Two kids competing for attention

How do parents handle siblings that compete for mom or dads attention? One helpful mom shares how her and partner manage their kids' needs.

two-kids

Original Poster

Not sure if anyone has encountered this before, but  I have a 6 year old and an almost 2.5 year old. At night when I walk in the door from work, I greet both of my children individually, hug and kiss them, ask them questions, listen to their answers and give them each an opportunity  talk to me.  Then we typically sit down as a family, including my husband and Au Pair, for dinner.  Recently, my 2.5 year old has been whining and crying all through dinner in an attempt to get my attention. And my six year old has been acting goofy in an attempt to get my attention and I think to deal with the non-stop whining/crying.  Its starting to drive me crazy, the goofy non-stop talking and question asking from my six year old coupled with the non-stop crying from my 2.5 year old. My 2.5 year olds whining/crying is truly going to drive us all crazy. I think if I can get her to stop acting out, then my son will calm down as well. I try to ask my 2.5 year old to use her words... to tell us how she is feeling... ask her what she needs etc.. but nothing seems to help.  I am at a loss regarding what to do about my 2.5 year old. I can't really ignore everyone else in the house, especially since I am only home about 1 - 1.5 hours before bedtime.

Anyone else have this happen? If so, what did you do?

Reply from a very helpful mom:

I'm not sure I can really help as my situation is different but as a mom of twins this has been an issue since day 1. I can say, with 100% certainty, it comes and goes in waves and is often triggered by one needing or wanting more attention. The other one sees it and immediately wants the attention too.
And if one of them chooses to seek attention from one parent...that is the same parent that child MUST get attention from right then and there.
All in all - this is completely normal and regularly drives people crazy for all the reasons you mentioned above. Since our twins are turning 3 in December I can really commiserate with how hard it is to get a 2.5 year old to explain what they need. Sometimes they just NEED a snuggle and nothing else will do.
Here are a few things we do sometimes to try and help (admittedly none of these work all the time, and really we just find that we have to be really, really forgiving or our kids and ourselves):

- The moment one child sends off a signal that they need some "extra" attention the parent that notices tries to immediately distract the OTHER child (affection from the other parent, a funny joke, a question that shows we are engaging with them while snuggling the other, etc.)

- We know there are certain trigger times (in our household: bedtime) so we devise ways for there to be one-on-one time (e.g., our kids KNOW that if Daddy does bath, Mommy does bedtime stores and vice versa...they will even say it to us! it's cute). If dinner is a trigger maybe before dinner you can sit them down and have them each choose 1 book that you will read snuggled up on the couch together.

- We explain to the OTHER twin that the "needy" twin needs love and can they give their sibling some love and attention too? (e.g., can you kiss your sister's boo boo? can you get your brother's favorite stuffed animal? etc.) Trying to get them engaged as being a part of the giving of attention to each other.

- We taught the concept of Taking Turns SUPER early in our household...the kids know that if they both want something (a toy, the mop, to do "airplanes" on mommy's feed, etc.) then they have to wait their turn and we have a "count to 5" rule where we will slowly count up to 5 (the kids will count to 5 on each other now!!) and at 5 their turn is up and it is the sibling's turn.
I hope these tips help - I am sure there are more and by no means do I have a silver bullet but I'd say we have success with these when used in varying situations. Sometimes the meltdowns are inevitable, sometimes we just can't get things settled down, but these seem to be some ways we keep the peace.

Related reading on Park Slope Parents:

Sibling Rivalry