I’m standing in the laundry room, moving a load from the washer to the dryer with one load waiting to go in, and another that needs to be folded.
As I’m hunched over, pulling clothes out of the wash, I hear little footsteps and my 5 year old’s voice behind me.
“Mommy, will you play with me?”
I swear this is the hundredth time he’s asked me to play today. Every time I turn around, this boy asks me to play.
And I do play. I play all the time.
I took a break to get some laundry done.
But my boy is only happy when I’m near him. Every time I step away to do anything I need or want to do, he’s calling me back.
“Mommy, come look at this!”, “Mommy, help me!”, “Mommy, what ya doing?”, “Mommy, play with me?”
I admit, I’m getting a bit frustrated.
I’ve tried everything it seems. I include him in the chores and what I’m doing. I take frequent breaks to play with him, we even have special time for us just to play together.
I have tried teaching him how to play independently. He has quiet time in his room every day and I even did independent playtime with him when he was younger.
I have tried. But, his need for attention is part of his personality, it’s just who he is.
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I know my son wants my attention, but right now, I need to get my stuff done.
So, I respond, “No honey, I can’t play right now, I have laundry I have to finish.”
His response, “But you NEVER play with me!”
A combination of guilt and frustration take over me.
I want to scream “what do you mean I never play with you?! I play all.the.time! We JUST got finished building together! I have some things that I need to do, and I can’t play with you every second of the day! What do you WANT from me!?”
I feel defeated and frustrated because I can never live up to his need for attention. I know his love language is attention, but it still gets under my skin.
Instead of acting on my frustration, I pause and think.
I get an idea…a brilliant idea!
“Ok kiddo, I hear that you want me to play but I have some things that I need to do first. How about I set a timer for 20 minutes and when the timer goes off, I’ll play with you?”
He happily says, “Ok! sounds good!”
My son runs over to the kitchen counter and yells, “Hey Alexa? Set a timer for 5 minutes.”
With the timer set, I finish loading and unloading the laundry and even get the clean load folded and put away. It’s amazing how much I can do without kids underfoot.
The timer goes off and he finds me in milliseconds.
“Mom! It’s time to play!!!”
I stop what I’m doing and I’m all his.
We spend play LEGO together and we’re both happy. He gets the playtime he desires, and I got something checked off my list. It’s a win-win.
Since that day, I continue to use a timer and he’s learning to wait. It’s even gotten to the point that he’ll ask to use the timer when he see’s that I’m busy.
It’s been a great tool but there are some tricks to make it work.
Stop when the timer goes off
When I use the timer, I have to actually stop working and be with my son when the timer goes off, even if I’m not done yet.
By following through, I’m showing him that he matters and that I can keep my promises.
If I ignore the timer or ask for more time, that trust will be broken and he won’t believe me when I say I’ll be done.
Set timer for how long you’ll play
There are moments in my day, when I just don’t feel like playing.
I’m tired or I have a lot of work to do and I find it hard to connect with him because I’m distracted.
On those days, I use the timer differently.
I’ll let him know that I only have 30 minutes (or how ever long I can give him) and then I have to go do some of my work. After my work is done, then I’ll come back and play with him.
This is also working beautifully.
Spend the playtime well
For the minutes that I promise to play, I have to give him and is brother 100% of my time. I can’t be on my phone, I can’t be multitasking. That time is playtime.
It’s not fair to them to say I’ll be present, and then not be.
My phone can wait, the laundry can wait, the dishes can wait.
Now is my time to connect with my children.
And…the laundry is done 🙂