59: Three Kids in Two Arms

Q: I have 5 kids, ages, 7, 5, 2, 1, and 6 months. The problem I have is that the 6-month-old, 20-month-old and 2 ½-year-old all want to be held at the same time. They are all so young that I feel I don’t give them enough attention as they need. How can I give them attention without breaking my back or going crazy?

A: Wow! That’s a lot of little kids! We haven’t had three in a row that close, or even two in a row that were serious snugglers.

Here are a few thoughts:

  • First of all, I think it is important to hold your kids. My following comments might make it seem otherwise, but I believe it is a significant expression of love that helps kids form a level of security in the world. We hold our little ones as much as we can.
  • You can’t hold your kids all the time. As you mentioned it can get hard on your back to hold them frequently. Plus, you’ve got things to accomplish, many which are difficult to accomplish with a kid in tote (or two or three).
  • Your children need to be peaceful with point #2. You should be able to set them down and tell them that you love to hold them, but that you can’t at the moment. Be careful that they are not using being held as a way of manipulating you to avoid other instructions that you’ve given them. (I don’t want to obey; I want to be held.)Be proactive. If you do not have a plan and implement your plan, you are going to end up being frustrated and snapping at the kids when they want held.
  • If they fuss when you put them down I would consider that a discipline issue, because they are not obeying your instruction. If they continue to pester you to hold them, that is a discipline issue. If they only want to be held because another child is being held, that is jealousy, and I would work to correct that as well. It’s fine to want to be held, but it is not acceptable to fuss, pester, or respond jealously.
  • Depending on the child, it might be a little early to discipline the youngest. He or she should probably get held more, and the older ones should learn to accept that different aged kids have different needs. Obviously you’ll want to take turns some.
  • You might want to train the older two kids to spend some time with the younger ones. You could assign them each a 20 minute slot or two each day where they are responsible to hold or play with the younger children. This will help with the little ones and also help foster good sibling relationships. It’s not a lot of time, but every little bit helps. Dad can lend an arm or two as well when he is home.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, don’t feel guilty about this. You love your kids and are doing all that you can, but God only gave you two arms and one good back. Manage those the best you can, but don’t feel bad that you can’t do it all. In His wisdom, He most certainly did not give you more kids than you can do a good job with. They are not going to be permanently scarred because you had to set them down some when they were little. You’re not going to be able to give them all the attention they want, but you can certainly give them all the attention they need. The little ones think they need to be held all day, but what is healthy and right for ALL of the kids is to learn to “share mommy” and work together in a large family. A mom that is in the spirit is far more valuable than an exhausted mom that holds them all day long.

Hang in there! You may well be in your toughest parenting years! Over time your older kids will be a greater help.

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