Giving Children Individual Attention in a Large Family

Christy Bagasao, Contributing Writer

A pervasive myth about large families is that there isn't enough time to spend with each child.  As a mother of seven, I am a qualified "large family myth buster."  Let's lay that myth to rest.

First, remove the misunderstanding of the term "time together."  Spending time with a child does not always have to be a scheduled parent-child activity.  While those are terrific, and we love them, the majority of the bonding and together time that takes place in our family is unscripted.  Whether cooking, walking, working on a project, cleaning, folding laundry, playing cards, running a business or mission, or bathing the dog, the everyday activities of life, performed together, qualify as together time. 

Because, by nature, a large family involves more work, it is necessary that everyone takes on household tasks.  Therefore, there will almost always be a child working alongside Mama.  We moms of many call this an opportunity to bond, also known as together time.  The bonus: children are learning to work as they tie heart strings with Mama.

Second, understand that a large family is not always the way you see them at the grocery store--huddled in a little mass around a shopping cart.  At home, they tend to spread out a bit more, allowing parents and children a little more space and opportunity for one-on-one time. 

Often, a child will seek out a parent to ask a question, share a concern, or just "be close."  An attentive parent can use this opportunity to focus on the needs of that one child.  The reverse is also true, leading a parent to seek out a child who may have a suspected need or issue. This offers a chance to dig deeper into this particular child's thoughts and heart, and even to pray together. 

Third, children have each other.  Anyone who has read anything Duggar-related has come across the critics' comments about "children raising each other."  Yes, older children must help with the younger children.  This is called "a family."  Say it with me: fa-mi-ly.  Anyone who is available helps out anyone who needs help. It works in both directions: older children (even a three-year-old who is older than a baby) help younger children, and the small children repay them by sharing the kind of unhindered love only small children can share. 

What a blessing for children and teens to be continually pulled out of the typically egocentric focus of those years with opportunities to serve others and God, rather than just self!  And what a joy to be rewarded with the undying affections and admiration of younger people.  

Fourth, due to differences in personality, age, and responsibility, different rituals with different children will naturally develop.  For example, the younger set has an earlier bedtime during which they can snuggle and read with Mama.  The middles and older children have different bedtimes that allow for time to chat with Mother without the interruptions of the littles. 

Similarly, early risers get Mama all to themselves, or those who enjoy a morning or afternoon walk, or want to go along on errands, or have dishwashing duty have alone time as well.  Anyone who helps Daddy on construction projects, comes to him for guitar or songwriting pointers, or has a question about school or life gets Daddy's undivided attention and a life lesson along the way.

Fifth, admittedly, the bonds of the time space continuum cannot be stretched, even by a well-intentioned mother, so a mother cannot be everywhere at one time.  This is not a bad thing.  Children learn independence and patience by having to wait their turn or figure out for themselves how to peel that orange or wipe up that spill. 

There are days when it is necessary to focus more on one child than another or when a parent misses an opportunity or need.  A parent of any number of children suffers from the chronic human condition known as imperfection, so this is not unique to large families.  It is, in fact, a part of any relationship, where we often must set aside our own needs for a time...a lesson best learned young.

Simplifying family life by decluttering the home, expectations, and activities gives parents more time to focus on their children.  With some purposeful parenting, a family of any size can make it work!

Myth busted!

About Christy Bagasao
While taking care of her growing family, Christy focuses mainly on keeping life simple. She blogs about this at The Simple Homemaker.

Christy encourages her readers to "clear their life queue" of stress, expectations, over-commitment, and the lies that homemakers tend to believe that make their job so much more difficult than it needs to be.

Christy desires to help others regain the joy of taking care of their homes, the beauty of tending to their husband and the fun of raising their children. Christy and her husband, Stephen, a traveling Christian musician, take their family on the road with them several months out of the year. 


Belley Family said...

Wonderful article! It is clear, concise, accurate, and witty! AND very true! As a mother of nine, ranging in age from 25 down to 5, I can relate to all that you have shared. I had not really thought about one of the points you made: teens are drawn away from themselves at a time when they might be tempted to be very egocentric, by the family's need for them to help care for younger children. Excellent point! It gives me a "heads up" for the youngest children, who have no one following them. I must be careful to CREATE serving opportunities for them as they grown older. (Hopefully by then there will be little nieces and nephews for whom to care!) THANK YOU for the insights!

Christy of The Travel Bags said...

Thank you, Civil War...and More! You are further along in the parenting journey than I am, so I appreciate your perspective. Blessings to your whole family!

Allie said...

I must put my two cents in as an only child parent. I think the above comment is so true. Over time, these opportunities aren't automatically there. No matter how many kids you have, the needs of each family are different at different times.
Because my child is an only child, she is frequently glued to my side. This is no different than in a large family. It just happens to be the same child all the time for me and only one child at a time. Really not that different. It's really more of a parenting style than a numbers issue. I would agree that quality time can be productive time as well. That's how kids learn life skills.
Regardless of size, parents will be parents. The size of your family doesn't make you a good or bad parent. We will all make time for what we think is imporatant no matter how many children we have.

Unknown said...

Thanks Christy. I am so thankful you wrote about this. It is one of those things us with small families are always afraid to ask about - you know taboo subjects . . .
I love that you talk about kids not being egocentric, something SO rampant in our society!

JessN said...

Thank you for this! Just last night my 8 year old daughter said "You never have time for me, mommy!" That BROKE MY HEART! I know I'm busy teaching piano lessons after she gets home from school, then there's dinner to prepare, dishes to wash, and other children to tend to younger than her. But I'm definitely re-thinking what's important. If she's noticing it, something has GOT to change! said...

I'm glad you could benefit from it JessN. It's is sometimes tough to find a balance, but I think Christy had some really great points to share.

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