Like with any other two year old, twins are going to test you and push their boundaries but in our case we have the added issues of trying to deal with double tantrums, double meltdowns and endless conflicts.
Two months ago, I quit my job as a primary school teacher to become a full time mummy. In my 12 yrs of teaching, I learnt a trick or two and I’m lucky to have this under my belt as I face my twin toddlers’ toughest stage. So for all you mummies struggling with the melt downs, here are my top tips that I’ve taken from the classroom into my parenting.
1. Patience – this is a toughy. As hard as it is, you have to remember their outbursts and tantrums are not personal. They are not trying to wear you down until you crumble even when it feels like that. Actually, they are really struggling to manage all their emotions. They haven’t developed the skills to share, cooperate and act nicely in every situation. So when they are driving you to your wit’s end, stay calm, breath and get down to their level. Clearly tell them what you want them to do. It’s likely one or both will refuse, shout, scream etc. Continue to reiterate your expectation. Keep it concise and clear so their is no confusion.
2. Distraction – with twins, this has been essential. Either you need to distract one twin away from something they shouldn’t be touching or doing or you need to distract the other so you can deal with their siblings behaviour. Nothing is going to raise your stress levels more than trying to keep your cool with a defiant child while having another swinging off your legs asking to be picked up. Luckily toddlers are pretty easy to distract. It’s not even as if you need something exciting to distract them with. It’s all in the tone of your voice. Just imagine you’re telling them you’re going to Disneyland while actually telling them there is a bird on the wall outside (there doesn’t even need to be a real bird). Anything to stop the tears or temper.
3. Proximity praise – this sounds much fancier than it actually is. Basically when I was teaching a class and one table were being noisy or not focussed, instead of pointing this out and being negative, I’d simply praise the table next to it. “Wow blue table you are all working so quietly” or “well done green table for such good effort”. This works a treat with twins. Let’s say one is banging their spoon on the table and it’s driving you insane. First I’d try the old distraction technique – see previous step. If this didn’t work, I’d start making such a fuss over how well the other was eating. Now it’s important not to compare our darlings but if you’re subtle they’ll be none the wiser. Instead of saying “why can’t you eat like you sister?” Try phrasing it as “Emily, you are eating so nicely”.
4. Time in and out – we do both. For the vast majority of my career, I’d only really used time out, where you remove the child from the situation to give them time to calm down. For most school aged children this is all it takes to get them back on track. However in the last few years, I’ve taught one or two children who this simply doesn’t work for mainly due to traumatic early childhood experiences. Time in was much more successful and has been vital with my toddlers. As my girls approach 2.5yrs, the bottom step of our stairs has become the place for time out. Recently, if they haven’t responded to warnings or are being deliberately disobedient or dangerous this is where they sit. A couple of minutes is all it takes. We then discuss, they apologise and rectify (e.g: pick up thrown yoghurt pot) before we hug it out and resume play. I’ve noticed this doesn’t work when they are in full on melt down. As I touched on in point 1, their emotions sometimes seem overwhelming. In these cases, we still go to the bottom step to remove ourselves from the situation but instead of a firm ‘sit’ and walk away, I stay. Either I sit next to or hold them, generally without talking. I will often breathe loudly and deeply to model and only discuss when they are breathing calmly and ready.
5. Routines – no visual timetable just yet. A school day is very clearly structured. It’s probably one of the reasons why some children reportedly behave better at school. Having a schedule makes it clear what is going to happen and when. From about 9 months, we have had clear routines in place. I don’t mean we do the same thing everyday but some parts of the day follow a pattern. For example in the morning, I go in and get them, we go downstairs and do nappy/potty. They play while I sort breakfast then it’s into highchairs with their own bibs, bowls and cutlery. We might eat different food but the routine is the same everyday.
6. Consistency – like routines but even more important. It sounds easy to say but by tolerating one behaviour one day and then being cross about the same thing the next, they just won’t know whether they are coming or going. Be clear that if you are not happy about something, that you are prepared to challenge it every time. The same for consequences. Exhausting?…you bet but so much easier in the long term. Mine are still a bit young to really alter their behaviour for a future event but if you say you are going to take something away or turn something off, make sure you actually do it. With twins, I feel this is going to be even more necessary as they will see the consequence their sibling receieve.
My girls are definitely testing me in every way but every few weeks I look back and the struggles I had seem different. The stages can be hard but they move so fast. Whatever you are finding particularly trying will pass. I’m really making an effort to find the good in everyday, just something little to be thankful for. Keep up the hard work, you’re doing amazing.
Do you have any top tips for dealing with twin toddler behaviour?