Monday, 24 January 2011

The 4:1 ratio

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If you had a one in four chance at winning something, you would enter it wouldn't you? You'd think they were pretty good odds? How would it be if you had a one in four chance of capturing your Mum's attention? What then?

One of the hardest things about having four children is the amount of waiting they have to do to get your attention. You're attending to Child A and Child B wants something, so you say 'just a sec' while you complete the task for Child A. Meanwhile, Children C and D decide they need you too, so you quickly wrap things up with Child A, attend briefly to Child B, turn your attention to the most urgent request from Child C or D and finally sort out the last child's issue, meanwhile, Child A needs something new.

It is never ending. I certainly don't have all the answers (I wish that I did!) but, having just survived spent the better part of 6 weeks on my own with the kids over the school holidays, I realised that I have developed some strategies that seem to work (some of the time).

Having a rough family routine helps tone down with some of the urgency. As does having, and communicating, a plan for each day so that each child is aware of what is happening now and what will be happening next.

Feeding and 'watering' all the kids at the same time (rather than a each one's whim) also cuts down on some of the repetitive 'nagging'.

Getting the children to take turns (e.g. to sit on Mum's lap) helps to certain point, as does having a designated child who is 'in charge' for the day so that they become the fall-back guy for decision-making when disagreements ensue.

Encouraging them to work together, rather than against each other can be helpful (especially to reduce some of the accidents that occur when two boys go head to head in battle).

Sometimes the older kids are able to help the younger ones, so I encourage that when I can (eg. Nugget can open doors for the Minx and Dew Drop). And I have desperately been trying to teach them all a bit of independence. You know of the try-to-do-it-for-yourself-before-you-ask-for-help variety. It is amazing how well that works on a good day!

We implemented the family charter a few weeks back and I refer to that from time to time when children are whining and being disrespectful to each other. I've even heard them reinforcing the 'rules' with each other (we won't discuss the tone of voices they used because that would be embarassing really...)

When we need to go somewhere that the kids aren't thrilled about e.g. supermarket, I find being prepared and being proactive helps me (like not taking toys into the supermarket so I don't have to spend 10 minutes on my hands and knees searching for them with a crying child mourning the loss of their favourite super hero). So called contingency planning.

I try to be a consistent, patient and positive mother. Some days it is truly harder than others. Some days you just wake up with your cranky pants on. But I find that if I behave, so too will my kids. They feed off my energy and if I yell and scream and carry on like a two year old, so will they (which is acceptable for the twins who are in fact two year olds, but not so for the other two!).

When all else fails, I drink lots of wine and write the day off I go to bed with the hope that tomorrow will be better.

What are some of your parenting strategies for dealing with the whinging and attention seeking behaviour in your household?


Rebecca said...

Gosh... I find it difficult enough with two!

Would you like to enter our next Multiples Mayhem Carnival?

Lucy said...

Usually I just lose my shit and start throwing things.

Nah. Not really. 'Tis tempting though....

These holidays have been an eye opener for me - since we got back from Sydney, the kids have truly turned a corner of independence. At nearly 6, 5 & 4, I feel like we are finally coping. All of us.


Cate said...

Oh, I love Lucy's comment (lol).
I find that if I am organised things go much smoother! If the dishes and washing are done, and there's something planned (even if it's just a walk) then everyone is calmer. If it's me whining 'I can't I have to do the dishes' well then the whole day can go to hell in a hand basket pretty darn fast!!

PS: that is soooooo not to say that I am ever on top of the dishes and washing!!!

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

Great post. I've often wondered how you manage and I cannot believe you take them all to the supermarket. I wish I'd read this today whilst I was bemoaning my awful life with two children who were whinging and fighting constantly. Would have put it all in perspective beautifully.

Aleksandra said...

It sounds like you have a good plan in place. I don't know how you do it, mama! Sometimes I have a hard time just wrangling one child. My 3 year old is on such a mommy-kick these days I can't seem to get her off my back at times. Not literally :) Have a great week!

The Planet Pink said...

Great post! We do alot of what you suggested - ESPECIALLY the no toys in stores! Oy. I learned that lesson REAL quick!

For us, the tone of the day is set by me. I work really hard at getting up early and getting time to myself before the mad rush begins. That makes a HUGE difference in how the rest of the day goes.

We also have set snack times, and have cups for water at kid's reach so they can help themselves. We take time every day for quiet reading and we work hard at remembering to not interrupt (which is SO easy to do when you have 4 kids talking over each other)

It's tough, but so rewarding!

Maxabella said...

I find spending as much time out doors as possible works for us. x

x0xJ said...

I only have half of your family, so i guess it makes my job half as hard?
When my boys are acting up or driving me bonkers i tell them to go outside. Outside is a magical place where they can be noisy, make as much mess as they like, and run around crazy and i just do not care. Go for it you little rippa's!
That mostly helps and after an hour outside they come in a bit more exhausted and thus willing to listen.
And yes, food is done at the same time for the kids. I find they enjoy the social time together and i just don't care for making a gazillion meals a day. Drinks are always left on hand so they can get a drink as they please and i only have to keep an eye out if their cup needs refilling as i pass.

Anonymous said...

I have to quieten my chuckles when I hear Monkey Boy reinforcing the rules to Little Monkey in exactly the same tone as I use.
Parenting strategies? Like Maxabella, if it's all hitting high voltage we go outside. Always defuses things even a little bit makes a difference...and when it's just been a crap day, after their bed- dark chocolate and 'The Wire' certainly help.

Anonymous said...

If anything, I think the 4:1 ratio works in the kids favour because they learn independence earlier. Their life skills are challenged within a nurturing environment, which I can only think will make them pretty awesome little people come school-age. I can understand it must be a challenge for everyone, but I think the benefits will pay off infinitely for you when they are older.
Great list!! I try to encourage my boys to play while I do chores, that way once the chores are done I can play with them. This seems to work most of the time.

Diminishing Lucy said...

Usually I just lose my shit and start throwing things.

For real.

Since I wrote that comment, I really have thrown things.

Bad mother.


Mum on the Run said...

You have it sorted, WonderMum!
I take my hat off to you.


Photographer Mum said...

And I find the 3:1 ratio hard - am I crazy for wanting another one?
I also find that if I am happy, the kids are too and if we have a plan and they know what is happening, things are certainly a lot smoother.
But chaos of some sort every day is kind of expected at my place.

InkPaperPen said...

We are stuck in the middle of a whinge fest here. I have to keep reminding myself that the boys have a new room, new house, new town to deal with. Whenever I try to put myself in their shoes, I find that I am able to deal with the whining and fighting in a better way.

I love your list, lots of useful advice here. Especially having a child "in charge" for the day. As for supermarket shopping with 4 kids? I take my hat off to you!


Miss Pink said...

You are a very fabulous mother.

Mrs Catch said...

*Sigh* I could so relate this. My ratio is 5 to 1, but I have some older kids (teenagers). Some days, I don't know if that makes it better or worse!

Donna said...

Seriously, I bow before you! I wrangle only one child and seem to get stressed and befuddled some days. If and when a number 2 comes along, I shall think of you and your advice!

Marcy said...

I have just two, but they are only 14 months apart, and it was hard when they were little. They did almost everything as a pair, and I worried about not giving them my undivided attention ever. Now they are both teenagers, and they don't want my attention anymore! Well, not really, but it feels like that sometimes.

Charis said...

I don't have any kids but I'm pretty sure that 4 must require quite a bit of juggling!

Janelle said...

I love your words of wisdom! Ever thought of turning them in to a book? C'mon.....lots of mummies out here with no clue that need wisdom! (me included)

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