Our two girls are constantly fighting with each other to get attention from me and my wife. We try to give them individual attention but if one sees the other getting attention, they jump in the middle to try to take the attention away. What is the best way to help them see that they are both important and no one is getting a “raw deal”?

Rest assured, what you are experiencing is normal! That said, it is very smart of you to be attentive and thoughtful about how to handle it. Research does tell us that even the perception of parental favoritism can be detrimental to the sibling relationship, so trying to give both a sense of importance and time to be the center of attention is valuable.
I think your approach is wise. I think ensuring one-on-one time between the pairs (you and each of your children, your wife and each of your children) is really helpful. When they do clamor for attention, you can validate their experience (for example, “I know it’s hard to wait your turn when it comes to mom/dad listening to you. I promise I will hear you next.”) Then, make sure that you allow each one their moment (for example, after validating the other girl and letting her know you will listen in 2 minutes – set a timer if you need – pay full attention to your other daughter. Then, when the 2 minutes are up, turn your full attention to the sibling).

This won’t always go well and oftentimes you will feel like a mediator. But, over time, the goal is that by acknowledging the acceptability of the emotion of wanting attention, but teaching patience and that attention will come their way soon, they will become increasingly better at tolerating not being the center of attention.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two girls.

Related Content

two girls arguing in front of mom