Many people call it the terrible two’s, while I agree that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, I hate referring to children as “terrible.” Are we setting ourselves up for more challenging behavior by predetermining this phase and giving it a stigma, or a type of negative expectation?
It’s never fun dealing with a tantrum at home with a singleton, much less in a public place “in stereo.” But let’s face it, it’s going to happen and it won’t be pretty. The tots are learning so many things at this age, they are expressing their individuality, learning their physical capabilities and exploring their intellectual abilities. I like to compare them to tortured artists. They’re trying their best to figure out how to communicate their needs, and ideas, but no one seems to totally get them. As hard as it may be for the parents, it’s a crucial part of a child’s development. For many multiples, they are becoming aware of the “others.” You know, the ones that happen to sleep in the bed next to them, the ones they look like, the ones that kicked them in the face while in your womb, the ones that are always there.
According to Dr. Vicki Folds, early childhood expert and vice president of education for Tutor Time Learning Systems Inc. Twins develop an inner bond during early childhood as a source of strength and security. At such a young age, she says, it is not advisable to break them up into separate activities or environments. In fact, for some parents of twins, it may be easier to keep them together consistently (despite the possibility of synchronized tantrums and mischievous behavior) because they are going through the same stage at the same time, and they will share most of the same likes.
As a parent of multiples you may be familiar with Twin Escalation Syndrome. The tendency of multiples to expand their behavior in reaction to the other. When one twin cries the other cries louder, then the one who was crying originally will cry even louder than that, and so on… Leaving you curled in the fetal position wondering who you are and what happened to your life. If you have more than twins, well, I can’t imagine.
So, what do you do when you are dodging the bodies of tiny humans that have chosen the most inopportune time to express their frustration with a fit of uncontrolled convulsions? First of all, resist the urge to join them, then dig deep for any ounce of patience you may have left, breathe, laugh, and go to your happy place. If they aren’t in danger of cracking their head open on the concrete, let the fit run it’s course. Don’t try to fight it, you won’t win.
With that said, there has to be boundaries and as the responsible adult, it’s up to you to set them. Children need to learn their limitations and know that certain behavior is unacceptable. Respect their moods, allow them to try to explain and communicate as long as it can be done in a respectful manner. The punishment should fit the crime and toddlers have the attention span of a gnat, discipline accordingly. Reward the positive unconditionally.
While TES certainly extends beyond tantrums, it only furthers the intensity of the little “expressions of frustration” that come with this age. If you feel that a specific round of tantrums is caused by TES, then think about these few solutions:
You’ve got to keep em’ separated: Pretty self explanatory. If your family disciplines with time-outs make sure that they are isolated from each other and in separate rooms or areas of the house.
Distract, distract and distract some more: Diffuse any potential tantrums and escalations before they get underway by offering the toddlers a new toy or activity. Participate in that activity with them, getting your attention may be what started the mess in the first place.
Competition amongst multiples is a huge cause for tantrums and bouts of TES. No matter how many baby strollers you have, they will all fight over the same one. You can sit in a chair getting no attention from your children at all, until one, just one, shows the slightest interest in you, then they are fighting and clamoring for your attention and lap space.
Make sure that each sibling receives copious amounts of love and affection from you individually and on a daily basis, make it a point for each child to know they will get their turn with that toy/game or Mommy’s lap.
Multiples are amazing, and as hard as it may seem to think about when your children have morphed into an unrecognizable being, you will miss this age. Don’t lose the positives, the new words, the new discoveries, the sense of self that comes with being an independent learner and the bells of laughter you are sure to hear as they become aware of their siblings.
Besides clinging to your bottle of wine after bedtime, how do you cope with the long days of multiple tantrum throwing multiples?