If you have ever met my kids, they have probably talked your ear off. They are in your face, mile a minute, hands flailing kind of people. In public at least. In the presence of other adults who may possibly give them some attention. Any attention. An ounce of attention.
My children (especially my boys) are constantly seeking out attention. In ways that are positive-and not so positive-they demand to be heard, acknowledged, and doted on. If they see an adult they know (like one of my friends, for instance) it’s immediately a competition to see who can grasp that person’s attention and hold it like a cliffhanger’s rope.
I, instead, am the youngest of three children who never wanted for attention. While there were siblings and cousins a plenty surrounding me, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, and family friends were equally present. Growing up in our house, there was pretty much always an adult to dote on you, hug you, talk with you, and just be with you. Maybe that’s why I never really demanded attention, or so I’m told. My parents lovingly recall forgetting that I was in my infant seat in the corner of the room,
several many times. Even without asking, you didn’t have to wait long in my house for someone to pick you up, make you laugh, or -most likely-feed you.
My kids don’t have this constant community, and are craving attention like new parents crave sleep. I do my best, often exhausting myself, to give ample attention to each of my kids. I try to make sure each of them are heard (and they talk a lot), and that all of their needs are met. It has helped me to learn their love languages, as I discussed in this post, but most days I can tell they still want more. They are getting better at finding not so positive ways to get it. Aside from my husband, there are no doting adults nearby to share the attention giving responsibilities, which I think is common with this #children:adult ratio. I can’t create adults to give my kids extra attention, we aren’t moving closer to family, and I’m not about to sign up for sister wives. What’s a mom to do?
I realized a few months ago that something had to be done to get my kids some extra adult attention before their negative attention seeking methods got out of control. I put on my thinking cap, and came up with the concept of “Star of the Night.”
One weeknight each week, one of our kids is the “Star of the Night” (creative name, I know. Looking at you preschool parent friends) for the evening. They get to:
- a) decide what the kids have for dinner (They pick this at the beginning of the week from our “menu cards”)
- b) decide the bath/shower order (i.e. if they want to go first-this is big around here)
- c) choose the first bedtime book
- d) get put to bed first (for my twins) or stay up an extra 20 minutes (for my oldest).
My kids love the Star of the Night concept, and I do, too. It takes the pressure off of me to constantly choose between three kids who want different things. It just means that whoever is the star of the night gets to choose. That child gets the extra attentions that night, and the others have learned that the extra attention will come to them one of the following nights. It took a few weeks for them to really get used to the concept, but now they just go with it. No one is more surprised than me that this actually works.
Having the Star of the Night has made meal planning easier, too. In our house if you don’t like the meal served, you can choose oatmeal. It’s filling and healthy, but not so exciting that they would choose it often. So, if one of the kids doesn’t like what her/his sibling picks for dinner on their Star night, oatmeal is always an option. The kids pick from our food picture cards at the beginning of the week so I can plan out the week accordingly. We write it on our wipe off board, and go with it.
It took a bit of time to get into this routine, and to convince the two children who are not the Star of the night that they must let their brother or sister have some extra privileges for that short time. But, it’s working. We are going on almost a month of this routine, and it’s only growing in popularity. It might just be the feeling that doing something to address the attention issue is offsetting my mommy guilt, but I swear the nighttime fighting has lessened. And at least three of the dinners each week are planned. I’m even thinking of extending it to 2 nights per week (with one night where mommy chooses dinner).
One look at my wardrobe will show that attention to detail has never been my thing. That won’t change.
But giving attention to my children? I’m willing to work on it.