Positive vs. Negative Attention

I had the pleasure of observing one of our parent educators teach a workshop yesterday. During the hour or so that I was there, a very interesting question came up. Our educator was discussing healthy dating strategies with the parents, and one parent raised her hand and inquired, “What do you do when your teenage daughter believes negative attention is better than no attention at all?” (In other words, what do you do if you see your daughter dating guys that treat her poorly, simply because she feels that any boyfriend is better than none?)

 Great question – and our educator handled it beautifully. His answer was twofold. First, surround your teenager with positive attention. Second, help her identify the consequences of negative attention.

Positive Attention: Parents, first you may want to ask yourselves why your teenage daughter is seeking out attention in the first place. Can you see where she feels as though positive attention is lacking in her life? Make an effort to fill that void. Learn her love language (see Gary Chapman’s book here) and use it to encourage her. Make an effort to spend time with her. (If you feel very busy, start with small chunks of time – a car ride here, a cup of coffee there.) Choose one of her hobbies or pastimes in which to take special interest. Cheer her on. Take stock of the media in your house and the body and relationship messages that are being communicated to your daughter. Does something need to be eliminated?

Identify Consequences of Negative Attention: Your daughter may not be able to see the consequences of negative attention in her own life, but she may be able to identify it in her peers or in the media around her. As you spend time together, ask open ended questions (not directed at herlife) that will help her see the truth. Questions like, “Why does SoAndSo spend time with her if they aren’t friends?” or, “Why do you think That TV Character keeps dating him?” Listen to her answers first, and withhold that parental advice until she seems open to hearing it. Perhaps you will be able to transition into more personal topics and give personal advice after you’ve gained her trust as a good listener.

Parents of tweens and younger – it’s never to early to start surrounding your kids with positive attention! The sooner they recognize and appreciate that, the sooner they will shy away from the negative!