We all enjoy receiving attention at some point or another. It shows that other people are paying attention to us, which causes us to feel a sense of warmth (and sometimes embarrassment). No one needs attention as much as a toddler or young child does: paying attention to your child is essential to their emotional and mental development. Positive attention boosts their self-esteem, you as a parent get to know your child better, and you both grow to understand each other more. You will also enjoy a deeper relationship and greater communication if you practice positive attention. In other words, put down the cell phone and spend some quality time with your child! Don't let distractions stand in the way of building a relationship.
According to Julie Anne Fidler in "Reasons Children Seek Attention", toddlers who are "whiny, clingy, or act helpless...desire more positive attention from their parents." Your child is acting out in an effort to gain emotional support that they aren't receiving. So instead of getting upset when your child tries to get your attention, ask yourself 'am I giving my child the positive attention they need?'
Give your child 100% of your attention, but not 100% of the time. They need to know that there is a time when you will pay full attention to them, but also understand that your world does not revolve around them. It's all about finding balance. Spending time with your child is not the occasion to use your cell phone, but also make it clear to your child that you need time to yourself. This doesn't have to be a harsh limitation, just a carefully reinforced concept that grows over time. You don't want to neglect your child, but you don't want to give them too much attention either.
So how do you find the right balance? How do you know if your child is starved for quality attention? According to Stephanie Shott of the MOMIntitiative.com writes that children starved for attention often display 5 key signs: 1) Children create a disturbance to get your attention 2) They cry, whine, or pout a lot 3) Withdrawal from you or others 4) They tell you that you are neglecting them 5) Showing signs of depression
'Look at me,' a study from Concordia University, found that "toddlers whose parents have consistently responded positively to their attention-seeking interactions expect interactions to be fulfilling. As a result, they're eager to collaborate with their parents attempts to socialize them." In short, children who receive quality attention from you are better socialized and more eager to work with others. If you consistently positively to your child's attention seeking behavior, your child will come to expect a fulfilling interaction. They are more eager to engage with you repeatedly, because they know you will respond in a positive (and receptive) manner. Think of it as quality vs. quantity: engage in short quality time with your child, rather than lengthy, but distracted, time.