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By Elizabeth Bottiaux
Extreme chaos and ear-splitting volume is simply the norm in our home. There are four young kids fiercely competing with each other in the “Parents’ Attention Playoffs.” Each child tries to outdo their sibling in an effort to be seen or heard. Kids can feel lost in the shuffle. It can be truly exhausting and overwhelming for everyone involved.
I’ve found that taking the time to connect with each child—alone—is invaluable. Finding that alone time can be incredibly difficult. Sometimes it requires pulling the cutie out of school for a few hours or dispersing siblings throughout the neighborhood. It’s amazing how different kids act when they’re plucked from the herd.
Without the need to outshine each other, calmness transcends. I’ve marveled at my kids’ behavioral transformation when they’re alone. They act like completely different individuals. Thoughtful conversation replaces heated yelling.
A dear friend recently asked what advice I might have to pass along to another friend of hers. The friend was in labor with her fourth baby. Without much thought I said, “regular alone time with each child.” That’s one of the best kept secrets about how to stay sane while raising four spritely offspring. Alone time can be helpful in resetting a child’s bad behavior or poor choices. Any family with two or more kids can reap rewards from one-on-one time.
When the kids were younger and clung to me like monkeys, one-on-one quality time was a little different. Maybe it was reading a story while the others watched television in another room. It often meant doing a craft with an older child while their younger sibling napped. Sometimes it was baking cookies together while other kids played outside.
Recently I carved out “QT” with our oldest daughter. She and I were able to talk in a calm atmosphere without constant interruptions. We were able to bypass the constant sister bickering and connect in a way that simply isn’t possible with siblings present. I could listen without feeling guilty about ignoring another child.
One-on-one time can be nothing more elaborate than driving home from water polo practice with only my little swimmer in the car. It’s rare, but once in a while all the stars align and it’s just us. Listening to him eagerly tell me about his day for the five-minute drive home? Priceless.
My younger daughter found me last night as I was trying to sneak a quick shut-eye. At first, I was irritated that I’d been discovered. But when she sheepishly admitted that she wanted to snuggle with me, I welcomed her under the warm covers. She simply needed me to listen with undivided attention as she categorically reviewed all of her body’s owies from head to toe. As we snuggled in bed, I could feel the day’s struggles melting away.
Kids grow up fast. By spending one-on-one time with each child, a clear message is conveyed. That child understands that they matter to you. I want each of my children to know they are loved and important.
Elizabeth Bottiaux is mom to four small humans, ages 5, 7, 8 and 10. She’s a San Clemente resident and has lived in Orange County for the past 16 years. She publishes a blog, www.fourkidsandadog.com, about family life in our tri-city area.