Tonight, I sit here just resting from the quiet and the stress of the week with my #2 granddaughter. I get a few days off before I get my grandson, so I will be working on VBS and writing, writing, writing. This week I did not get any writing done at all. I did more the week I had the Mother-in-law and the #1 granddaughter at the same time. I adore my #2 (my Rissa Roo). She is, however, extremely needy. She is #2 of 4, and often gets the short end of the stick. Since the advent of her 2 yo sister, she has taken up baby talk. This is one of many annoying habits, but it is one that compares to
Chinese water torture nails on a chalk board.
I have tried many tactics to eliminate this habit (at least around me), but to no avail. We did make progress this week, but it got to the point where I had to turn away from her and tell her she could choose to talk baby talk somewhere else or choose to play with Grandma. The point was to show her that her choices are her choices – a habit if you will - and she has the ability, at 8, to make better ones. We had a few hour long sessions with tears and more, but in the end, she was doing much better. The thing is that this child is so needy. She is also bossy. Along with that and some other quirks she has picked up as a bid to get attention (unconsciously), something has gone wrong.
So what? you may say. The point here is that the child is desperate for attention. However, the things she does to get attention work against her bringing negative attention instead of good attention. Of course, all children will choose negative attention over no attention. In my little Rissa Roo’s case, I have to worry about her because the attention getting behaviors are so bad and so hard to take, even for her grandma who adores her! I want to help her learn how to 1) entertain herself, 2) accept that she doesn’t need attention 24/7 (it’s never enough) and 3) learn that the negative behaviors are choices that do not work, and so teach her better choices. She also talks a blue streak and needs to learn that it’s ok to be quiet sometimes, but that’s another story and may have help from her ADHD.
Horizontal communication, that between us and others cannot happen in this kind of environment. It may take an 8 year old a while to understand, but I know adults who have this issue as well. They are overly needy and seek to have that need filled in ways that push others away instead of drawing them. Sometimes, these behaviors are habits, learned early and left over from childhood. Some of us outgrow these behaviors as we grow. Others, either because they do not see them or because they don’t know any better, continue in behaviors that effectively cut off their ability to truly communicate with others and thus get their attention needs met.
Vertical communication, that between us and God, can look like this at times too. We may not see it as ‘attention getting behavior’ (and neither does the child or the adult in the above paragraphs) but it works the same. Let’s say God does something for you. You say thank you (sometimes), but not much time lapses before you want something else. Some people get upset if God doesn’t do what they want in the time they want, forgetting all that God has already done for them. It’s like God has to prove His love over, and over, and over, and over. Jesus death on the cross is proof enough, and if we get nothing else, it’s more than we deserve. Yet we can act like a young child who loves mommy when she’s happy, but tells mommy she’s a ‘bad’ mommy when angry.
The Israelites displayed this behavior, and I believe God used their stories to show us how we do this too–so no judging allowed. God would do miraculous things for them and as soon as life got a little tough, they would turn away from Him or whine because they are unhappy with the now. They forgot the big things God did! We may wonder how they could march across a sea/river on dry land, among other miracles, and ever gripe to God again, but they did. And so do we if we do not watch out. I sometimes wonder if it breaks God’s heart as much as it breaks this Grandma’s to see a child hurting and doing all the wrong things to deal with it. I’m sure this is something He sees way more than I do: People looking for love in all the wrong places. . .
Do you have attention getting habits that interfere with your horizontal and vertical communication? How do you keep a grateful heart, appreciating what you get, while not griping when things don’t go that well? Anyone have advice for teaching this to an 8 year old? I’d love to hear what you have to say about this topic.
BTW–the other kids have wrong behaviors too, but they are just a bit easier to deal with and more amenable to correction. AND I l♥ve my Rissa Roo no matter what she does or doesn’t do.