the Look-at-me Beast is fed, the bigger it gets and the more demanding it becomes. Children who don't get enough attention usually withdraw into their own little windowless worlds."
Dr. Rosemond explained that a parent's decision is not wrong simply because it upsets the child. "The fact is children don't know what they truly need. They only know what they want, and they believe that what they want they deserve to have, and no one has a right to deny them. That belief defines a child, in fact; therefore, lots of children in question are much older than twenty-one. It takes some people a long time to grow up."
Parents can do their children a big favor by insisting that they grow up. A Growing-Up Chart is a good way to motivate children to become more independent and to do things for themselves. Families are strengthened when children grow up and meet as many of their own needs as possible. As they learn to care for themselves, they become more capable and more productive members of the family.