by Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D.
A vivacious woman who balances a family therapy practice with four children and a husband who saves everything, Eileen Kennedy-Moore bubbles with enthusiasm about almost everything.
But she's dead serious when she discusses kids' need for attention.
"Certainly kids don't need to be micromanaged or overscheduled. But they need us to listen, really listen, when they tell us about their day; we need to stop what we're doing to look at the pictures they've drawn, we need to recognize and acknowledge their feelings . . . These are the simple loving gestures that show our children that they matter to us."
Dr. Kennedy-Moore, whose practice includes coping, emotions and relationships, points out that all of us—adults and children—sometimes feel left out or ignored. None of us like that, and for children, it's especially frustrating to be treated as if they don't deserve attention. As someone who had four children in an eight-year span, she is particularly sensitive to older siblings of babies and toddlers.
"It's common for a child to misbehave after the arrival of new baby, because the older child feels left out or forgotten. The usual advice is to punish the child or at a minimum, to ignore him or her because the screaming or tantrums are 'just' for attention."
That common strategy overlooks the cause of the problem, notes Dr. Kennedy-Moore: "Attention is a genuine need."
There's a two-part solution to misbehavior that results from kids trying to attract attention, says Dr. Kennedy-Moore. First, we as parents need to stay alert so we recognize when our children are asking for attention. Second, we need to teach our children to communicate this need for attention in a positive way.
Needless to say, that's exactly what Dr. Kennedy-Moore set out to do with "What About Me? 12 Ways to Get Your Parents' Attention (Without Hitting Your Sister)." This new picture book was inspired by the therapist's experience with her son, who at age four got lots of attention by teasing his sisters, then six years and three months old. To address the situation, Dr. Kennedy-Moore took out a stack of oversize index cards and drew different ways her son could get positive attention.
"He loved all the strategies–and I loved how much this calmed down our family life!" said the therapist, who by then had published several articles and co-authored her first book.
Eventually Dr. Kennedy-Moore's suggestions made her way to Parenting Press, where they were paired with Mits Katayama's nuanced drawings of a slightly mischievous little boy in a busy household who discovers all sorts of kind and thoughtful ways to be noticed.
The author, who recently moved her family of six from Westfield, New Jersey, to the Princeton area (complete with books, board games, Legos, and Kelly dolls, but sans her husband's 20-year accumulation of receipts, maps and train schedules), has had decades of experience with busy households. A native of Chicago, she spent her girlhood rotating between the Midwest, South America and Europe. Her father's work with a multinational consulting firm sent Dr. Kennedy-Moore's family to Lima, Peru for three years when she was a preschooler and then, after an assignment in the U.S., off to Madrid for five more years.
"All that moving made our family very close," remembers Dr. Kennedy-Moore, "and it gave me the ability to get along with lots of different people."
It also made her a great letter writer to stay in touch with old friends–and those writing skills have helped her for decades, with a wide variety of publications, including a book for parents of children who suffer socially, several articles in professional psychology journals and the co-authorship of a book for mental health professionals.
A graduate of Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest, Illinois, Dr. Kennedy-Moore earned a B. A. in psychology at Northwestern University and her graduate degrees at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Her daughter Mary was born after Dr. Kennedy-Moore finished her clinical psychology internship and she continued to write after the arrivals of Daniel, Sheila and Brenna. Dr. Kennedy-Moore launched a private counseling practice in 2000.
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