I’m really struggling with my 3 kids and I need some guidance.
I have a daughter who is 8 and twin boys who are nearly 7. I have been using HiH tools for about 3 years. My daughter has always been my “difficult” child. Right now we are on summer break and it seems that every day I’m at my wit’s end within an hour of her waking up. Some of her difficult behaviors are: bickering/taunting/causing problems with and between her brothers, ordering me around, inability to play on her own, needing my near-constant attention and extremely picky eating. Adding to the difficulty is that one of my twins is unable to be alone. I have to accompany him to the bathroom multiple times a day, come with him to his room so that he can get dressed and sit in his room at night till he falls asleep. I am exhausted and worn out and have no one to help. Getting any “boots on the ground” help is not possible without causing significant marital strife, which I do not want to do. I have read and re-read this article (among others):
I read it again last night and had a plan for this morning. When she woke up with that familiar scowl on her face I played a cartoon-y monster that I had gotten some laughter going with the other day, who says “I’m grumpy and I’m going to make sure everyone else is grumpy, too!” My boys both gleefully announced that they were not grumpy and I acted mock-shocked and played with them for a minute but I could see upstairs that my daughter was not getting on board. So I went up to see if I could offer some connection. She promptly crawled into my lap when I sat down beside her, but then my son who can’t be alone came up. Then his brother followed. I considered insisting they go back downstairs but decided cooperation would be hard for them, and I know I’ve seen HiH articles where siblings are close-by so I let them stay. We were up there for maybe 10-15 minutes and in that time everybody started going off-track. I didn’t know what to do. I was trying to keep the focus on my daughter and find some sort of limit that I could hold. It wasn’t working. Then one son started hitting the other with a blanket and ended up throwing the blanket downstairs. The other son took the first one’s stuffed snake, upsetting the first son so I left my daughter and went to hold onto the snake and help them work things out. The one that took the snake said it was because the other one threw his blanket. So I asked the blanket-thrower to go down and get his brother’s blanket. He was busy ignoring me while playing with something so I tried putting my hand on what he was playing with and he started to cry, and when he started to cry the other brother went down to get his own blanket at which point I was fed-up and angry. Nothing I was trying was having the desired effect and I stomped off downstairs (as I seem to do so often) and started to get breakfast ready and snipped at the son who got the blanket “when I ask somebody to do something you don’t do it for them.”
What could I have done differently this morning (besides not stomp off and snip at my son…)? Where did I start to go down the wrong path?
This type of scene plays out many times a day and by the end of the day I’m exhausted and cranky. My kids are at an age where they are no longer toddlers, and sometimes it’s not clear to me how, if at all, I need to modify the tools.
Are there some articles you’d recommend for parents of multiple kids? How do I manage when I have almost no one-on-one time with each child. During the school year I have listening time 2-5x a week but during the summer I only have time for my support group call with a HiH instructor where I get 10 minutes of listening time. Also, special time hasn’t been super regular this summer due to scheduling, but they get it at least twice a week.
Hi Christine, It sounds like you are doing a trojan job! The summer break can be a long haul! And it sounds like you have at least one, if not several, emotional projects going on in your household. I’m not surprised you are feeling exhausted.
It’s hard to have a full picture from what you have said here of why your boy needs you to stay so close (quite aside from whatever challenges your daughter is up against) – but that sounds incredibly taxing.
Any family dynamic is complex, and my initial recommendation is that you might find it useful to organise a one-on-one consultation with one of our Instructors. This will help you get a map of the territory, explore the dynamic in detail, and develop a plan of attack. Emotional projects – recurring, persistent points of difficulty in your relationship with your child, or their relationship with the world, take time, resource, and the flexible use of the listening tools in order to resolve. You’ll find that much easier to sustain with support and guidance. https://shop.handinhandparenting.org/collections/one-on-ones
Another option would be to consider taking the upcoming Parent Intensive – nine weeks of calls with a small group of other parents led by an experienced Instructor, and a one-on-one consultation. Both Kathy Gordon and I have Call Groups starting in September for the next Parent Intensive. http://bit.ly/HiH-Parent-Intensive-8
Getting support to work out how you can get at least a short amount of one-on-one time with each of the children will be a key component of moving toward having things more manageable, but when we are overwhelmed that can just feel impossible. It’s like – put your own oxygen mask on first! Do get help – it’s amazing how the warm attention of one person on you as you work through the difficulty can free up your problem solving capacity.
Special Time when there is more than one child around is a tall order – they can smell the attention, and it is really hard for them not to try to syphon some off for themselves. Once their “cup of connection” is a bit fuller, they may be able to let their brother or sister get a fix of you while they wait, but I wouldn’t guarantee it! It also changes a bit as your chidren get older – you’ll find some of my thoughts about that here: https://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/staying-close-older-kids-special-time-can-work-pre-teens-older-children/
It sounds like you did a good job of trying to find something they could all engage with and laugh about – the grumpy face – but you are juggling needs that are heading in different directions! I’m not sure that you could have done much different – other than keep working to try to find something that they all could join in – games that get kids to gang up on adults can be helpful – there’s something deeply empowering for them to work together to outwit you. And holding the space for 10-15 minutes as you did sounds like a victory to me: maybe don’t try to do anything with them all together for more than that? Work out how long you can play before it starts to go pear-shaped, and keep it within that time.
Here are some articles on working with more than one child: some gentle words from Patty – the gist of which is “hang in there, stay in contact, even if you are too triggered to do more..” In a way, those of us with more than one child are forced to face the reality that many of us with only one child can imagine we avoid: parenting is not a perfect art! https://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/tantrums-two-manage-one-upset-child/ and here’s another https://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/connecting-chaos-multiple-children-big-feelings/
Personally I’m a great fan of giving up all together when things get too complicated – literally. It’s hard to do when we start to get snippy, but lying down with your legs in the air like a bug on it’s back has an amazing effect on a dynamic that is heading off-track. It’s as if when we stop trying to control everything (or anything), the young people can find their way back to us, and it leaves them some room to work out what to do next. Patty talks about it in this article, which might also remind you of just how difficult a job you have – it’s not possible, under the circumstances, to have it go well, always. Here’s Patty with wise words on what is possible, and impossible in parenting: “At times like these, if we “give up” for 10 or 15 minutes, and lie down on the floor, it provides enough of a contrast to the previous tense situation that we and our children can take a fresh start with each other…Sometimes, our children come around and decide they want to be close. They sit on our tummies, or crawl under our legs, or start jumping over us for fun. Having given up the effort to be in control, we can begin to pay attention to how things are, rather than the way we want them to be. Without the effort to stay in control, it’s often more possible to make workable decisions, and to like the children we have again.” https://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/control-possible-impossible-parenting/
Good luck! Glad you are here! If you can’t organise “boots on the ground”, at least here you have us – we can be your “boots on the emotional landscape” – all pulling each other up by the bootstraps! Let us know how you go!