Different kids Your oldest (or youngest) child demands a lot more attention than the others do.
Despite having five siblings to compete with -- two older, three younger -- 9-year-old McKenzie takes center stage whenever she has a fight with a friend or thinks a teacher has been unfair to her. "I have to stop whatever I'm doing, sit down, and hold her hands so she can tell me everything that's on her mind," says her mom, Jeni Rector, from Hampton, Virginia.
Her brothers and sisters don't require the same degree of reassurance. Living in a big family has taught them to deal with stress in their own way. "Some of them yell, some of them cry, some of them hide in their room," says Rector. "So if McKenzie needs my attention, the other kids understand that."
Is it right to let one kid demand more of you? "There's no need to feel guilty about it," says Sybil L. Hart, Ph.D., author of Preventing Sibling Rivalry: Six Strategies to Build a Jealousy-Free Home. "Children require different things to feel secure, whether it's talking to you all day or a dose of nighttime cuddling. Your job is to give each of them what they need."
Age can be another factor in the attention equation. A toddler who's constantly pulling out the plugs or scaling the bookcase is bound to take up more of your time than a 6-year-old who colors quietly on her own for 30 minutes. But some kids are simply wired to be high maintenance, regardless of their birth order or developmental stage.
Different rules If one of your kids feels overshadowed by another, explain why you can't always give him as much attention as you'd wish. Say something like, "Your little sister needs Mommy right now because she could get hurt unless I'm watching her." Make sure you spend some extra time with him when you have a free minute.