“Wook at ME mommy”



“Wook at me. I doing it” is really cute when a little toddler has learned to accomplish a feat, such as slipping on a jacket. We might smile and say something like, “Well, look at you! You put your jacket on. You did it.”

Kids of all ages want to be noticed. Even as adults, most of us like to be noticed in some way. Recently, I had a young man share with me that after he served a deployment in a hostile area and got wounded, his family had a big get-together when he finally made it back home. His grandmother hugged every grandchild except him.

He said it hurt him deeply. Here, he had served his country, defended his fellow countrymen, and gotten wounded in the process. And his own family more or less ignored him. He shared he just sat there while they all hugged and talked to each other—but not him. More than likely, they just weren’t sure what to say, but the point is he was terribly hurt. He needed to be noticed by people who mattered.

Children from dysfunctional situations

Kids need to be noticed, especially those from broken homes, dysfunctional homes, and some modern-family homes. Children from dysfunctional and divorcing families read body language very well. Think about it. These kids never want to remind the parent they are with that they look, act like, or even resemble the other parent.

When the child goes to the dad’s, the child takes on the dad’s traits because he wants the dad to notice him and like him. If the dad watches a certain kind of detective, shoot-’em-up TV show, that’s what the kid likes also. If the dad eats burgers and fries, that’s what his son eats when he is with the dad.

When the child goes back to the mom’s, the child begins to take on the mom’s personality while leaving anything resembling the dad back at his home. Now the child may eat salad, fruit, and vegetables. He might like to watch a reality TV show or one of the TV shows where kids sing or dance.

At the dad’s, the child may stand like the dad, with his feet planted squarely on the ground and arms folded across his chest. He uses the same language and makes the same faces the dad makes. But at the mom’s, the child stands like the mom, waves his hands when he talks like the mom, and uses the same or similar facial expression as the mom makes.

Many of these kids know they have to do this to survive. They think, “I can’t look too much like Dad when I’m at Mom’s. Can’t sound too much like Mom when I’m with Dad because he gets mad and says things like, ‘You’re just like your mom!’ after he has been ranting about ‘that woman!’”

These children who have lived in divorced homes or experienced some sort of family dysfunction or trauma (and I mean children of all ages, even young-adult kids)

  •      Are intuitive
  •      Are sensitive
  •      Know if you don’t want them there
  •      Recognize when you are frustrated with them
  •      Need and want a lot of attention
  •      Read your facial expressions and body language
  •      Need positive, not negative, attention but will take negative if that’s all you have to give
  •      Want your attention and have a deep need to be noticed and belong: they will do anything to get it, even act out (e.g., run through the room, dash out the door, rip a picture off the wall, hit another kid, scream, and bite and scratch others)

How to accommodate these kids

Say to yourself, “What happened to this child to cause her to act like this?” Not, “What’s wrong with this kid?” or “He’s just doing that to get attention. I’m just going to ignore him, and he’ll stop that nonsense.” Wrong—he will only get more animated and go with bigger actions (e.g., jumping off a table and sprinting to another table with you trying to catch him).

As bearers of Christ’s image, we must change our opinions about these kids. They usually are hurting in some fashion. We have to be the people who change their perceptions of adults, especially the people at church in God’s house. Would you scream at a deaf child and tell him to stand still? Would you point to a blind child and tell her to sit over there? You may say, “Now you are being ridiculous.” No, I’m being serious.

Kind of a funny story

Years ago, I had a four-year-old child with a lot of problems. He would throw a screaming fit at the drop of a pin. It was so loud the other kids would put their hands over their ears. Of course, this got our friend a lot of attention as the teachers tried several things to calm him. And all of the attention went to this kid as the other kids stood around watching his antics.

One day, one of the teachers came to me and said she’d like to try something different. She had a really great lesson planned and wanted to get through circle time. She asked if when our little friend started screaming, could she take the other kids outside and sit on the porch in front of the big picture windows?

I gave her permission and told her to let me keep an eye on our friend. She explained to the other children what was going to take place if our friend decided to interrupt the lesson. Sure enough, the minute she pulled out the story, he ran to the back of the room and began to scream. She gave her signal, and the other children all got up, followed her out the front door, and sat down in front of the window as she began to read.

This child had closed his eyes when he was screaming. He had no idea everyone had left the room. When he opened his eyes and saw everyone outside, he stomped his feet and yelled, “Look at me. Look at me. Don’t you care that I’m throwing a temper tantrum?”

I moved in and quietly said, “Yes, we do care, but the other children don’t like to hear you scream. Have you noticed they put their hands over their ears when you scream? When they put their hands over their ears, they are telling you they don’t like it when you scream. Feel free to join the other kids on the porch if you’d like, but you must stop screaming first.” This kid calmed down, sniffed a few times, and said, “I didn’t know that,” as he walked toward the front door. Little kids are very forgiving, and they welcomed their friend back into the group, scooted over, and made room for him.

Later that week, his mom joined our small church choir. She had a beautiful voice but had not been a regular attender at our church. That evening, she brought her precious four-year-old child and his brother to the adult choir practice. She told them to sit on the front row of the small sanctuary. You can probably guess how long that lasted. As they boys began to chase each other around the sanctuary, Mom got up and chased them. Eventually, she shrugged her shoulders and went to the choir loft.

To this day, I can still see that choir director trying to direct the choir as he watched these kids circle around and around the sanctuary. Then these two boys got very brave and made a dash up the stairs, around and through the choir loft, and back down to circle the sanctuary again. I believe a couple tenors tried to grab them as they ran by.

I was at the piano, and I caught the eye of the four-year-old child and crooked my finger for him to come to me. I kept a big smile on my face and winked at him. I then motioned him to sit down on the bench next to me. He complied, and he sat on the bench next to me as I pointed out the music and had him find certain letters in the songs as the choir sang while I accompanied them.

I had a relationship with this child. I had prior experience with him. This child could trust me. All he wanted was to be noticed in a reasonable fashion and a way that didn’t take away his dignity. I didn’t address him running around the sanctuary. Oh, believe me! A part of me wanted to, but really, what would that have accomplished? My goal in that moment was to get control of the situation, so we could continue choir practice.

Many of these kids are talking to you through their behavior. With their antics, they are saying:

  •      Look at me!
  •      Please allow me to keep my dignity.
  •      Help me belong.
  •      I want the other kids to like me, but I don’t know how to make them like me.
  •      I need you to love me unconditionally.
  •      I really want to be able to trust the adults in my life.
  •      Show me how to fit in and understand this environment around me.
  •      Show me what I’m supposed to do.

The next time you see a kid acting out, say to yourself, “I wonder what happened to this child to cause him to act like this?” Wouldn’t you want God to look at you that way instead of asking, “What’s wrong with this human I created? Why can’t he act like he is supposed to act?”


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2 thoughts on ““Wook at ME mommy”

  1. Linda,

    Thanks for reminding me that the way I handle my children while growing up affected how they acted as an adult.

    There was so many instances of “look at me” that I did overlooked. I was busy with my own “look at me”.

    Now I realize in all my work that everyone wants to be noticed in the simplest of things, especially those who have experience trauma as children.

    As adults you can hear it in our voice and see it in our behavior. I got a kiss from my fiance when he came home and smelled brownies cooking. He said he had a hard day at work and it made the difference to smell brownies.

    All day long I told myself “Don’t forget the brownies” when I heard it as a small suggestion before he left for work that morning.

    Doing for someone takes care of that inner “look at me” that is why Jesus suggested we do unto others, because the rewards fills that hole inside.

    Thank you for sharing this blog and I’m looking at you. You have a conversational style when you write and it brought a good thought for my day.

    All the best,


    • Louise, you made my day. Thank you. I appreciate your comments. I love your comment, “that is why Jesus suggested we do unto others, because the rewards fill that hole inside.” Linda

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