Since our baby girl was born seven months ago, I have been astonished at the number of times I have needed to tell my two year old son to wait a minute. I know this is one of the realities of having more than one child, but it breaks my heart to not give my son my undivided attention after spending 23 months of giving him immediate parental support and love.
In response to this realization, I’ve been working on ways to be more responsive to my toddler. Here are 5 things that are working for me:
1. Ask yourself what would happen if you stopped attending to your current task in order to respond to your child fully.
If I’m in the middle of nursing my baby, I might try one of these 10 Ways to Play With Your Toddler While Breastfeeding Your Baby so that I can give attention to both children. If I’m simply washing dishes, even though I may want to get it done now, no one will get hurt if I leave the dishes for later to go play with my son.
2. Ask genuine and thoughtful questions of your child while you attend to your task.
Often my two year old wants me to read a book to him or play a game while I am helping his sister or trying to finish a household task. If I know I only need a couple of more minutes to finish, I ask my son open ended questions while I am finishing up. For instance, if he is trying to read a book, I’ll ask him what he things the words say based on the page’s picture. This makes him feel heard, and it also typically starts a real conversation between us rather than just quickly beginning the sometimes rote activity of reading.
3. Include your child in your task.
Young children love to be helpful, so why not include them in the task at hand? There are so many ways little ones can help out around the house, and regardless of how much they actually help, it will be fun for them – and you!
4. Respond with fun.
The words “Wait a minute” often slip out before we can even really think about the effect on our children when they hear it over and over again. Surprise your child by bursting into song, making a silly face, or grabbing them for a quick bear hug. If you have to return to your task for a bit, at least your little one is smiling and feeling reminded of your love while they wait.
5. Just stop what you are doing, and attend to your child no matter what.
Responding in a fully present way to your child doesn’t necessarily have to take long. Maybe your baby gets 5 or 10 minutes of diaper-free time when you are in the middle of a diaper change, or maybe dinner cooks for two minutes too long, but what is the real harm in that?
I can’t think of many things more important than making my children feel loved and heard, and although being a caregiver or parent can sometimes feel very overwhelming, I always feel better when I know that I’ve made my child happy.
How do you handle multitasking when your children need your attention?