My Daughter Needs More Attention than We Can Give...

Updated on December 26, 2010
J.B. asks from Lafayette, LA
15 answers

I love my daughter to no end...Maybe that's the problem?! She is 11 years old and doesn't seem to get the concept of entertaining herself or being content sitting quietly. She talks non-stop...I think sometimes just to hear her own voice. We've timed her before and she can talk non-stop about nothing for 47 minutes!
She interupts at the most inappropriate times AND usually, it has nothing to do with what we're talking about. Here's a great example: Her Dad and I were talking about work stuff and in the middle of my husband talking, she blurts out something about skinning her leg while ice skating. Literally, he was in the middle of a sentence!!!
She's grounded from TV at the moment (grades). We can tell her 100 times she cannot be in the living room. So, she will sit on the edge of the kitchen/dining room talking about nothing and seeking our attention. Her conversations have no rhyme or reason and are sporadic in subject at best.
This isn't just today or recent - she has been like this for Y-E-A-R-S!!! To the point, that I had her meet with a counselor and then asked for advice. The counselor said she's just "one of those kids" who needs constant attention and time. "Hopefully she will grow out of it." She's 11 years old!!! I've spoken to each teacher since 2nd grade and have been told she doesn't exhibit ADD/ADHD (she's constantly 'forgetting' homework and has a huge problem finishing tasks in the time given). What I have been told is (1) She needs constant attention and direction, (2) She's very smart and tends to skirt responsibilities and (3) She'd rather be "on" in front of the class and entertain everyone.
I am at my wits end. Tonight - we reviewed her grades and since she's been grounded from TV - her grades have DROPPED!!! She has a 24 in Language Arts (6 ZEROS - 4 of which were parent signatures on assignments and 2 for assignments she did, but 'forgot' them). Mamas - we sign whatever she brings us. If we don't know it needs to be signed (ie - it's not her in her agenda folder and no note that anything needs to be returned). She has a 54 in History!!! Both of her teachers constantly e-mail and call us (her homeroom teacher text messages me) about how smart she is, but she's lazy. Yes, she's been tested and doesn't score high enough to be considered talented.
She is the youngest of three, plus she grew up around older cousins and grandparents who doted on her (She was the only baby for years). She's a performer (dance, cheer, drama, singing) and you can tell she's at her very best when she is on stage (at 8 - she never nervous about auditioning in front of strangers). She was doing solo dance performances at 7 in front of audiences of 500 - 700 people. But if she's not on stage - it's like she needs to find one.
I don't know what to do...I know I am tired of this and her. IF she's at home with older sister and we say "We'll be home at 5:30..." she is on the phone calling us at 5:35 "Where are you? You said you'd be home...How many minutes until you get here?" Then she tends to keep me (or hubby) on the phone until we pull up.
Lastly - and this could be a big part of it: Her biological father abandoned her at age 5 and we didn't hear h*ll or highwater from him for four years. He came back two years ago - but only seeks her at Christmas and summer (usually a 1-2 day visit).

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answers from San Antonio on

Have you actually taken her to a doctor about the ADHD issue? Girls often exhibit the symptoms you discribe, and teachers don't always make that connection because it is different from boys. Good luck!

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answers from Phoenix on

I'll be the bad guy here...You say she is seeking constant attention, but never mentioned actually paying attention to her. If her grades are a problem, try sitting with her when she does her homework. If she wants to talk about the 8 million random things she's thinking about, listen and talk with her. She's obviously got a lot on her mind and wants to share stuff with you. If she worries when you're not home at the time you say, maybe you should call her when you're running late and relieve her worries instead of complaining that she calls you. Have you spent any one-on-one time with her lately? Done any special Mom/Daughter things? It sounds like she just wants her mom to love her and spend time with her. Frankly, I think a lot of her "problems" come from the fact that she can sense that her mom is "tired of her" and she's doing anything she can think of to get your attention.

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answers from Washington DC on

I'm not an expert, just a mom, but it sounds like she might have some high functioning Asperger's traits. A friend of mine has Asperger's. He is constantly talking, touching, disorganized, etc. He is VERY literally, and spits out whatever his is thinking at that moment.

Ex. 1. He called the other night and we said that we had to call him back. Instead of saying that we'd call back in like 20m - he has no concept of time- I said 7:30p. At 7:32p he was on the phone wanting to know why we hadn't called back.

Ex. 2 -We were sitting around talking girl talk about our favorite whatever, and he interupted mid-sentence to tell me that the clasp of my necklace was down and needed to be fixed.

Since she loves to perform, why not have her work on performances for you? Say every Sat. at 2p she puts on a show for the family. That should help keep her busy with practicing for the weekly show.
Just a thought.

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answers from Kansas City on

it sounds like your daughter is dealing with a lot for such a young age. it's possible she has issues that need dealing with by a professional, but i did have a couple thoughts. my son is a talker too, although he's only 3, but same deal - he will talk constantly whether anyone is listening or not, and constantly interrupts. do you stop what you're doing and address her when she interrupts? i have told my son over and over that if someone else is talking he needs to wait to talk, of course he's three so it's hard for him, but i will ignore him until my husband and i are done. she needs to get positive feedback for good behavior, not attention for bad. she needs to learn to respect adults and wait her turn to talk. giving her attention when she interrupts (even negative) is going to give her what she wants.

second thought was, does she ever get 1 on 1 time with you and dad? it sounds like there is a lot going on in your lives (three kids can be hard to keep up with) and you have said a counselor has already mentioned she needs some extra attention. maybe she feels like she is always having to compete with other things (siblings, events, "life") for attention.

as far as the grades go, it sounds like she needs someone to sit down with her at night and go over her homework. do you physically sit down and look at the work her teachers have sent home with her? do you make sure she does it and does it right? it may not be easy but it sounds to me like she needs that extra guidance.

i think the acting out (calling if you're 5 minutes late for no other reason than to grill you about where you are) is a discipline issue, but it may stem from deeper insecurities, so maybe some counselling about her bio dad is in order. it seems like she is feeling really insecure about peoples' love for her. try not to get frustrated with her, or think of her as "lazy" - she's doing this for a reason. she may not recognize it but you're the adult, so it's your job to get to the bottom of it and love her unconditionally. i'm sure she's picking up on your irritation with her and the loss of connection, and it's only going to make things worse.

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answers from Dallas on

Im not an expert in this area as my daughter is only a year old. It sounds like your daughter wants to me the center of attention non stop and she just needs a little more of being noticed. I do agree you should set aside some time each day to speak w/her.

We went through w/my brother the same think w/the grades the teachers said he had what it ook he just didnt wanna do it. So I honestly cant help there b/c I was going crazy b/c I didnt understand why he was so lazy.

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answers from Milwaukee on

Your daughter sounds A LOT like me when I was younger... in fact I can still talk my mom's ear off when we visit (we only live 30 mins away so we see each other lots). Unlike your daughter I was diagnosed with ADD but a very mild ADD, mainly seemed to be dyslexic, spelling and comprehending language (as well as learning a second language). I was also all over the place, it took years until my mom realized that organization was what I needed to at least get homework home so we can sit down and plan how much time is needed for homework and what needs to be done ASAP or things that could be done in the next day or two. Finally after years of doing this with my mom I got the hang of it.

So regarding the homework, if something like this is not already in place, I would have a folder to bring home along with this weekly homework sheet my mom made (it had each subject, I wrote what was due when and make sure I had it in the folder by putting a check mark by it, then my mom put another check mark by it once the homework was done). This really helped my mom know what was going on and kept me on track, granted some of my grades like spelling or Spanish never were about C- or D+. At least I was doing the homework and my mom knew for sure I was not lazy because I would sit at the kitchen table and struggle with my homework.

With the whole attention thing, I was lucky my best friend lived 8 houses down from me so I was always chatting with him, but in 6th grade we moved to a different state. Finally my mom would always make sure to set aside an hour a day which was just for me, she would listen while I talked add things when/if I ever stopped talking. I felt special since we sat down and arranged an hour to spend together and since then I was less attention seeking. This time could be while she helps with the laundry or making dinner with you, that way you are still getting something done yet free enough to talk with her. I still can talk forever but I try my darnedest to make sure never to interrupt anyone and to not monopolize all the talking time, it took a long time for me to learn and it helped that my parents would keep nicely telling me to wait my turn even if it upset me at the time.

When she interrupts I would just say "dad/I was talking, it is rude to interrupt. When we are done with this discussion you can choose the next topic." With the phone say you love her and will be home soon and that you guys can talk when you get home.

She seems to want to make sure that you still notice her and love her so just try to make a point to have time set aside for her so she knows it. Hope you can find something that will work for you and your daughter.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

I just read a book called the five love languages. Its a book about marraige and how everyone needs and feels loved in different ways and how to find out what our mates love language is. Well they have the same book for understanding your children. Its called The Five Love Languages of Children. It seems to me that your daughter feels loved when she gets "quality time". Her love language is quality time. She needs your undivided attention every day. If you give her 30 min. everyday and do nothing else but listen to her (not while cooking dinner or doing dishes or watching tv) she will not be constantly seeking your attention. The book uses the words "love tank". Her love tank sounds empty. Try and fill it and see if that makes a difference. Also sit down with her to do homework everyday to her will will also count as quality time. I know we all lead busy lives but some sacrifices have to be made. It is going to take a lot of pre planning on your part to make sure everything gets done as well as the quality time she needs. Set up a time (the same time everyday) to spend with her so she has something to look forward to. If you don't have 30 min. at least give her 15min. and 1 day on the weekend give her 1 hr of your time away from all the other children. Go for ice cream or even a walk in the park where she can talk to you and you can even share some things with her. ( this will also help keep the comunication lines between you two open when she wants to discuss "adult" things) If she is feeling loved at home she won't try to find it in the wrong places as she gets older. You probably don't understand a lot of this but I urge you to get the book so you can effectively "show your children" you love them. I don't question the fact that you do love them though. I have the same problem with my daughter always needing attention. Her teacher says shes smart but she is usually the last to finish her work because she is talking. She likes to be the center of attention and when she is grounded and can't do anything she is just like your daughter and sits on the edge of the kitchen and talks to herself just so she can feel close to us. When I ask her to clean her room it takes her all day because she keeps coming into where ever the action is. After I read this book I started to give her my undivided attention for 30min.and she is more likely to let me have my space when I need it now. It is called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book has opened my eyes to see why my children sometimes act the way they do. It is a christian books and it does give scriptual references.


answers from Austin on

I'm going to go in a different direction than everyone else's advice... Have you tried changing her diet to see if that improves her behavior? I think its called the Feingold diet. Here is some info: ( (which also includes a chart to help you track whether any food introduced in a child's diet changes behavior)
Cut out mass produced foods, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, nitrites & preservatives and food made with dyes, artificail flavorings and artificial sugars. Whole wheat bread & pasta instead of white bread and pasta made with white flour.

(No, I'm not the 'earth mama' type...) However most parents that I know who have behavior-challenged children have told me that once they were able to control their kids' diet and eliminate certain foods, behavior and concentration improved. Yes, it will require huge effort on your part (home cooked meals more often than not; more expensive grocery bills) but try it for 6 or 8 weeks and see if it helps. *Why not?!* After all she's 11... She'll be headed into middle school soon and that's when her test scores will start to determine the class levels she gets in high school, then what colleges she can get into...

Good luck!



answers from Charlotte on

Perhaps it would be beneficial to you to take your daughter to a child psychologist and have her evaluated. At the very least, it would answer questions you have, and hopefully give you some concrete suggestions for how to manage this. If it is Asberger's, which has been suggested, you definitely need an IEP at school before she fails her grade this year.

Best of luck,



answers from Houston on

Wow...sounds like my stepson, now 16. He's gotten better. We just started kinda ignoring him--i.e., letting those calls go to voicemail and being sure to avoid having a sense of urgency about things that are not urgent. We make sure to stop him in his tracks when he interrupts (or ignore his interruptions) and let him make his point later. We encourage him to participate in conversations that focus on other people and not just him. We don't get excited every time he does something (which was hard for him at first). He would walk into the room and be hurt if everybody's eyes didn't light up. Basically, we have had to teach him that it's not all about him and that's okay, that other people have concerns that are just as important to them as his are to him.

Regarding her grades, you're gonna have to let her fail, if she lets it go that far. At her age, it's time for her to feel the consequences of her actions--right and wrong, good and bad. She's got to know--before she goes any further in school and in life--that her choices have consequences that she has to learn to live with.



answers from Houston on

Dear J.E.B.
Your daughter sounds a lot like i was in school as a child. I was never diagnosed but I have a 9 year old son who has been diagnosed with ADHD combined type and I'm sure he got it from me. My son is extrememly smart but becasue of the ADHD issues he did not test as gifted however the doctor that did all his testing and it was extensive says he's gifted. I would find a real good psychiatrist. Most kids with the disorder get diagnosed a lot younger then your daughter so that could be throwing her teahers off, and boys more then girls but it sounds like she is exibiting systems. It would also explain the punishment making things worse. ADHD kids thrive on positive reinforcememnt and tank on punishment. Give you an example: My son too forgets to bring things home and turn things in. I was so angry with him last week for forgeting to bring his homework home again that i sent him to his room away from his tv and video games. He was so angry he went to sleep and woke up later like it was no big deal. It sure didn't solve the problem. We are going to start something new this semster to help, good coincequence for a good behavior. Hope this helped. Good luck.



answers from Boston on

Have you considered an Au Pair program? I know many people has considered this option because of flexible schedules and you know your child will be be cared for in a familiar surroundings, plus you can have more control over child care activities and they can even help with other household need. For the cost, I've researched and on average the weekly cost of having an au pair is less than other childcare options. Well, you can find more information at
Hope that helps!!



answers from San Francisco on

Don't give her so much negative attention. That will tend to foster attention-getting behavior. Back off on her grades somewhat, and let that be between her and her teachers more. Do what you can, but don't obsess over it. Constantly bugging kids about their schoolwork makes the home life miserable. She will probably never be a scholar, BUT she is a performer, so enroll her in theater, etc.

Give her reasonable amounts of conversation time and one-on-one time, and as long as you've given her that, you can calmly tell her that you can't talk right now, at other times. If she calls you at 5:35, tell her, "we'll be home soon honey, I love you, bye," and then hang up. She can't keep you on the phone unless you let her.

In my experience of three almost-grown kids, I can assure you that personality types barely change at all from birth, so don't make your life with her miserable in trying to change her.



answers from Springfield on

I scrolled down and saw a few answers, and saw that 'HP' actually 'got' it. He has the best idea that I saw. I have a stepson, 12, that I met and immediately clicked with when he was about 9. He loved me and I loved him. We still love eachother, but this kid is more than a handful. He needs more, way more than constant attention. Whatever mothers said that you weren't giving your daughter enough attention, you can probably ignore, if you are like me, because you spend about 1 hour a day one-on-one playing with them, not including homework, supper, night time prayers, and such. One Saturday I literally spent about 5 hours with him, actually more than 5 probably 6 or so, and when I finally had to go take a shower, he was waiting for me right outside the bathroom door. This kid cannot get enough attention. His real dad sees him every other weekend, could see him more often if he wanted but doesn't really want to drive 30 minutes to get him (so this child probably feels bad about that). His brother and sisters moved out when he was younger because of his dad's mom, and so losing them was hard. Then he 'lost' his dad in the divorce about 4 years ago. He calls me his dad, or one of his dads, hugs me, and everything, but I have limits on the amount of time I can spend with other people before I go crazy myself. I need some alone time. I am introverted, and really enjoy being left to do my own thing for awhile. I don't like to have to entertain other people for all 16 hours of the day that I'm awake. His mom can take it. (That's right I'm a guy on your site) But I'm not as co-dependent and while I love this kid I have boundaries like any healthy adult.

He was recently diagnosed as having inattentive ADHD, although the teachers' opinions were mixed. But we know he has a really hard time concentrating and remembering things. With math it's like he has this mental block, because last summer my mom and I spent over an hour with him 5 days a week helping him with his math skills and he still can't remember how to divide. His mom has a similar math block. But this child does interrupt constantly, and is constantly redirected, at least at our house. He really does think everything revolves around him, like he literally believes that everyone is supposed to do things for him all the time, much like HP said in his comments.

So, M. B., I understand where you are at. You are not crazy. You are not a bad mom. I don't know what the deal is with kids such as ours, but they have to be 'handled with care'. Which is hard to do when there are no kids your childs age in the neighborhood and his only amusement is him mom, me, his 2 hours of tv (it would be less if it were up to me) and his video games. He just got tons of new games and systems and such for Christmas and he's already bored with it because he doesn't have anyone to play with. And this is December 26! We spend over $400 on that stuff! It's then only thing that he can do. He won't read the directions for anything so he can't play with many toys, and he only likes games and tv. Maybe it is ADHD. We start him on Vyvanse tomorrow. Does anybody have any real-life solutions who have actually raised a child like this? Email me at spruce 2 3 4 (at) gmail dot com (no spaces). Please no armchair quarterbacks.



answers from San Diego on

Your daughter sounds like a cross between my son and I (and we're both VERY adhd - combined type :) My son is the performer, though... and I'm the absent minded prof as far as adhd stereotypes go.

The book "You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?!?" by kate kelley & peggy ramundo is a great intro / collection of coping mechanisms for adhd. It's available from most libraries, or is about $10 from amazon or your local bookstore. If while reading it your radar pings, like mine did just reading your post... it might be worth your time checking out a local psychologist who specializes in adhd in your area. (Teachers are conditioned to look for some very classic negative symptoms... but they aren't trained/licensed to diagnose, much less know about all of the lesser known symptoms (like hyperfocus) or all of the wonderful gifts that go along with being adhd (like being able to hold multiple thoughts in your mind at once... most adhd'ers I know can think of about 6 things simultaneously... one reason we tend to be known for our creativity... and one reason why we tend to sometimes be completely oblivious to what's going on around us). With adhd, adrenalin calms us down/ focuses us... so you find many MANY of us in high adrenalin pursuits (sports, preforming arts, dangerous jobs, etc.).

I feel for you on the time thing, btw. My ds7 is also one of those SUPER precise kids (while I tend to be on "Indian Time")... it's never around 530 it's always 527, or 532... in his acting his accent and timing are flawless (He's been memorizing dialogue, whole poems & movie scenes since he could talk)... oy. In the acting it's spectacular. In the time it's spectacularly annoying.

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