The short answer is I don't really know. There are a lot of theories, and some of them work quite well for other people. We've tried lots of different techniques from ignoring attention seeking behavior to prevention with a sensory diet. Neither were particularly successful.
So I was reading last week about what happens to a child's neural development when he fails to attach to a primary care giver as an infant and I had an "ah ha" kind of a moment. Over the last 10 months little Max has been desperately seeking opportunities to bond and attach with me as his mother, and there are times that he's been so desperate for attachment time that he'll do just about whatever it takes in order to get it. Like throwing monsterous 2 hour temper tantrums because he wants to be put in a safe hold and doesn't know how to communicate that information with me.
So the million dollar question is, if he really really wants to be held securely by his mommy, why am I using that as punishment instead of to my advantage?
That question has completely revolutionized the way I respond to my child. I had to completely throw out all my notions about how to work with Max as a difficult child. All the training I've received, all the doctors and other professionals that have advised me to ignore him were wrong. Ignoring him is what is causing the problems. He's a neglected child. He knows how to escalate his behavior to get the attention he's craving. My ignoring him has just been adding fuel to his little fire. I feel like such a dunce.
So we have a completely new tactic in dealing with his behavior. As soon as the attention seeking behavior starts I go and pick him up. Then I carry him around like a toddler until he quiets down. If while I'm carrying him around he is aggressive towards me in any way he can sit in a kitchen chair by himself until he's ready to be held again.
Works. Like. A. Charm.