On Splitting Time with Multiple Children, Family Game Night, Outings, and What Do with an Inappropriate Gift

Stop here every day for a new question and answer, practical help for busy parents.


How can a parent with four kids spend enough time with each of them?


The phrase “enough time” means something different with each child. Some kids are clingy and needy, some naturally independent. Depending on their personalities and maturity levels, many children can thrive even if they receive far less one-on-one time with Mom and Dad than their siblings enjoy.

Parents should strive to spend quality time with each child every day, but even in smaller families, work schedules often make that goal unattainable. You’re juggling four, so you must cut the personal-time pie into smaller slices. The more time a child needs with you, the bigger his slice of the pie.

Remember that treating people fairly doesn’t always mean treating them equally. Suppose you have a well-adjusted 16-year-old with lots of homework and a part-time job, as well as an insecure 7-year-old having trouble with bullies at school. While you must be careful not to neglect the teen, as a practical matter, the younger child will require more individual attention.

I have another suggestion applicable to all parents of multiple children, and of increasing relevance as the family size grows. Do spend at least some time alone with each child every week. But you can also nurture your kids with quality family time. I don’t mean sitting on the couch silently watching TV together. Such activities don’t satisfy the “quality” part of quality time. Of more value is time spent preparing and eating a picnic lunch or playing a board game. Plan smaller social events at home once a week, taking care to provide activities that all of the kids can enjoy. Once a month, take the whole brood to a ballgame or a museum or a beach.

If the older kids sit through a rousing game of Go Fish with their younger siblings, break out a more mature game later. It’s OK to break into two groups to better focus on age-appropriate activities, but try to keep the action in the same room, and make sure that both parents spend some time with each group.


What do you do if your child receives a gift that would normally be banned in your home? Some parents ban almost nothing, while others are stricter. Many of us have standards regarding clothing, toys, music, or movies. If my son unwraps a gift that I consider unacceptable, how should I react? I don’t mean to suggest that anyone would directly say to the gift giver, “I’m sorry, but she can’t have that.” I’m interested in what should happen after the party guests return home.


You are right not to brace the gift-giver. Such confrontations tend to spark anger or embarrassment, and nobody wins. Always be gracious to those who give your children gifts. If the gift won’t fly in your home, deal with it later.

Just because a well-meaning neighbor gives your 14-year-old a low-cut blouse or purchases a Transformers movie for a 6-year-old does not mean you must allow your children to use the gifts. However, simply taking the presents away doesn’t seem fair – and it’s virtually certain your children will see the injustice. Instead, try replacing the gift with something similar.

This solution may cost a few bucks, but since children don’t routinely receive Prada ensembles, in most cases the new gift will be a small price to pay for familial peace. Level with the child, who probably already knows the gift won’t meet with your approval, and consult with her about what she might like as a replacement. If you can return the original gift for a refund or sell it on Ebay, all the better.

If you’d like to submit an Ask The Dad question, send it to [email protected] . If you’d like to read more questions and answers, visit www.askthedad.com .

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *