My 2-year-old daughter is a bit dramatic. She has learned the art of fake crying and will bring every accidental booboo or tiny bump over to me and wail as if she has lost an appendage. I want to be there for her and do believe in attachment parenting for the most part, but I also can’t drop everything I’m doing every 10 minutes to soothe something minor. How do I show her I care and not make her think she only gets my attention when she is hurt?
There are a few questions within this question that I want to address. First, the last one,
“How do I show her I care and not make her think she only gets my attention when she is hurt?”
There is this fear in parents (stemming from Behavioral Psychology) that if we give our child attention when they express “negative” emotions (sadness, anger, worry etc.) that we will reinforce these emotions and therefore see more of them. But, unless you are only giving your daughter attention when she is hurt, and ignoring her at other times, she won’t learn that she only gets attention when she is hurt. She will learn that she gets attention when she is hurt, when she does something she is proud of, when it is time for stories before bed, when she is excited to tell you something. From an attachment perspective, we want our children to feel seen. We want them to experience us as being available to them as best we can, as often as we can. To soothe them as best we can, as often as we can.
Next, none of us can or should drop everything every time our child signals that they want our attention, but we can connect with our child even when we are busy doing something else. That might look like “multi-connecting” where you comfort your 2-year-old while rocking your baby, or simply multi-tasking, like connecting with your 2 year old while continuing to prepare the dinner. Children need our undivided attention some of the time, but they don’t need our undivided attention all of the time.
With regards her “dramatic” personality. Some children are simply more sensitive than others. This is physiological, so ailments or incidents that we may think of as minor, genuinely create big feelings in our child. Big feelings that aren’t deliberately dramatic. These children simply have nervous systems that tip over into fight, flight, or freeze more easily and so “little things” can lead to genuine dysregulation. I also think its important to reframe “fake crying” for yourself. This behavior is simply a tool your daughter has to communicate how she is feeling. At two, her language skills, her vocabulary and her insight into her own emotional experience will all be rapidly developing. It may simply be that she doesn’t have the language or the understanding to communicate her experience or her needs to you using words right now.
I hope that helps.