Q: I have three kids, two girls and a boy, all below 12. I find it very difficult to give my daughters the attention and the quality time they need, as my son, the youngest, monopolises my attention every waking hour. Any suggestions?

A: Firstly, let me tell you, you shouldn’t feel guilty. You are trying to do your best and that counts for a great deal. Parenting is one of the most demanding and difficult jobs in the world and it sounds like you are fully committed.

You have mentioned that your son tends to monopolise your time as he is so demanding. You don’t mention his age, so it’s difficult to assess whether he is going through ‘the terrible twos’ or whether he is older and perhaps, dominating your attention by testing the boundaries due to jealousy.

Whatever the case, consistency is key here to reduce the impact of this on your family life. Every time he crosses those boundaries you need to respond in the same way and don’t ever give in to unreasonable demands. To do this, give one clear verbal warning if this is appropriate for the age of your son. If this is not heeded and he is old enough, give him a timeout for a number of minutes corresponding to his age, and keep doing this until he apologises for his behaviour. It will be intense at first, but if you remain solid in your responses, you will break the pattern of ‘tantrum = attention’. It may be a power struggle or even time consuming at first, but it will pay off. And if not done, you will make a rod for your own back, later, in his teens, as the negative behaviour will be harder to change as he gets older, so it’s worth starting this immediately. Couple this with making sure you praise him when he’s being good, this is so important, that he gets your attention when he is good, not bad and you will begin to change the dynamic of your relationship. Reward good behaviour, this  is important to remember, as we tend to give attention to bad behaviour and this is not helping in any case.

Hopefully this will give you more time to spend with your daughters. An hour of quality time, where you’re all enjoying something together, is worth far more than anything material you could give them. And this includes Dad too. So plan ahead and work out when you can all be together, and in this way you can give your husband the opportunity to support you in a positive way.

It’s vital to recharge your batteries once in a while. It’s easy as a parent to subjugate your own needs in favour of doing everything for your kids. Also make sure you build some ‘me’ time into your schedule. Get a friend or a relative to step in for an hour or two every now and then, so you can take time to relax and reconnect with yourself and your husband.

Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based life coach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist (russellhemmings.co.uk). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.

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