Q: My 10 month old wants my attention and presence all the time? What should I do?
A: Children imitate. If you act very busy and concentrate fully on what you are doing, they will do the same. Create a safe playing environment where you can leave them to play by themselves, connect them to a toy that they like, then leave them alone and concentrate on what you’re doing.
My mom, Ms. Lam, tells this story: Maddy has been throwing tantrums everyday she comes to school and refuses to go into her classroom. Mom doesn’t want Maddy to feel abandoned, so she stays with her, trying to appease her. This goes on for two weeks with no end in sight. Finally Ms. Lam tells Mom: “Tomorrow, when you come to school, please bring a book to read or some knitting. When you come, sit outside the classroom door and start reading or knitting. No matter how much Maddy cries, just keep concentrating on what you’re doing and act very busy. This way you have not abandoned her and at the same time, she will see you are busy. If she cries, let her know that it is okay for her to cry, but you are busy.” The mother took Ms. Lam’s advice and after three days of knitting, Maddy’s tantrums stopped completely and she started going to school without a fuss.
As I mentioned in Read! Nap! Cook!, don’t interrupt your child. Don’t look over and say, “Good job!” or “You’re such a good boy for playing by yourself!”every three minutes. Don’t even look directly at him. Observe him out of the corner of your eye to make sure he isn’t climbing the bookshelf, but otherwise, don’t let the child know you are looking at him or paying attention to him. Concentrate on what you are doing.
In my experience, I find that there are certain things that will hook a child’s attention no matter how hard I concentrate on it – the computer and the cell phone. When I’m on the internet or talking on the phone, they will inevitably come over and want my attention. Either they want my phone or want me to hold them. I don’t know why this is so, but try napping, cooking, reading a book, writing in a notepad or knitting!
Also, 10-month old is the age when babies are learning the concept of ‘Object Permanace.’ They are learning “people and things still exist even if I don’t see them.” If you start with him now, it will take about 4-5 months to fully grasp this concept. Giving him a toy like this will help him learn: Box with tray and ball. Another thing for you to do is to slowly go away and come back. Go away for 5 minutes and then come back to him, then go away for 10 minute and come back, etc. When you are not within his line of vision, say, “Mommy’s in the kitchen cooking!” or “Mommy’s in the bathroom cleaning the bathtub!” Let him hear your voice and know that you are there, even if he cannot see you. This will teach him that you haven’t disappeared if he doesn’t see you, which will lessen his anxiety about leaving you to explore on his own.