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Negative Attention is Still Attention

Children need boundaries and ground rules.  When children don’t have structure, they makeup their own rules and negative behavior is what they use to get your attention.  ~Jo Frost

Kyle-on-quad-cleaning-branches-Aunt-Heather-Piper
Kyle wouldn’t walk around when we first trimmed the fruit trees… he would only help by driving his quad…check out the flames on his quad!

It’s no secret that I like attention, that is only when I want attention.  Actually, I  probably lived for this type of recognition more so when I was younger, and now I could care less.  Sometimes I wish I could blend into the shadows, even though it never works.  Especially if I’m running around in my jp’s (jogging pants) with an old T-shirt and boots.  Now that’s a look!  In general, I must stick out like a sore thumb.  I know I do wearing an outfit like that.  Well maybe not, if I’m in Walmart.  But I’m not here to discuss my attention gaining personality, nor my attire.  I want to discuss my sidekick, Kyle Piper.

Kyle is the same way!  He loves attention!  No matter what kind of attention, positive or negative.  I know he’s just a kid, but he thrives on it something awful.

When Kyle was a little tyke, around a year old, maybe a little younger he would do this thing that absolutely upset everyone.  I’m guessing he felt like he was being ignored.  Now come on!  Seriously?  A cute little baby boy, the only grandchild in our family and the son of my recently deceased brother, ignored?  Now I’m not saying that is or isn’t the case, but certainly not from my family.  In fact, we probably were the opposite and gave Kyle too much attention, if there is such a thing.

What was this horrible act?  If I would set Kyle on the floor or if he was just sitting there playing and he noticed we weren’t paying attention to him, he would drop his head down to the floor, stop it before it hit, and then lightly bang his head.  Then, he would cry and hold his recently bumped noggin.  At first we would immediately respond to the unusual act that unfolded before our eyes.  One of us would run over and pick him up and consul this traumatized child.  That is until this happened too frequently to count.  Eventually, we would make it a point to ignore our center-of-attention-deprived child.  As he would continue playing the same show, we noticed he would look for our reactions, not getting much from us.  I take it that was his cue to maneuver his way over to our always open arms.  Naturally we would pick up the “wounded”, but no one ever dared mention the head banging.  I remember one time, I said to Kyle as he was holding his head and crying crocodile tears, “Then don’t hit your head and it won’t hurt.”  Even though he couldn’t talk, I knew he understood what I was saying.  Smart little kid, the whole thing was a set up.

The first time my sister saw one of Kyle’s performances, she gasp so loud and raised her voice to say, “Ahh O no!  Aunt Heather!”  as she pointed to the self destructive child.  I saw what unfolded and realized Nicole never witnessed this behavior before.  In a very blasé manner, I replied, “Nicole, don’t watch him!  He’s been doing that.  It doesn’t hurt him, he stops himself before he really hits the floor.  Without him knowing, watch next time, his head barely touches the carpet.  Just pay no attention or he’ll keep doing it.”  Nicole, clearly upset did as instructed but was not happy.  To reinforce what we were doing was right I told her, “When Kyle doesn’t get his own way or what he wants, he’ll go straight to the floor and act like he hit his head.  I don’t care, he’s not getting his own way.  He doesn’t dictate orders and he’s not seriously hurt.”

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Kyle hanging with his pappy at Jim’s sawmill

On a side note, that’s almost too funny.  I actually remember saying that, and look at us now, Kyle does dictate orders.  We don’t always abide by them, but he does own us.

This act of getting attention has evolved over the years, but the goal remains the same.  Now it’s not always negative attention, even though that does consume the majority of the time.  Sometimes he goes out of his way to really be good.  When he does this, he always points it out.  There is no fear of missing Kyle doing something good because he always states the case.  He likes being praised and recognized for his work and efforts.  Example time!

A few years ago mom and dad were making sauerkraut and Kyle and I were helping.  The entire way through the process Kyle kept saying, “Am I doing good pappy?  How am I doing Aunt Heather?”  This is where Kyle really differs from the family.  We don’t need constant positive reinforcement.  In fact, we really don’t give it very often, only when a job is done and done well.  My theory is, if I’m doing something wrong, I will be told about it.  We are not a shy family about blatantly spitting out the truth or our opinions.  I guess Kyle is different, not about spitting out the honest truth or sharing his opinions.  He does plenty of that, but in regards to needing positive reinforcement.  Even while we were butchering up dad’s deer from this past season, Kyle would say the same thing, “Pappy how am I doing?” and so on and so forth.  Admittingly, I will say I have no patience for that need of constant appraisal.  Now I am not a tyrant, I do respond to Kyle, calling out his good work, but I have limits and I have no issue with saying “Kyle!  Yes buddy you’re doing a great job and we appreciate your help.  I don’t need to tell you that every two minutes.”  Sounds harsh, but I want Kyle to be secure when he’s doing anything and not always needing someones approval.

Sometimes I swear Kyle moves so slow, not really to get on my nerves, but to get my attention.  I know for a fact, that he moves like a snail when getting dressed to take the dogs for a hike, because he doesn’t want to go.  And let’s not forget two weekends ago when Kyle and I were both helping my dad trim back the fruit trees.  It was snowing on us as we worked, only because a cold day is needed so the fruit trees don’t bleed out.  I get it, it’s not the most exciting way to spend a Saturday morning but responsibilities come first.  Once dad cut down the branches, all we had to do was drag the manageable sized trimmings about 50 feet to a burn pile.  Granted we did need to help dad load up the quad with the saw and supplies, but really it wasn’t too taxing.  Completing the job in about three to four hours total, for this long overdue project was not a horrible sacrifice.  Would you believe all Kyle wanted to do was stand by dad and oil his saw when needed, which wasn’t very often, while I dragged the brush?  Are you kidding me?  I even told him if he really worked hard I would omit the hike with the dogs for the day.  Even when making a deal with him, that kid complained the ENTIRE time and walked as slow as he could, trying to do as little as possible.  I swear if he moved any slower he would have been standing still.  Literally, I walked circles around him, going back and forth with the brush.  Boy, his dad would have NEVER tolerated such behavior!  Ryan was an extremely hard working person, and I mean manual labor.  And to have his son, be the complete opposite while the rest of the family picks up for his slack would have never gotten past the first whine.

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Mr Stickerhead… Kyle always loved stickers! 11/18/03

As we moved through the day, Dad even tried to lighten the mood by calling him a Sasquatch, and teasing him about the speed in which he moved, like molasses.  He continued on c0urse, except I did catch Kyle snickering, as if he was really enjoying this attention that we were giving him by joking around.  I about lost it and grounded him from cartoons, the computer and his ipod.  If he picked up the pace and stopped moping, I told him he could redeem himself.  Nope!  He continued at a snails pace, with a miserable ‘poor me’ attitude.  Once we got back to the house, Kyle pouted about his punishment, but it was almost as if he wanted to be separated from his electronics.  Whether he enjoyed the sulking or that was his way of showing me he needed attention and restricted from those devices, I have no idea.  There is one thing that I know for sure, even though he was in trouble, he was truly enjoying the attention.  Naturally, everyone was lecturing him on hard work, and pitching in and helping out the family, the standard speech.  He is too much!

A few weekends ago, and come to think of it, this past weekend Kyle was on this kick of making really annoying noises.  The clicking or tapping kind.  He even started doing it in the car, just subtle repetitive knocking, while he would give me a sideways glance.  He didn’t think I saw, but I did.  I let it go, until steam is escaping my ears.  Kyle’s getting good, he knows my limit for patience and tolerance.  He was being annoying the other day and I went to backhanded his shoulder or gut and didn’t realize he was bending over.  I made a direct hit with his forehead.  We both got a chuckle out of that one.  That’s how I know his behavior is more about the attention then the item in question.

You know it’s funny, but I remember doing the same thing as a kid.  Once I had this juice cap top.  The kind that would pop up when the seal was broken.  It might have been from Snapple or some other juice.  Regardless, it had this unique sound that I loved.  I would walk around clicking it and clicking it.  Sometimes, if I didn’t want to listen to Nicole while she barked orders at me, I would just click the bottle cap at her and walk away.  Clicking it in Ryan’s face was just fun to get a rise out of him.  He was like Nicole pretty laid back, until seriously pushed.  Although, even though I really enjoyed clicking it to be irritating, sometimes my intent wasn’t to get on everyone’s nerves but to enjoy this unique sound it made.  That is until one day it went missing.  I know Ryan or Nicole had something to do with its disappearance.  These little moments show me how much Kyle and I are really alike, except he did and still does get ALL of our attention.

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Kyle playing with is cousins at Bruce’s picnic.

Surprisingly, or maybe not so, Kyle’s attention grabbing behavior is just a way to show he misses us and wants to spend time with the family.  This past weekend, my sister was home.  Kyle was up her butt and needed her to do everything with him all weekend.  She couldn’t just sit and relax because he was like a leach, a whining one.  Other times, I think Kyle is just board and wants some activity, even though I do keep him pretty busy.  He gets on these kicks of playing chess, which I encourage.  No one else will really play with him except me, only because my parents don’t know how to play and my sister really doesn’t like playing.  Yet he will walk around nagging everyone, because that’s what he wants to do, and he wants the interaction of the family.  Usually if we’re talking about chess, I’ll bite.  Kyle knows I enjoy a good game.  Again, I get it, he’s just showing us how much he loves us.  We truly love having Kyle around and spending time with him, even on the irritating days.

Even when Kyle is not seeking attention, he gets it.  Like anyone needs to fuel this already blazing fire.  I will admit, it’s almost always due to a good dead or a thoughtful action.  Others notice his behavior and want to praise him.  I guess I should be proud of that attention, which I always am.  I just don’t want Kyle’s already large round head to grow anymore.  My fear of Kyle failing in life because of his own ego or attitude is very real.  That’s why I try to knock him down a peg or two, just to keep him in check with reality.  No matter what, I love him very much and I’m so proud of the little man he’s become.  Maybe he’ll grow out of this need for attention.  It took me a while but I did, well kinda.

Published inCommon SenseEducation & LearningFamilyMilestoneObservation & ImaginationPatienceReminiscing

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