When my wife was pregnant with our second child, we got all the usual comments about the difference between parenting one kid vs. two. I even heard some ridiculous statement about, “you’re really never a parent until your second child.” CRAP. Be quiet.
I’m pretty sure I was a parent when I was changing diapers, cleaning up puke, sticking thermometers in places they really should not go, and doing 4:00 am feedings before leaving for work at 5:00. Don’t even ask my wife…I’m pretty sure she immediately felt like a parent the moment that child crowned…just saying.
With all this said, there are some things that are only experienced when you do have more than one child. Every family with multiple kids I work with experiences the same problems, and we have even experienced it in our own home.
It is the situation when one of the children completely sucks the energy out of the day. Tantrums, demanding, and “NO!” is the answer for everything EXCEPT when you ask, “are you trying to ruin my day?” – you already knew the answer to that.
It can consume you.
But, what you might not realize is that it is also likely consuming your other child too.
The hard part is not going down with the ship. It is very easy to get wrapped up in the tug-of-war with the kid who is clearly not in control and continue with the back and forth, but it is imperative that you don’t. There is nothing to be gained and a lot to be lost.
Here is what to do when it happens(you’ll feel it as you increasingly react and respond to simple little things and utter that gutteral grunt, “uuuuhhhhhh” for something that is usually easily overlooked):
Concentrate your efforts and energy on the other kid: the one doing what you want (or at least doing whatever she is doing quietly).
When I talk about this to parents, I will say, “control what you can control” or “go with the one who is the most likely to follow you.” Its not giving up on the other kid, it is simply redirecting your attention towards the child who deserves the attention.
Make cookies, play a game, take a walk…do something a little out of the ordinary or something the child really likes. You can even be blatant with it,
“since your sister is having some trouble this morning, I figure you and I can do make those cookies you wanted to make last week. You have been so nice and calm this morning, I think you deserve it. Whaddaya think?”
(Do not say this loudly as to try to affect the child who is behaving poorly…thats ridiculous, mean-spirited and will be ineffective).That is not what this is about. This is about focusing your energy and attention in the right direction.
The reality is you will be exhausted at the end of the day one way or the other.
If you do it right, your energy will be positively spent and you will be exhausted happy rather than exhausted mad.
Hopefully, the kid who is on your last nerve will come around and see what fun is being had by all and shape into place. If he does, welcome him in: this is the time when you can either get the ball rolling in the right direction or re-engage the behavior death spiral that started all of this. “
“I’m glad you could join us. Are you O.K.? Are you gonna be cool hanging out with us and being calm?”
If he doesn’t…no big deal. More cookies for you.