The Most Important Parenting Lesson We Have Learned Juggling Four KidsMolly Thornberg
I always knew we were going to have more kids than the normal family. We ended up with four, a number I am perfectly happy with. When I envisioned four children, my mind was focused on our kids having siblings to play with. We have children aged 2, 4, 8, and 11 — one girl, followed by three boys.
While our kids have many siblings to pick fights with or steal toys from, there is something that I just never thought about when having multiple kids: Each kid is going to want individual attention. CRAP. This wasn’t in the plan, people! As soon as the kids became toddlers and started realizing,”Hey, wait, what about ME?!” we’ve had to do some rethinking of this so-called “plan” of maintaining and balancing four kids. Our new plan has both my husband and I giving a concerted effort to spending alone time with each child.
Spending time alone with each child is the most important parenting lesson we have learned while juggling four kids. While I am a very unorganized type-B parent, learning to put a priority on each child, individually, has made my relationship with each child special and unique. With one child, we always had time with the kid. With two children, the balance wasn’t super easy, but each parent could take a kid. With three kids, juggling became more difficult. And now with four kids, it feels like we are juggling three balls and a knife. As hard as it is, we have found simple ways to develop a relationship with each child.
Spending Time With the Kids Individually
The toddler years were the best time for us to start this. When your baby is under 2, they of course are always with you, but let’s face it — they just know they want to eat, poop, and play. Around the magical age of 2, we started focusing on spending time with each individually.
Finding this time to bond with each child in unique ways helps us develop our one-on-one relationship. When you are a child with several siblings, it can be a fight for attention. Not saying that us doing this has totally taken that away, but it has made us more in-tune with each of our children’s needs and has helped establish good one-on-one relationships with each kid.
At bedtime, we make it an event. We visit each child individually — some nights it’s mom, other nights it’s dad — and we make it a point to talk to our kids. With the toddlers, we read to them, recap their day, say prayers, hug, and sing their night song. With the older kids, we talk to them and ask if there is anything they want to discuss (be prepared for awkward questions, but hey isn’t that what open parenting is all about?).
Throughout the week, we make it a point to find an activity to do with each child alone. This can be as simple as taking a child grocery shopping, letting them help with something, or sitting outside and interacting with just one child as he or she plays.
One of our toddlers loves to help cook. We pull a chair over for him to help make a few meals a week. (And by help, I mean make a bigger mess but he is happy!). Our youngest loves to cuddle on our back porch swing. My daughter enjoys going to get pedicures or lunch, just the two of us. Since she is older, it is great to break away from the normal atmosphere and have open and honest conversations with her. Our oldest boy loves Minecraft. My husband taught him how to setup a Minecraft server, and they play that together. As they age and their interests change, we will continue to find little ways to spend time alone to build our relationships with each.
Something to note and help you as you strive to create individual bonds with each child is knowing your child’s love language. If you can speak their love language, it’s all the better. One of my kids LOVES time spent with him. Another child loves gifts. It’s all finding out what makes them feel loved. (Read the book 5 Love Languages for Children for help!)
I’m just a mom who has one or two more kids than the normal family. Whether you have one or 10, make the time for each of your kids and start creating a relationship now. It’s not easy, but it is worth the effort. This was an important parenting lesson for us, and my hope is that it helps pave the way for a lifelong relationship.
How do you manage spending time with each kid?