Do your kids clamor and compete for your time and focus? Learn how to give your kids attention (even when they want it at the same time).
Every parent who has more than one child has to do The Juggle.
You could be having dinner and listening to three different stories all coming at you at the same time. Or you feel guilty for leaving your eldest alone in the living room so you can nurse the baby. One child might even need extra attention because of medical, academic, or temperamental reasons.
You can’t seem to spend quality time with anyone.
Regardless of the reasons, you don’t want your kids fighting or competing for your attention. Or worse, build resentment toward one another.
How to give your kids attention
I never knew how easy I had it with only one child until I had three. With only my eldest to care for, any and all my attention was on him. But once his twin brothers came, my husband and I had to juggle the needs of all three kids.
It’s hard enough to manage parenthood with other parts of your life. How can you make sure no one feels left out and that you’re balancing your children’s needs fairly?
1. Discipline everyone equally
Do you have a child who seems to misbehave more than the others? When one child demands more attention because of misbehavior, two things can happen:
- You focus all your attention on that child and assume your other kids don’t need you as much.
- You get upset at your other kids over small things because you assume they should know better—that they’re the “good ones.”
Here’s the thing: you don’t have good or bad kids, even if one struggles with behavior issues more than the others. Instead, discipline everyone equally. Apply the same rules to all your kids so no one feels favored or neglected.
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2. Find activities everyone can do together
Feeling pulled in different directions? Start finding activities all the kids can do together. This way, you can spend time with them in a group setting, doing an activity everyone enjoys.
You might cook together in the kitchen (the baby can sit in the high chair) or unearth an old train set they can put together. Bring out bottles of bubbles to blow, or toss balls to one another. Perhaps you can tend to the yard or maintain your garden.
With a group activity, you’re able to spend equal amount of time with all the kids while allowing them to participate in ways they know how.
3. Meet each child’s unique needs
Yes, we’ve been talking about balancing needs, and I’ve even mentioned the importance of disciplining equally or finding activities your kids can do together. But sometimes equal doesn’t mean giving each child the same attention.
We all have our own unique needs. Balancing your children’s needs fairly could mean giving different kinds of attention to each child.
For instance, one child might steal the spotlight with his spunky personality and showmanship. But giving his sister the same attention doesn’t mean asking her to dance the way her brother does. Instead, she might prefer quiet time alone reading books with you.
4. Keep your schedule manageable
Confession time: I’m not one to enroll my kids in extracurricular activities, and only do so when they ask. My eldest had asked for swim lessons in the past, while one of the twins asked to attend martial arts classes.
It’s not that I’m averse to activities, especially as they grow older. It’s that I try not to pack our days too much. And with distance learning at home, finding time to get things done alone has grown harder than ever.
If you find yourself stretched too thin with everyone’s activities, reduce your schedule. See if you can implement a “one activity at a time” rule so each child only has one class to attend. If they’re taking piano lessons, then they may not need soccer and chess classes as well.
Review your work and home obligations as well. Are you taking on too many responsibilities? Can other tasks and errands be pushed back to another day? The more time you can find for yourself, the more of your attention you can give to your kids.
5. Spend one-on-one time
Suggesting you find one-on-one time with each child can feel like a hard ask when you’re struggling to give any of them attention. But hear me out.
You see, you might have the habit of clumping the kids together for every outing and activity. This can make it harder for them to feel like they’re getting the attention they need from you.
Once in a while, break them up and spend one-on-one time with each child. The special time alone with either mom or dad will remind them how special they are, regardless of how many siblings they have. Even going to the grocery store or running an errand counts!
You can also sneak in one-on-one time with your kids during the day. You might spot one child reading on the couch, allowing you to cuddle with him. Bath time offers plenty of opportunities to play fun games or listen to each one without anyone else around.
These simple but meaningful moments fill your children’s buckets.
6. Don’t ignore your older kids
With their growing independence, it’s easy to assume your older child doesn’t need you as much. And to a point, she doesn’t, and shouldn’t. She can use the bathroom, fetch her own food and entertain herself.
But don’t let her self-sufficiency trick you into thinking she doesn’t want or need your attention. Your younger kids will need your help more, from changing their diapers to dicing their lunch. But your older child also needs your time, even in the simplest ways.
Think about ways you can spend time with her. You might ask for her help with the little ones, or talk about her day during dinner. She could have a later bedtime than her siblings so you can review her day’s homework or read a book together.
And if you can, tend to her first if both kids need you (yes, even if the baby is crying because his pacifier fell out). She’ll remember and appreciate you meeting her needs, and that her little sibling wasn’t always your first priority.
Being present for your kids is possible, even when you’re pulled into different directions.
Discipline them equally to avoid favoring one over the other. Find activities all your kids can do together so you can be with them at the same time. Maintain a manageable schedule so you have enough time with each child. And spend one-on-one time, being mindful of meeting their own unique needs.
The Juggle might be in full-force, but you can still balance your children’s needs fairly—even if all three are telling you stories at the same time.
Get more tips:
- Parenting Doesn’t Have to Be So Overwhelming
- How to Stop Siblings from Fighting and Teach Conflict Resolution Instead
- Encourage Siblings to Get Along — Even from a Young Age
- How to Teach Toddlers to Share
- How to Stop Your Toddler from Hitting
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