If disciplining one child is a challenge, then disciplining twins is an endurance sport. While one child is sitting quietly, the other is likely to be poking his brother’s eye, pulling his hair or throwing a tantrum… Fast forward five minutes and it’s the same scene in reverse.
Helen Kelter is Mum to a mischievous pair of two year old twin boys. She finds their constant need for attention exhausting. “You can only focus on one at a time, but they don’t chill out from the moment they wake until they make it to sleep,” she says.
In one of their latest exploits, Helen’s boys have been taking turns to put each other in the tumble dryer and close the door. Thankfully she has caught them before they found the ON switch!
The Supernanny team has this advice for dealing with some of the most common behaviour issues...
Twins feed off each other’s behaviour, and so long as they’re happy, they will simply ignore Mum. Wherever possible, the best approach is to separate your twins and deal with their behaviour on a one at a time basis.
If preparing for bedtime is difficult, try separating their routine, so whilst one child cleans her teeth, uses the potty and gets dressed, the other does the same in reverse. Without their brother or sister to distract them, they are twice as likely to focus on the task at hand!
Take turns cleaning up toys and give specific instructions, eg. “In two minutes we will start getting ready for bed and Johnny will put away the Lego while Alex cleans up the racing cars.”
For toddlers, the easiest way to stop a tantrum is to simply divert their attention. Rotate their activity; bring out their favourite toys, some crayons or sit them in front of a new DVD.
You can also try changing rooms. Even a change of scene from downstairs to upstairs can be enough to stop the situation before it escalates.
Better yet, enlist some help. Relatives, grandparents and older siblings make great playmates because they’re NEW! Five minutes of hide and seek with their older brother is sure to make them forget their troubles. It will also give you a chance to have a break and quiet time!
Establishing a Bedtime Routine is vital for all families, but particularly where twins are involved. Encourage calm before bed by reading a story, talking quietly about their day and giving them a cuddle. Try to make time for each child individually - a couple of minutes of one to one time before bed is important for both Mum and child.
Reward good behaviour
With multiple children, it’s tempting to focus on whoever is shouting the loudest. The trouble with this approach is that children quickly learn that tantrums are an easy way to get Mum’s attention. Worse still, the quiet child will miss out on the attention he needs. So, before you focus on the screamer, tend to your calm child first, make sure he is content and that he knows you’re pleased with his good behaviour.
Control their sleep
Sleep is undoubtedly one of the biggest issues for twins. All families with twins will tell a similar story – the first six months are likely to be a blur of sleepless nights, grumpy parents and restless babies. When one child is sleeping, the other is awake and crying for Mum or Dad… a mad dash by parents inevitably ensues to prevent the other twin waking up.
Relax! Twin babies quickly grow accustomed to each other’s presence, you’ll find they often don’t wake each other up. If one of your twins wakes after only a few hours, experiment by leaving her to cry for a little while instead of rushing in to comfort her. The other twin may well sleep through the crying, or if she wakes, she might be just enough comfort for the first twin to go back to sleep.
Remember, you’ll parent better if you keep yourselves healthy and well-rested. Helen says, “Mums always think, what if one child wakes the other during a night time feed? My strategy is to just let them get used to it. People are scared of that with twins, but it’s the only way to do it.”
It’s simply not possible to stimulate twins all day on your own. Try to take your children out every day – even if it’s just to the local park or end of the street. Keeping two children in tow can be challenging, to say the least, so try Supernanny’s techniques to stop them wandering off. If all else fails, many parents resort to a leash. Whilst you may hate the idea, keep your mind open to them if other strategies have failed – you may find it just takes one turn on the leash to give your kids the right idea, and it really is worth trying if it means you can get out more.
If it all seems too much, remember that toddler walks can be as simple as picking flowers in the garden or going next door to pat the cat.
Local toddler groups can be saviours to twin Mums. Find out about parent and child groups in your area and develop a regular schedule. It’s not uncommon for mothers of twins to belong to as many as five different toddler groups, with regular visits to grandma and the neighbours thrown in!