Sometimes, when company comes over or dad comes home from work, a child can become an attention hog. This mom asks how to corral her four-year-old daughter when someone new comes to the house.

Q: My four year old is now playing independently most of the day or happily with her younger sister. My issue is that when we have company over—usually grandparents or when my husband comes home from work—it’s like we lose everything and she goes back to craving attention. From wanting to wrestle and horseplay to constantly seeking what she can do to get some attention. What am I to do or am I to let them take the lead?

A: Here’s what I’ve done to mitigate the attention-seeking behavior of a preschooler: Give her a small dose of undivided attention first.

How does this work? Let her greet your husband and spend about 5 minutes with him in a snuggle fest or wrestle match, etc. Then she’s off to her room for 20 minutes (with a timer!), while you talk to your husband and finish getting dinner ready, etc. Same with her younger sister too. This way you preempt her attention-seeking behavior by giving her attention…but on your terms, not hers.

Here’s what I’ve done to mitigate the attention-seeking behavior of a preschooler: Give her a small dose of undivided attention first.

For relatives who visit, same thing. Let your preschooler get in the first word, spend the first 15 minutes showing off, then she’ll settle down and play more readily. It’s the waiting for attention than can make some kids go crazy trying to get it. If you give it first—in a controlled way—the kid will generally get it out of her system and then return to playing independently.

This might seem counter-intuitive, but it does work! And since you’re the one dictating the interactions, it’s not her demanding attention and getting it. It’s you saying “it’s time for you to have this attention.” Now if she keeps trying to be the center of attention after the initial time is up, then she’s sent to her room. Otherwise, she can play nicely nearby and have another one-on-one interaction when the relatives get ready to leave.!