Toddler Thursday: A Snapshot of Life with Twin Toddlers

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I love this video. Poor though may be the quality, embarrassing though may be the condition of my house, cringe-inducing though may be my sarcasm directed over the heads of my girls, this is what life with twin toddlers (in this case 18 months) looks like.

Grownup Things

Why play with toys or your own shoes when Mommy’s are there? Toddlers are fascinated by everything their parents do. Sure, you can spend a bundle on the latest techy toys, but chances are that your kids will be happy for longer with some empty food containers or a little purse. They’re learning to be human by imitation, so it’s no surprise that they want to do exactly what they see from their parents, preferably with their parents’ things.

Opinions

Toddlers have strong opinions, about shoes and everything else too. They know where they want to be, what they want to be doing and what they want everyone else to be doing. When you have multiple toddlers with varying opinions, there is bound to be conflict. You can try to help them work it, but sometimes you just need to let the fussing be.

Communication

Kids this age often, but not always, are doing their darnedest to communicate with whatever limited tools they have at their disposal. What words they have, they will overgeneralize, like “shoe” to mean anything that is worn on the foot, including socks. They can use physical communication, like M lifting her leg and pointing to help me understand her words.

Toddlers can understand pretty much everything you say to them. They’re so used to being misunderstood, however, that they jump to the conclusion that you don’t understand them. M clearly understands it when I say, “Let’s go in the nursery.” She doesn’t understand that “Okay” implies that I’m willing to take her socks off. Just assume your kids don’t understand your assumptions, and communication will go much more smoothly. “Sit down so you can get your socks off” was clear enough. No implication-reading was needed, so the crying could come to an end.

Teaching Manners

As I said earlier, your kids want to copy everything you do. If you want them to use good manners, then use good manners with them. Say (and sign) “Please” and “Thank you” to your babies at appropriate times starting at birth, and they’ll pick it up. Reminders are helpful, of course, but they’ll never really learn how to good manners unless they see them.

Baby Sign

I know, I’ve said it before, but Baby Sign helped us so much with overcoming communication barriers! Obviously, my girlies still used it and I relied on it, well after they were capable of speech.

Crying and Tantrums

Infant tears don’t faze me. I have no trouble seeing babies’ cries as their language. Toddlers crying, however, gets under my skin. Despite their ability to understand language and their limited ability to use it, toddlers resort immediately to tears on any feeling of frustration. Worse, they quit listening once their tears have started to flow.

Then there’s the foot stomping. To me, full body involvement is where a mere crying spell moves over to the realm of a tantrum. I confess that toddler tantrums are probably the most difficult child behaviour for me to cope with. I can completely see the temptation to just give in to the child instead of fighting the battle to maintain discipline. However, I truly believe that my and the girls’ pre-school teachers’ willingness to hold our ground against tantrums contributed towards my 7-year-old’s current academic, social and psychological success.

Sharing

Toddlers are at the very beginning of understanding that they are individuals. With this sense of self comes a sense of possession. Those of us with multiples have both the challenge and opportunity to start teaching about sharing, day in and day out. Unlike singleton parents, we don’t have to wait until our child is in a social situation to teach how to share. Out toddlers’ entire lives are one big social situation!

In the video, you can see M take ownership, saying, “Mine shoe.” She’s already learned the power of redirection, trying to keep the shoe she wants by offering up an alternative to her sister.

The kids also have to share their parents’ attention. You can see me splitting my attention between my two daughters and Daddy throughout the video. This is just the reality of raising multiples.

Co-Parenting

You can see a few moments of co-parenting in the video. It’s so important to function as a team. We divide and conquer, me taking point on communication and entertainment, my now-ex being response for a dose of Tylenol for teething pain.

We talk to each other throughout. This accomplishes two things: making sure that we agree on the right approach to our kids and ensuring that we’re both informed of what’s going on. I certainly wouldn’t want one of our kids to get a dose of Tylenol without both parents being aware, because we’d run the risk of overdose.

A big challenge for me, was not immediately correcting Daddy. He asked M whether she was in pain. I know that an 18-month-old will answer in the affirmative, just for the attention it gets her. However, I didn’t question his approach in front of the kids. I went with it at the time. Once the kids were in bed, I gently suggested an alternative way to phrase the question to get a more accurate answer: “What’s making you sad?” or just handing our toddler a chew toy to see if she made a move to soothe her gums.

Choosing Battles

Toddlerhood is a little more about exploring the world and less about survival than infancy. Still, it’s still wise to choose your battles. You already know I’m a huge fan of consistency. The only way I know to be both consistent and sane is to choose where to hold your ground and where to let go.

In the video, I decide that J can have the heels. She either didn’t understand or chose to ignore my objection. M’s licking her tissue will gross me out but not kill her. No pants? Whatever. There are bigger battles to be fought.

Basic Care

Toddlers still require a great deal of basic care. Diapers are still part of the picture. I found diaper duty to be 100 times easier than potty training.

In the video, M is dealing with a (probably allergy-related) runny nose. You can see a humidifier running on the floor to help give her some relief. We used saline drops to help her blow her nose and gave her a choice between blowing her nose herself or my using a bulb syringe to suction her clear.

Teething pain can be dealt with with Tylenol, although my preference was the clean wet washcloths I stored in the fridge for chewing.

Sarcasm

Sarcasm was my own survival strategy. To each their own, right? Of all the ways I could express my frustrations with these small people, I figured sarcasm was the least damaging.

Need another twin toddler video fix? You’re welcome.

Any of this look familiar? Do you use sarcasm to survive life with twin (or more) toddlers?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Goodbye, Timeout for Two

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Categories Behavior, Books, Discipline, How Do The Moms Do It, Parenting, Parenting TwinsTags , , , , , , 3 Comments
seated kid
Photo Credit: Frodrig

After over 6 years of effective use, I am retiring timeout as a discipline tool. At age 7, it’s more humiliating for my oh-so-grownup children than it’s worth, and it’s hardly effective. Thanks to my daughters’ relatively mature ability to understand causes and effect and long term consequences, I have many more nuanced discipline approaches at my disposal. I need punishments and rewards to fit the crime rather than the one size fits all gem that was timeout. My 7-year-olds are old enough to understand delayed consequences, something a much younger child just isn’t capable of.

I suspect that every reader of How Do You Do It? is familiar with how to use timeout to discipline young children, but I’ll spell it out just in case. Timeout is, essentially, using a brief withdrawal of parental or child-giver attention as a consequence of undesired behaviour. Most parents I know have a specific location designated for timeout, and the child has to remain there for the duration of the punishment, essentially ignored by everyone. Some parents have their child sit on the bottom step of a staircase or have a timeout seat. I went for the convenience of a washcloth placed on the floor next to a wall. It was portable, and my daughters knew that they were expected to sit on the washcloth. Best of all, on the rare occasion that they both needed to go to timeout, I could just put washcloths next to opposite walls, and I instantly had 2 timeout locations that lacked the distraction of Sissy.

Hit your twin? Mommy won’t hit back; that would just teach that violence is acceptable in the home. Instead, for a few minutes (1 minute per year of age, starting around age 1), Mommy won’t make eye contact with the child or speak to him. That’s the real punishment. Children crave and need attention. It’s pretty counterintuitive to ignore them when they’re kicking, screaming and being all around obnoxious. It takes a thick skin to do that in public, knowing that you’re being judged by people who don’t know what children are really like. The long term payoff of rewarding good constructive behaviour with attention and withdrawing it for bad is worth it, though.

It’s ideal, of course, if the child stays in the timeout location of her own accord. That idea didn’t stick until my kids were convinced, around age 2, that no amount of screaming or running out of timeout was going to get me to back down and give them my attention.

I recently had the opportunity to care for my then-2-year-old nephew. I was only there for a week and timeouts had not been a consistent part of his life. It didn’t take long for him to get it, though. The first three days, I’d sit him in his timeout seat and wait for him to start to climb out of it. Silently, and without eye contact, I’d lift him up and sit him back in the chair. Over his 120 seconds of punishment, I’ve had to reseat him up to 35 times. From day 4, on, though, he got it. He stopped trying to fight it. At the end of his 2 minutes, I’d pick him up, kiss him, tell him I love him, and remind him of the behaviour that had earned him a timeout and ask him to do the opposite in the future.

The popular book 1-2-3 Magic offers an effective and simple methodology that hinges on timeout. I didn’t read the book until I needed to help a friend struggling with managing her young kids. Consistency didn’t come naturally to her, and the book gave her encouragement when she needed it. My then-husband and I didn’t get much from the book, primarily because we were unknowingly already practicing its teachings: Use timeout consistently.

Some parents vary the length of time spent in timeout in accordance with the gravity of the offense. A second or third offense may also get a longer punishment. We didn’t take that approach. The beauty of timeout is that it’s super-flexible, which helps explain its ubiquity.

The other day, I found myself in the odd position of needing to distil my parenting approach into a bulleted list. It came down to this: be consistent, reward good choices, and maintain a focus on the adults your children will become. For me, timeout was a big part of consistency and the other side of rewarding good behaviour. I hope that the core understanding that actions have consequences has set my kids up for success throughout their lives. It’s certainly been working well for them so far.

Do you use timeout as a discipline approach? What variations work for you? How do you handle your kids’ escape plots?

 

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Resisting Temptation

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This post was inspired during an exchange between my husband and myself at approximately 3:45 am. The scene was something like this:

Aaron wakes up with a wet diaper, crying. I pick him up, change him and just about calm him down when Brady starts whimpering.
Daddy: “let’s get him up and give him a bottle, that way he’ll sleep in in the morning.”
Mommy: “No.”
Daddy (dripping with sarcasm): “Right, because that would just be too easy.”

Exactly my point. It would be too easy. Tonight. But what about tomorrow night? And the night after?

When you have children, often there is some discussion amongst the parents about how to handle various situations: crying in the middle of the night, feeding issues, discipline, etc. Plans are made and a consensus is (hopefully) reached. You vow to be consistent and stand your ground.

However, into every parent’s life, a lack of sleep will creep, or impatience, or a bad day, or even just plain laziness. It is in these times that is more important than ever to stick by each other and keep the one who is tempted to take the “easy” road on track.

With a singleton child, you can recover from these lapses a little easier. Two of you to one of them – the parental suffering can be minimized slightly. But with multiples, not only are the parents (often) equally exhausted, but there are more “trouble” times to go around. And let’s not forget, when you are dealing with multiples, you are not only setting the tone for one child, your actions/reactions to situations are actually setting the tone for both.

Would I like to occasionally give in at 3:45 and give the attention-starved, crying baby a bottle? Yes, I would. Especially on a work night. But then what happens when he wakes up the next night? And his brother too.

And then what happens when they get a bit older and they decide they “can’t like” what I’ve made them for dinner (a phase we are just exiting with our 3-year old). If we are tired of hearing this and finally cave to one and give him something else, doesn’t that encourage them BOTH to pull the same stunt the next night? 

How long can the “easy” route actually be considered “easy”?

I guess my point is that with multiples, Mommy and Daddy really need to work together to help each other through these moments of parenting weakness. Sticking to your guns is hard enough with one.  Double (or triple) that and you need reinforcements. Always remember that you are a team. 

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